HMS Orchestra Story Hits Right Notes on Screen

Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK Georg Eittinger speaks to the audience before the screening of his documentary on Huntington Middle School’s orchestra program.
Photo by Zane Hill / OUTLOOK
Georg Eittinger speaks to the audience before the screening of his documentary on Huntington Middle School’s orchestra program.

Huntington Middle School faculty, students and parents take a lot of pride in their school’s orchestra. That was perfectly reflected by a documentary created and showcased Friday by two enthusiastic parents.
Georg Eittinger, a master violin maker and restorer, and his wife, Ann, spent the better part of the last year shadowing and documenting HMS orchestra students in their classes, concerts and competitions. They screened the finished product, complete with interviews with students, parents and faculty, last week in the courtyard outside of the Hans Weisshaar’s store that the Eittingers own on Huntington Drive.
“We did it just for the love of it and for the fun of it,” Georg Eittinger said, shortly after the screening. “It is truly fun to be able to participate in a music program like this.”
The San Marino residents’ twin sons, Christopher and Georg Jr., were in the program while at HMS, finishing 8th grade last year. The Eittingers continue to be involved in the tight-knit group of parents and other boosters, so it was only natural for them to become the storytellers.
Ann Eittinger said the inspiration for the film — titled “Our Orchestra: The Inner Workings of the Henry E. Huntington Middle School Orchestras” — came when it occurred to her the simple recordings of concerts didn’t paint the full picture.
“We thought there was a bit more to the orchestra and the history of how this started at the school that people would enjoy hearing about,” she said.
The story began in the 1990s, when then-HMS Principal Gary McGuigan (who would eventually retire as San Marino Unified School District’s assistant superintendent) was recruiting a teacher at a Glendale school and overheard the school’s orchestra students. He was enchanted and resolved to create a program at HMS.
Cutting to the interview with Rob Folsom, longtime conductor of the orchestra, viewers learned the initial HMS class started with 27 students. Now, more than 100 students are enrolled across the five classes that Folsom teaches.
“I saw it just before school started, and I was just blown away by the job Georg did on this documentary,” Folsom told the crowd at the screening. “I know I learned from it because of the perspectives of the kids and parents interviewed. It was very insightful.”
The film showcased how each cent raised by boosters was spent in support of the orchestra. Interviews in the second half of the documentary were broken up by video of the orchestra playing Antonio Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons,” with the solos masterfully and completely performed by students.
“We just want the community to know what the kids are doing,” said Jannette Sy, chair of the HMS orchestra booster club. “We’re trying to encourage them to see how hard these kids work and trying to promote the orchestra. The kids really, really want do their best.”
The kids certainly had an audience. It was standing room only in the courtyard after a reception pre-screening and applause periodically broke out mid-film.
“It was Labor Day weekend and it was the hottest day of the year, so I’m very happy,” Georg Eittinger said. “It shows there’s a great interest in the program.”
DVDs of the 50-minute documentary — “Short enough to show in one school period,” quipped Ann Eittinger — are available through Folsom at HMS, with a suggested donation of $35. Aside from DVD printing costs, all proceeds go directly to the orchestra program.

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