A Sweet Sweep

Malibu High School and Middle School students took home a number of prizes in every entered category at the Music in the Parks.

The musical arts are flourishing at Malibu High School and Malibu Middle School as students swept a prestigious Southern California music festival in April, bringing home top awards in every entered category.

Not only were the awards impressive, but the sheer number of student musicians was as well. A whopping 270 talented youths ranging from sixth to 12th graders participated in the two-day Music in the Parks event at Disneyland. Six tour busses were filled with the young singers and musicians along with an army of chaperones to accompany them for the overnight event in Anaheim.

Dr. Maia Zander, the MHS orchestra teacher, while explaining the kids’ impressive showing, was so overwhelmed by how many awards the students won she had to retrieve a list to remember exactly which trophies were brought home. She relayed the Sixth Grade Orchestra won a superior rating—the highest possible rating and second place in their category for small schools. The Seventh/Eighth Grade Orchestra also won a superior rating, first place and best overall middle school orchestra. 

“That one made me especially happy, because they were competing against junior high schools that have orchestras full of ninth graders that were auditioned, and our group is a nonauditioned group of seventh and eighth graders and they still won first place,” Zander commented. “So that was exciting.”

The Malibu High School Orchestra won a superior rating and took first place in its category. The Malibu Middle School Band received an excellent rating and first place prize. The High School Band won a superior rating and second place. The Concert Choir and Honors Choir both won superior ratings and each took first. The Chorale took a superior rating, first place and best overall high school choir, and the Chamber Singers brought home a superior rating and second place win.

Musical talent aside, what touched many parents and teachers was the MHS students winning the Esprit de Corps Award, distinguishing students for exceptional character. “It’s for a school that doesn’t just play well, but they have to show they are considerate, they’re helpful, that they’re well behaved—all sorts of good stuff,” Zander said. 

“Our students were like rock stars,” she added. “That category made me happy. As a teacher, I’m always happy when they play well, obviously, but I felt that this year especially they conducted themselves in a way that was just exceptional.”

With the event falling on Friday the 13th, it was perhaps no surprise when there was a little hitch in the get-a-long to the venue with a bus breakdown. Some students arrived so late to the competition that both the middle school orchestra and the middle school band missed their schedules. In the scramble to change performance times, many of the student musicians did not have a chance to warm up with their director or even warm up at all. 

“Some of the groups had to get themselves tuned and ready without a music teacher,” according to Zander, who also explained the mix-up forced some youngsters to reset the stage due to time constraints. “They were so accommodating of what other students in the festival needed even though they’d been put through a lot of difficulty themselves.  The director of the festival, James Hahn, said other teachers noticed what great kids we have at MHS and how they demonstrated great values. As a teacher, it is so exciting to have your students represent their school and community so well.” 

Fifteen hundred students from California, Arizona, Nevada, Washington and Colorado were among the participants. 

Krysta Sorensen, MHS choir director, led two middle school and two high school choirs at the event.  

“The kids loved the recognition for all their hard work,” Sorensen said. “Based on last year versus this year, we got higher ratings this year. All four choirs received ‘Superior,’ which is the top rating. They are an awesome group of students. They are very talented young people. I am so proud of them.”

The festival closed Saturday night at Disneyland, with Mickey Mouse handing out awards.

Zander concluded, “Having talented students described as ‘calm, considerate, respectful and helpful’—isn’t that wonderful?”


Competition results:

• 6th Grade Orchestra: Superior Rating, 2nd place

• 7th/8th Grade Orchestra: Superior Rating, 1st place, Best Overall Middle School Orchestra

•High School Orchestra: Superior Rating, 1st place

•Middle School Band: Excellent Rating, 1st place

•High School Band: Superior Rating, 2nd place

•Concert Choir: Superior Rating, 1st place

•Honors Choir: Superior Rating, 1st place

•Chorale: Superior Rating, 1st place, Best Overall High School Choir

•Chamber Singers: Superior Rating, 2nd place


Music and choir programs at MHS are supported by Arts Angels and the Shark Fund.