McQueen High School Orchestra

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Open Letter to McQueen Orchestra Parents

Dear McQueen Orchestra Parents, and Future McQueen Orchestra Parents:
For the past two years I have had the privilege and pleasure to serve on the McQueen Orchestra Boosters Board of Directors, lovingly referred to as the “MOB”. It is very, very hard for me to believe that my time as a McQueen Orchestra parent is coming to an end. I can’t imagine what it will feel like to not be a part of this organization of hear the Lady Gaga Medley and Soul Bossanova on a regular basis. The McQueen Orchestra and the MOB’s role in the Orchestra program is something that I believe in with my whole heart.  I am writing to encourage you to join the MOB because it cannot continue to grow and thrive without parent support.

I know what you are thinking. You are thinking you are too busy. I know you think you are too busy. I know you probably actually are too busy. But I’m also here to tell you that you should do it anyway. Here is why.

First and foremost, your child loves music and that is simply amazing. You have undoubtedly invested a lot in your child’s passion for music. Let’s face it, musicians are high maintenance. And musicians aren’t cheap. As a parent you have invested in instruments, strings, rosin, and lessons. You have also invested your time. We’ve all sat through countless recitals, programs, and music lessons. This investment is for a reason, right? That reason is because we recognize that music is important to our children. And if it is important to our children, it becomes important to us too. There are a million studies that show that music helps kids academically, socially and emotionally. We all know this to be true. When you have the opportunity to be around these kids in mass you see what music means to them. Their positive energy is inspiring and contagious. That is because they are good kids who love what they are doing and are doing it for the right reasons. Helping out gives both the musicians and their teachers more time to focus on their music, their technique, and their performance skills. It’s really as simple as that.

But there is a bigger picture here too. The love of music that has been encouraged and honed by our children’s amazing teachers has spilled over to our larger community. I know for a fact that is has. The McQueen Orchestra performances are open to, and attended by, members of the community. And they get rave reviews. Maybe more importantly, their positive energy is witnessed by our community at such events as the Reno Jazz Festival, Reno Aces games, and the Wine Walk. The result is people realize that there is value to having music programs in public schools. I’ve heard it described as “stealth music educational advocacy”. Just seeing these kids our there in the McQueen Orchestra t-shirt with their violins (violas, cellos, or basses) giving flawless performances impacts our community in a positive way. Other than witnessing that there are good teenagers in the world and having a ray of hope about that, the people seeing our kids are voters and these remain difficult times for education funding. Seeing our adorable kids in the community at such an impressive level of performance gives voters a bunch of cute faces and a positive experience to put with this important cause. I think we all agree that we need to keep music programs in public schools.

Aside from the benefits to our children of serving on the MOB, there are also a million studies that show that volunteering is good for us as human beings. It might not always feel like it is, but it is. Volunteering, in any capacity, is shown to reduce stress and increase happiness. I did not make that up. It provides you with an opportunity to be compassionate and generous. It allows you to forget your problems and listen to a little Bach (because a little Bach is known to cure a lot of problems).  It gives you a tangible connection to your community. It is also a way to express gratitude for all that is right in your life, and dare I say, in this world by giving something back. I don’t regret a single minute that I have given to the McQueen Orchestra. My only regret is that I didn’t have more minutes to give them. They deserved more of my minutes.

They deserved more of my minutes because of what they gave back to me. I, like you, am too busy. Each day I get up and go to a stressful job, take on more than I should, try to balance personal relationships, try get the laundry done, try to walk the dog, try remember to buy the dog food, and try to fit in a yoga class so I don’t completely lose my mind.  And that’s all before noon. In this chaotic life, I often forget to do things that really mean something to me.   Things that make me happy. I discovered a while back that working with and for the McQueen Orchestra is such a thing.  I am always amazed by the professionalism, talent, and general cuteness that I witness when I spend time volunteering with the McQueen Orchestra. Arguably more importantly though, there is always a kid around to make me laugh, ask me for dating advice, or talk about clothes. Or just play the Cello Suites without even knowing I’m listening.  In short, they remind me that is hope for humanity. That may sound dramatic, but they really are that cute.

In case you haven’t noticed, the McQueen Orchestra is winning awards right and left, performing all over the Truckee Meadows and the great state of Nevada, and making a name for itself at the national level. This attention is very well deserved. This didn’t just happen. This happened because our children, and their amazingly handsome, funny, and charming orchestra director, cared enough to make it happen. We are fortunate to have an amazingly talented and dedicated director in Mr. Baker. I have never met a teacher who cares more about his students. We are blessed to have two middle schools with talented and dedicated music directors who instill a love of music in our children and give them the technical foundation to take it to the next level and beyond. And, we are lucky to have administrators and all three schools that support music programs. While this seems normal to those of us whose children literally grew up in these programs, we should not take our music programs for granted. Less than twenty percent of high schools across the nation have orchestra programs. They are rising stars. The least we, as parents, can do is help.

Please consider joining the MOB Board of Directors. You do have time and I am confident you will not regret a single minute you donate to this program and these kids. As the McQueen Orchestra continues to expand, the MOB Board of Directors needs to continue to expand too. The MOB is a great group of people with a common and genuine love for our children and the arts. It is a pleasure to work with such passionate parents toward the common goal of giving the McQueen Orchestra every possible resource and opportunity to be the best they can be. Please consider taking on a board position, or at least attending a meeting to get more information about how you can help.

I will miss the McQueen Orchestra terribly. So much that I can’t really talk about it without getting emotional. But I know that the future is bright and just the mention of the Devil’s Dream Hoe Down will always make me smile.  Good Luck in all that you do McQueen Orchestra!

Forever Yours,
Miss Tijsseling



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Wine Tasting – March 1, 2016

We would like to cordially invite you to attend a Wine Tasting Fundraiser on March 1, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. at Fine Vines.  We invite all orchestra parents, future orchestra parents and orchestra fans to attend.  We are hoping to raise some much needed money but also hoping this will be an opportunity to learn more about the McQueen Orchestra Boosters, the McQueen Orchestra Program and the work the MOB does to support the McQueen Orchestra.

The cost is $25.00 a person and includes a limited edition McQueen Orchestra wine glass.  You can also attend for $15.00 per person without a wine glass.


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We would like you to meet another of our strong and silent types, Clio Brady.  Actually, we are going to let her introduce herself because I think she says it better than we can.

Hi my name is Clio Brady! I am 18 years old and a senior at McQueen High School. I began playing violin at age three, and added viola in 2014. I’ve lived in Reno since I was adopted from China at one year old. I went to High Desert Montessori School, Peavine Elementary School, and B.D. Billinghurst  Middle School. My mom started me on the Violin at age three and shortly after started teaching violin! I didn’t choose to play the violin, but I did choose to add Viola in 2014. I love playing both instruments. I love the friendships you make in orchestra and the repertoire we learn and eventually perform. I don’t have a favorite memory of any orchestra experience because I love all the orchestras I’ve played in and there are just too many good memories to choose from. My favorite musician is Bella Hristova. She is a violinist who’s played in Reno a few times. She’s just magnificent and I’ve looked up to her for so many years. I find that the hardest part about being a musician is practicing. This is not surprising because who likes practicing? I’m just kidding! Practicing is essential to advancing in anything you do. You’ve just got to stick it out and do the hard work. It pays off in the long run. I’ve  participated in over 9 clubs at McQueen since Freshman year. I also play Lacrosse and Tennis. The most influential person in my life is my twin sister, Wren. I admire her so much and we are usually very close. I find that she gives me tough competition in basically anything we both participate in! I don’t know what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m starting college as a music major. Music is familiar and it’s always been a part of my life. I will, however, be exploring other interests as well. I would tell a string student to never give up and find someone or something that will inspire you to continue with music.

Clio’s proud and sweet mom has the following amazing facts about Clio’s music career (so far) to add:

While still in elementary school, she was invited to perform on the stage with the Reno Pops Orchestra, and as a middle school student, Clio won the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s Concerto Competition as well as the Reno Pops Orchestra’s Concerto Festival, giving her the opportunity to perform solo concerts with those orchestras. In 2013 she was invited to perform the Vivaldi Concerto in C minor for Two Violins with her twin sister on the stage with the Ruby Mountain Symphony. Most recently she won the Nevada Music Educators Association All State Command Performance competition in 2015, performing Handel-Halvorsen’s violin/viola duet Passacaglia with her sister. That same year she was named Alternate Viola for the National Youth Orchestra.


Clio has attended summer music festivals, chamber music workshops and orchestra camps in California and Washington state for the last 12 years.

Clio has played with the Reno Philharmonic Youth Orchestras since age 11, touring with them in Los Angeles, Idaho, Vancouver, B.C., and Seattle. She has been involved in the Senior Honor Orchestra and Nevada All State Orchestra throughout high school. In 2015 she played with the Reno Philharmonic for their Fourth of July concert at Lake Tahoe.



And if that isn’t amazing enough, which it is, we, well I,  have had the pleasure of getting to know Clio through an extra curricular activity that she left out.   However, we are going to mention because, well it is something that is near and dear to our (well my) hearts.  Clio is also part of the McQueen High School Mock Trial team that just took second and third place for all of Northern Nevada in the State Bar of Nevada’s High School Mock Trial Competition.  It never ceases to amaze us how these kids have better resumes than we, well I, have.

Come see Clio and Wren play this weekend at the McQueen Zone Concert.  It is Saturday, February 27, 2016 at 4 pm at McQueen High School.  While we know there can never be another duo quite like Clio and Wren, we hope they will spark inspiration in younger musicians the way they always spark inspiration in us.  Good Luck Clio!







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Jalyn Walker…meet the world.

SKY_0828Jalyn Walker is an 18 year old senior in the McQueen Orchestra.  She plays the cello.  Jalyn is from Reno, she went to Mamie Towles Elementary School, and Clayton Middle School.

She has been playing the cello for five and a half years.  “Everyone in sixth grade had to decide if we wanted to do strings, band, or choir as a music class.  I remembered the violin unit we had in general music during my fifth grade year, and I chose to join strings.”  

Jalyn says the cello chose her.  “The cello definitely chose me.  I remember really wanting to play the violin in 6th grade, but the strings program only had so many instruments.  I was given a viola to start out with instead.  Later on, I knew that I wanted to play cello, but I thought that it was called the bass…so I remember being so disappointed when my strings teacher gave me a huge bass to play instead of the cello, and how shocked my mom was when she came to pick me up from school and saw a tiny little kid carrying an instrument twice her size.”  She goes on to say, “I played the bass until the halfway point of my seventh grade year, when I switched to cello, and I never looked back.”  We think Jalyn would have been awesome and any of these instruments but we are glad she is a cello!

Her favorite thing about the orchestra is how everyone gets along.  “Everyone is so hardworking and they’re always ready and willing to help anyone who asks, even it it’s the tiniest favor.”  Like we’ve said before, the McQueen Orchestra is a family.  Her favorite memories are making it into honor orchestra as a freshman and the trip to Utah.  “Honor orchestra was kind of my defining moment as a musician, and that was when I decided that I wanted to go on to do something with music in college.”  But Utah was fun too!  She loved the bonding that went on during the trip and doesn’t recall any bad moments.  That’s how we remember it too!

Jalyn thinks the hardest thing about being a musician is finding time to practice.  “I’m super active in the Chamber choir in school, as well as honor choir, honor orchestra, travel, softball, AP classes, and church activities.  Especially now with college applications and auditions, it seems like there aren’t enough minutes in the day.”  It seems that way to us too Miss Jalyn.

The most influential people in Jalyn’s life is her grandfather.  “My Papa is always there for me, and he’s my best friend.  He’s been my number one fan in everything I’ve done by far.  He’s always ready with great life advice, but he’s also brutally honest.”  We’ve had the pleasure of meeting Jalyn’s grandpa as he has chaperoned orchestra events.  We should all be lucky enough to have a grandpa like Jalyn’s grandpa.

She says musically, her biggest influence has been Mrs. Burt (sorry Baker!).  “She’s been so supportive and so willing to work with me whenever I need it, and I’ve really grown as a musician and a vocalist since I’ve joined the choir.”

SKY_0820Jalyn’s favorite musicians are 2Cellos.  “Those guys are crazy good.  They’re such amazing musicians and performers, and it’s so much fun to watch them play.  I swear I have all of their albums.”   We agree they are amazing.

When she grows up Miss Jalyn wants to work for Disney!  Her dream job is writing music scores for Disney but if that doesn’t work out she would love to teach either choir or orchestra in high school.  Or maybe both?  Her live will undoubtedly involve music.

Jalyn’s goals for her senior year are to stay focused and keep a good GPA, “but I don’t want to be too caught up in grades.  I want to enjoy everything that I can get out of my senior year, like being super involved and going to as many school events as I can.”  She is heading to college to major in music and hoping to get their via an athletic scholarship for softball.  She says she will probably consider graduate school if Disney isn’t hiring.  We think Disney should probably make a place for Jalyn  But we think grad school is a great idea too.  Talk to us about on-line graduate programs Miss Jalyn!

She would tell a young string player thinking of giving up the following:  “Don’t just give up because things get hard, or because you think that you can’t do it.  You literally can do anything that you put your mind to, and music is one of the greatest things you can be involved in.”

The one other thing Jalyn wants the world to know is she loves Disney.  Who doesn’t?  “I am absolutely obsessed with Disney, especially Disney music. A little too obsessed, some might say…”

The one word she would use to describe herself as a musician is Passionate!

Walt Disney once said, “All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them.” Good luck to Miss Jalyn.  We can’t wait to see her and her cello perform at Fall Fusion on November 21, 2015 at the Pioneer Center!












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And This…Is Ashlea Kammann!

image2Ashlea plays the violin in the McQueen Orchestra.  Ashlea is a senior.  Ashlea is 17.  Ashlea is the best dressed 17-year-old we know.  She has a wardrobe to die for.  It’s the best wardrobe in Reno for sure.  It is probably the best wardrobe in Northern Nevada.  Perhaps the best on the West Coast.  The girl has style!  We are jealous.  And as you will see she is as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside.

Ashlea went to Rollan Melton Elementary School and Billinghurst Middle School.  She has been playing the violin for 7 years.  She says, “my mother got me involved with music.  She was in band when she was in high school.”  Ashlea originally wanted to play the cello but…“I was told I couldn’t wear skirts or dresses while playing that, so I chose the violin instead.”  This makes us smile.  We like a girl with her priorities in order!

Her favorite thing about the orchestra is the friends she has made.  The Utah trip is one of her favorite orchestra memories.  Ours too!  The hardest part of being in the orchestra for Ashlea is “listening across the group.”

Ashlea’s favorite musician is “my fellow classmate Joshua Plateros because his harmonica solos are off the chain!”  She adds an LOL.

She has been the most influenced by her mom.  “My mom is the most hardworking and dedicated woman I know.”  This makes us love Ashlea’s mom as much as we love Ashlea.

Ashlea is also involved in cheer and the honor society.  She doesn’t have an exact plan for her future and that is just fine with us.  She is planning to study psychology and wants to keep playing music. She hopes to play in a community orchestra in the future.  “I definitely never want to live in a world without music.”

Her goal for her senior year is to enjoy it.  “Spend time with my amazing friends and meet new people too.”  And we hope she can fit some shopping in.  For her future beyond high school she says “all I want is to be happy and hopefully help others along the way.”

Ashlea would tell a struggling string student “you get out of it what you put into it.”  Wise words and so good for all of us to remember.  Right?

Ashlea wants the world to know the following:  “I’m so happy I am part of this orchestra and thankful for all that it has done for me along with everyone else involved.”  And she is looking forward to representing the McQueen Orchestra in Europe this summer.

Ashlea’s one word to describe herself is “Passionate”.  We love passionate people most of all!  image1

Come see Ashlea tonight as she performs with her fellow McQueen Musicians selected to participate in the Washoe County School District Festival and Honor Orchestras at The Nugget!  Then come see Ashlea perform at Fall Fusion on November 21, 2015.  And…if you are lucky, maybe you will get to see what she is wearing before she changes into her uniform!

Editorial Comment:  The author cannot help but pass on the best advice she ever received from her dear Aunt Susan to Miss Ashlea and the entire McQueen Orchestra.  The advice is this.  It really doesn’t matter if you can do something well or not.  It doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at golf, tennis, dancing, running, yoga, practicing law, driving, cooking, gardening, or house cleaning.   As long as you have a cute outfit and try your best that will be good enough.