A few weeks ago, ASH hosted the annual AMIS Solo and Ensemble Festival, bringing together student musicians from around Europe, to learn and grow in their love for music. The festival featured performances from 150 students representing seven international schools, including students from ASH performing either as soloists or as part of an ensemble.
The key to this festival’s success is that it is open to anyone to audition, paving the way for musical passions to come to life. The day unfolded with each student performing their self chosen piece to a professional judge, where they are assessed on their rendition of the musical selection and given a score, with the category of performance. The festival culminated with the top-scoring students performing in a closing concert for all participants, judges and audience members. In this non-competitive setting, each performer walks away with a real-life musical experience that gives an opportunity for continued growth in their chosen passion, creating a truly unique learning experience for everyone involved.
We are proud that AMIS (Association of Music in International Schools) actually has some of its roots here at ASH with our current faculty. This UK based musical charity was the brainchild of a group of teachers who wanted to create a network of musical support for each other and create musical opportunities with a defined administrative approach. The word AMI in french actually translates to “friend” - which resonates with the founding principles of the group and serves as a fitting acronym for the organization. Our own high school music teacher Jim Yarnell is one of the six co-founders, acting as the first AMIS board president from the founding in 1998 until the early 2000s, with ASH as one of the first member schools to participate.
Over the years ASH has hosted many different facets of the AMIS festival program here on campus; from the high school Honor Band Festival to the Jazz Festival, IB workshops for AMIS and over 20 years of hosting the Solo and Ensemble Festival. For the first time, ASH will be opening its doors to host the Middle School Strings Festival in March, providing yet another dynamic opportunity for learning, growth, and development of passions - all part of our daily #ASHexperience.
This year, we were lucky enough to have alumna Michelle Yarnell, class of 2007 (Jim’s daughter, who is now a musical educator herself), come back to judge, bringing with her the insights of student performances with a mix of musical education. She shares her perspective on this full circle learning process below:
"On January 25, 2020, I had the honor of being a judge at the annual Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) Solo and Ensemble Festival. There are two reasons in particular why this experience was so valuable to me. Firstly, as it was hosted once again at ASH, this created a perfect opportunity for me to go back to the school that I attended from 1996-2007, where I worked from 2012-2015, and to visit friends who have supported my family through thick and thin.
Secondly, this particular AMIS festival has been an event that I remember since I was a young girl. When I was in second grade I remember traveling to the International School of Dusseldorf to watch my dad work on the logistics of this festival. In fourth grade, I remember participating for the first time with the ASH orchestra. This experience was so valuable that I ended up participating every year of my middle and high school years, as a soloist on the clarinet and an ensemble member of the orchestra, clarinet quartets/trios, and vocal ensembles."
Students who take part in this festival are given the chance to really show their talents, passions and dedication to music, learning from judges who are both performing professionals and educators, as well as from each other as they move through the festival experience. This year, one of our own students Jessica B. received the highest designation of outstanding soloist of the day, and was just one of two students, from the group of 150 who had performed, selected to share her gift for music in the festival’s closing concert.
Without a doubt, the dedication of our own staff and students helps make this festival a success year after year. As one of the co-founders, Mr. Yarnell believes this “experience is one that is open for everyone, who wants to give it a try” and it embodies the learner-centered focus that these students are greeted with when arriving at ASH to perform. There is no failure, only learning and through this lens, these students share their talents, aspirations and dreams, through the universal language of music - all part of the unique #ASHexperience.