By Sara Hollar, Olympia High School Intern to ThurstonTalk
Thurston County is filled with talented young artists, athletes, students and, of course, musicians. Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia (SOGO) gives these performers a chance to hone their skill at their instrument. SOGO is divided into different levels depending on ability and age, with most high school age musicians fitting in the Conservatory Orchestra. While all the members of the Conservatory show talent and a passion for their craft while playing, the three bass players are definitive examples of what it means to be a committed musician. This trio consists of Jesika Westbrook, James Wood and Alek Husseini, three students dedicated to making quality music.
Student Orchestras of Greater Olympia has been a part of the city’s culture since 2000. Many residents from around the area know of SOGO and come to see the several performances throughout the year, including the holiday concert, and other events that are available to the community. Students that are involved in SOGO have weekly rehearsals where they practice playing their instrument, reading music and other important skills. Many members of SOGO also participate in their school orchestras and put in hours of time working to improve at their instrument.
“Olympia has a tightly knit family of musicians that you don’t see in many other cities. There are a lot of resources for musicians here and we are surrounded by local music constantly. Being a part of SOGO has helped me grow as a musician and a person,” Westbrook shares. Wood agrees, adding that orchestra has been a fun place for him. Countless others who are involved with SOGO echo their sentiments, concluding that it has been a positive influence in their lives.
In an orchestra the bass is a standard member of the string section. It is closest in construction to a violin although lower, much larger and played upright. For this reason it is sometimes called the upright bass, as well as the string bass or double bass. Jesika Westbrook is a junior at Olympia High School. In addition, she attends South Puget Sound Community College as part of OHS’s Running Start program. She is also a published writer and keeps busy in her spare time playing video games and reading books. James Wood is a freshman at Olympia High School, where he also plays bass for the school orchestra. Alek Husseini attends NOVA School, where he is in 8th grade. When he’s not making music, he enjoys playing basketball.
Despite their differences in age and interests, all three share a love for the bass. “It is not often, especially with bass players, that one gets to work with people who are like minded. All of us are able to benefit from the others and problem solve better than most sections in an orchestra,” shares Westbrook. The three musicians talk freely about what is happening at school or their plans for the weekend, proving that they have more in common than just the instrument they all play.
For Husseini, Wood and Westbrook, SOGO is more than just learning to play the bass. It is a chance to get involved with something that they are passionate about. It teaches them to be dedicated, persistent and responsibility. “Playing the bass, gives me a goal to strive towards in my life. It is also really fun and exciting to learn new things on the bass that are really cool,” Husseini says, “I think music, or anything, is important to have in a teenager’s life because it gives them something do as a long term goal.”
Westbrook agrees that music is a valuable addition for a teenager. “Playing music has been an outlet for me in many ways. It is an amazing way to express yourself and connect with other people.”
Connection is important in a situation like this. All three bass players must be in sync with each other, their teachers and the rest of musicians in the orchestra. This connection is necessary not only to create music but to make their time together rewarding. Being involved in an orchestra or band can mean a lot of pressure. Much like playing on a team or being in a drama production, there are many other people relying on you, but all these experiences are fulfilling for the same reasons.
As Wood, Husseini and Westbrook know, the ability to come together and work as a group to make something worthwhile is a very gratifying feeling.