Mike Bradam and his high school orchestra at Maryville Christian School had a hard time deciding what song to play in the recent Roane State Academic Festival.
So when Bradam submitted the necessary paperwork for the competition weeks in advance, he simply listed their selection as “The Song.” There was only one problem, there was nothing in their repertoire called by that name.
No problem if you are an award-winning orchestra. The dozen or so members of this group sat down two days before the contest and improvised a bluesy number they then performed in front of the judges at Roane State.
Amazingly, that original creation, “The Song,” brought home the first place trophy.
Maybe it’s not so amazing when you consider Bradam has been training this group of teens since they were in fourth and fifth grade. He starts them out in fourth grade learning melodies on keyboard. In fifth grade, they pick up classical instruments. When they reach high school they get to branch out and add other instruments.
There are musicians in his classes that play both violin and guitar or bass and trumpet. The music they make is wide-ranging, too.
“We do classical pieces with modern instruments,” Bradam explained. “We will also do ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark.’ We perform fiddle songs to include “Orange Blossom Special,’ and hymns as well to represent who we are as a Christian school.”
To get a taste of this group’s talent, community members are invited to attend a public performance at 3 p.m. Friday, April 21, at the Blount County Public Library. The concert is free and open to all. In addition, the orchestra will be entertaining guests at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge at 10:45 a.m. Thursday, April 27, at the theme park’s entrance.
These high schoolers get plenty of opportunities to showcase their talents outside the walls of MCS. They performed at the Grand Ole Opry last year. They’ve entertained at the Fantasy of Trees in Knoxville and were even invited to the presidential inauguration back in January but were unable to attend. Bradam said he takes every opportunity for his students.
“For me, I love to perform and get out and show the skills we have,” Bradam said. “The only way to learn to perform is perform.”
That first-place award this group of musicians won at Roane State wasn’t their first.
They have come away on top six years in a row. Take a visit to the orchestra room and see how many accolades they have earned, many of them tacked up on the walls.
These two upcoming performances will be the last public appearances this season as school is winding down. Bradam and the orchestra hope for a large crowd at the library and when they play for Dollywood.
“I am very proud of them,” Bradam said.
And it doesn’t always take winning a trophy or blue ribbon for the high school students to feel…