Chasing Success at 2019 CCS Honor Performances

Chasing Success at 2019 CCS Honor Performances

Written by Mitali Chowdhury and Oscar Scholin

During the first weekend of February, students from the Breaker Band and Orchestra represented PGHS at the CCS Honor Festival, held at Hartnell College in Salinas. The group included some of the most talented students from the region and played various contrasting but wonderful pieces, culminating in a concert on Saturday afternoon.


For students playing string instruments, the CCS Orchestra represented some of the best violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists in the area. Guest conductor Paul Phillips, currently an orchestral director and associate professor of music at Stanford University, selected a range of pieces including the British Henry Purcell’s Chacony, two Serenades – one by Edward Elgar and another by Antonin Dvorak, and the more modern Red Pony by Aaron Copland. One selection was composed by Phillips himself, the fourth movement of a piece titled Celestial Harmonies. Violinist Ben Sterwerf shared that “it was a great experience to work with amazing musicians from around the central coast. Our Stanford conductor was amazing!” Pacific Grove musician Max Afifi, who attended the concert, remarked that “while [they] lacked a bit in piece choice, the performance was great.”


In the meantime, students who play wind and percussion instruments worked with San Jose State University’s director Craig McKenzie. His selection for the group included the Man of the Hour march by Henry Fillmore, a six-movement composition Divertimento by Vincent Persichetti, a beautiful piece called Chasing Sunlight recently composed by Cait Nishimura, and Foundry, a piece McKenzie lovingly referred to as “heavy metal for band” by John Mackey. Afifi reflected the audience’s perception of the group, stating that “the concert band was outstanding…Their piece Foundry was excellent. The band members truly sounded cohesive and even made the easier pieces sound interesting to listen to.” Director McKenzie agreed and shared that “the experience was phenomenal. Being able to work with students who were this awesome, energetic, and willing to work was amazing. I can’t wait to do this again in the near future!”


A full auditorium enjoyed the performance by the orchestra and the band. When asked how the groups made an impression on the audience, Afifi replied, “I’ve been [to] the past three CCS concerts and I’ve never participated in one. I usually feel unimpressed by the song choices and overall performance. This year, however, was different.” All in all, the weekend represented a wonderful collaboration of talent across schools and truly showed how a love of music brings people together.



Benjamin Sterwerf

Marina Lieberman

Christy Minji Oh

Katya Bernard

Jenika Okuhara



Camryn Wood

Yuri Suzuki

Cayden Bloomer

Mitali Chowdhury

Milo Borer

Samuel Coutts

Nathaniel Binder

Oscar Scholin

Cassidy Novack

Chris Matthews

Elijah Taurke

Sam Bishop