Josh Richards In All-State Orchestra


A few weeks ago, as Chicago battled frigid temperatures, junior Josh Richards made his way down to Peoria to perform in the Illinois Music Education Association (ILMEA) All-State Honors Orchestra. Josh had the opportunity to work with world-class conductors and the best rising musicians of Illinois to present a huge concert.

“Students are selected to all state groups through a process of auditioning that starts in October,” explains band instructor Mr. Thompson. Josh, who plays the French horn, indeed started by participating in the District One Auditions in the fall.

Based off his high performance scores, Josh was selected first to the All-District Orchestra and then to the elite All-State Orchestra.

Those chosen for the All-State group have the opportunity to perform in the Illinois Music Education Conference (IMEC), a weekend-long festival in Peoria. Once at the conference, all participants must re-audition, with the best students selected for the honors orchestra.

Mr. Thompson explains, “Josh earned a spot in the Honors All-State orchestra, which theoretically makes him one of the top eight high school French horn players in Illinois.”

Josh has been playing the French horn since fifth grade. Although he also plays the trumpet for jazz band, Josh enjoys playing the French horn because of the challenge it brings. He says, “It’s one of the hardest [instruments] because of its small mouthpiece. I continued to pursue it knowing if I became good at it, I would have accomplished something.”

Along with practicing almost every day, Josh also has performed with the Chicago Orchestra Academy (previously known as Protégé Philharmonic) since freshman year.

He explains, “the conductor treats it as a professional orchestra,” requiring members to learn the music themselves and holding seating auditions, which provides a great real-world experience.

At the IMEC festival, Josh was able to learn and perform in a similarly professional atmosphere. Josh met his fellow orchestra members for the first time on Thursday, January 24. The group rehearsed for two days, culminating in a concert presented to hundreds.

Looking back, Josh says his favorite part of the conference was meeting new people. “It was a lot of fun, especially right before the concert when I was able to just hang out with people.”

Josh plans to continue playing the French horn in college, although he is not sure yet if wants to major or minor in it.

For now though, Josh advises other student musicians to audition for the All-State Orchestra as “There is no downside to auditioning, and the benefits are numerous.” From his own experience, Josh learned the value of performing with others at the same skill level and how learning from them can provide “a sense of identity as a player in the state of Illinois.”

Fenwick is proud of Josh and his achievements, and we look forward to seeing what is to come.