Clinic a coup for Wichita's East High orchestra

It's unusual for a school to perform four times at the Midwest Clinic, a prestigious international band and orchestra conference in Chicago.

It's even rarer for one person to take part twice.

But both will happen next month when East High School's symphony orchestra participates in the 64th annual clinic.

Not only will this be East's fourth time to send an ensemble to the clinic, but the group's concertmaster, senior Hannah Cartwright, is participating for a second time.

A violinist, Cartwright also went to the clinic as a sixth-grader with Robinson Middle School's seventh- and eighth-grade string orchestra in 2004.

"It was a different level of music," Cartwright said of her first trip.

She will join East's 80-member orchestra in taking part in the clinic, Dec. 15-18. East is scheduled to perform an hourlong concert at 9 a.m. on Dec. 17.

East is one of 38 ensembles selected from more than 140 applicants. The school's string orchestra attended in 1995 and its symphony orchestra went in 1998 and 2002.

"We have just the right chemistry," said Eric Crawford, who is in his fourth year as East's orchestra director. "I knew if ever there was a year we were to pull off a Midwest performance, this is the year."

More than 15,000 people will attend the clinic, which in the past has drawn from 30 countries and all 50 states.

While some schools have attended the clinic more than four times, Midwest spokeswoman Kathleen Andersen said it's still unusual that East has made so many trips to the event.

"It shows East High has a strong music program," she said.

But it's particularly unique that Cartwright will be going for a second performance, because the same ensemble from the same school must wait four years before applying again, Andersen said.

It's not by chance that Cartwright is returning to Chicago.

No one understands that better than Cheryl Myer. She was director of Robinson's orchestra at the time Cartwright attended the school.

"We mostly took seventh-and eighth-graders (to the clinic in 2004)," Myer said. "But Hannah was way beyond the sixth-grade class level, so we decided to let her go. She's just extraordinary. Very talented."

And she works hard. Cartwright has been playing violin since she was three and practices three hours daily.

"I've practiced violin every day of my life that I can remember," she said.

Groups at the clinic are required to perform a variety of works from different time periods. One of East's main pieces will be by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera.

East will give a preview performance for the public at 6 p.m. Dec. 13, at the school. There's no charge.

The trip won't be all about practicing and performing. The students also will go to some Chicago museums and attend a performance of the musical "Wicked," said Crawford, who performed at the clinic in 2000 as a member of Wichita State University's orchestra.

East High's orchestra has conducted just about every fundraiser possible — bake, yard, coffee and candy bar sales and car washes — to try to get the $42,000 it needs for the trip. Through mid-November, it had raised about $24,000.

Students will cover what they don't raise, Crawford said.

"It's worth it," he said. "This is something they'll always remember."

Cartwright knows she will, even if it is for a second time around.

"It's great going as a high school senior," she said. "It's kind of like a present."