It's fair to say that Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School eighth-grader Andrew Sigler was somewhat stunned after first listening to Juneau composer Stefan Hakenberg's "Give and Take," a four-movement, 20-minute symphony composed for the Juneau Student Symphony.
"I've never played a piece like it," he said. "It's very unique, and it has lots of percussion in it. That's a new thing. Usually you would think violins."
A handful of rehearsals later, the symphony is getting ready to premiere "Give and Take" as part of the group's Winter to Spring Concert.
It will also take on the first movement of Beethoven's "Symphony No. 1," a minuet by Handel, themes from Schubert's "Unfinished Symphony," a work for student orchestra by Elliot Del Borgo and Hayden's "Violin Concerto No. 1," in which Sigler is the featured soloist. He was one of the winners of the Juneau Symphony's 2004 Youth Concerto Competition.
The symphony plays at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 12, and 4 p.m. Sunday, March 13, in the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School commons. Both shows are free.
Hakenberg interviewed student symphony members in the summer of 2004, and wrote most of "Give and Take" last fall. His commission was funded by a grant from the Alaska Association of School Boards and its Alaska Initiative for Community Engagement. He's the co-founder of CrossSound, the Alaska new music festival touring later this month.
"The first movement has a big, loud introduction, and the second movement is a minuet," said Sigler, 14. "The third one is a fast-moving piece, everything's flowing, except there are a lot of solos. And then the fourth one, there's a lot of violin melodies."
Sigler, taught by Guo Hua Xia, has played in Xia's Ursa Major ensemble since last fall. He's been building a violin for his middle school ROPES project with the help of Rob Bosworth. The top pieces is maple, and the bottom is spruce. They bought a kit, and have glued, sanded, shaped and polished for about 25 hours. He played it for the first time last weekend.
"The sound gets better as you play it more," Sigler said. "Every single violin sounds different, you can't really predict it. Quality of wood is usually how you can determine it. Sometimes you can buy an expensive violin and it won't sound that well."