Local Students Participate in Annual Southern Region High School Music Festival

Area high school students qualified to perform

UPDATE (Feb. 5) The scores are tabulated and the results are in, and (drumroll, please) three students from WAMS will be heading to Harford for the All States Festival. Soprano Olivia Conforti, alto Emily Pierce and freshman tenor CJ Janis will represent the Waterbury Arts Magnet School. Chorus teacher Marianna Vagnini tells me that "this is the first time a freshman has ever made it and the first time we have had THREE students from our school make it. Olivia, Emily, and CJ have set a new record for participation in CMEA ALL State from a public school in Waterbury! I think we have broken through a glass ceiling here!"

Congratulations to all the talented singers and instrumentalists that made it!

UPDATE: On Saturday, Feb. 2 auditions were held for the All State at North Haven High School, a massive building that looked more like a mall. Four students from WAMS who had qualified for the chorus Regionals concert auditioned for this prestigious festival to be held the first week in April in Cromwell. Principal Leo Lavalle strongly encouraged them to make the trek to North Haven and get the experience of auditioning.

All-State Festival - Tuesday, April, 2 (beginning after school) - Thursday, April 4 Students will be housed and rehearse at the Crown Plaza in Cromwell.

All-State Concert - 8:00PM April 4 in the Connecticut Convention Center Ballroom.

Students from WAMS included soprano Olivia Conforti, altos Celina Caetano Alyanna Gonzalez, and Emily Pierce and the token male, tenor Christian "CJ" Janis. The remaining students who participated in the Regionals concert were unable to audition due to other commitments. The hopeful singers warmed up in the auxiliary gym with music teacher Marianna Vagnini, singing acapella and in German while others practiced at the same time. They then headed to their private audition, where they sang scales, sight read a piece and performed their voice part in the German piece for two judges. Nerve-wracking at best, but really great experience for any musician.

Students from Naugatuck High School who auditioned included Megan McSweeney on flute and singers Jussonjah Duby and Alex Hernandez. Music teacher Mahlon Peterson accompanied them on a school bus. Student will receive their scores soon and find out whether they qualified for the All-State Festival.

Original post:

The Connecticut Music Educators Association holds an annual music festival at a high school in their region. The CMEA is the federated state organization of The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) which represents the profession of music educators in the United States. Their mission is to provide programs and activities for professional educators, students, and future music educators striving to enhance the quality of music education for all children.

The CMEA Southern Region is one of the four regions of the CMEA and is comprised of over fifty public and private high schools from the southern portion of the state of CT. Students participating in the festival took part in a rigorous audition process in November of 2012. The students who "made it" now have the option of auditioning for the CT CMEA All-State Ensembles. This year's CMEA festival was held at Francis T. Maloney High School in Meriden on Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013 and several students from area high schools were chosen to perform in the four ensembles.

Megan McSweeney, one of the drum majors for the Naugatuck High School Marching Band, was selected to perform on the flute with the High School Concert Band. Their conductor was Glen Adsit, the Director of Bands at the Hartt School of Music. The huge Concert Band opened the second act with three challenging selections. Immediately after Maestro Adsit leaped upon his conductors podium, the band launched into "Folk Dances" by Dmitri Shostakovich. This was followed by "Rest" by Frank Ticheli, which moved from very quiet to sweeping and back again. The final piece, also by Mr. Ticheli, was titled "Angels in the Architecture" and featured a vocalist as the voice of an angel, chimes, water goblets, both Hebrew and Christian motifs and twirling children's toys. It was quite impressive. Congratulations to Ms. McSweeney on her participation.

Several students at the Waterbury Arts Magnet School and Naugatuck High School qualified to sing with the 2013 High School Chorus. This massive group was conducted by Dr. Dan Perkins, Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Plymouth State University in New Hampshire, and accompanied on piano by Paul Feyer. The students performed "The Heavens Are Telling" by Franz Josef Haydn, "Bogoroditse (Rejoice O Virgin)" by Sergei Rachmaninoff (in Russian and accapela,) "Return!" by Eric William Barnum, "The Road Home" by Stephen Paulus, and finally "Betelehemu" arranged by Barrington Brooks. The final piece was sung in an African language and brought the audience to their feet. It featured stylized movement and clapping and included a small group of singer/percussionists.

The High School Chorus included Naugatuck High School sorpanos Jussonjah Duby and Madison Vilela, and altos Alex Hernandez and Kaylin Spaulding. The Waterbury Arts Magnet School was represented by Olivia Conforti (soprano,) Celina Caetano (alto,) Alyanna Gonzalez (alto,) MacKenzie Huneke (alto,) Emily Pierce (alto,) Bailey Cummings (tenor,) Christian "CJ" Janis (tenor,) Zach Carter (bass,) and Adam Pierce (bass.)

The festival also included a magnificent orchestra under the direction of Dr. Fernando Jimenez, who conducts the Western CT State University Orchestra and the Ives Symphony Orchestra. They performed "Symphony No. 8 (Unfinished), First Movement" by Schubert and "Fingal's Cave (Hebrides) Overture Opus 26 by Mendelssohn. These students sounded as impressive as the names of their pieces.

The Jazz Ensemble was directed by Douglas Maher, currently at Manchester High School and Greater Hartford Academy for the Arts. This group was comprised of 21 talented musicians on brass, guitar, piano, bass and drums, including only one young lady on guitar, and their selections of jazz classics brought the audience to its feet.

One of the guest conductors had the students thank their parents from the stage for giving them a "gift more precious than anything," the gift of music. The entire concert was recorded on both CD and DVD and professionally photograhed. Congratulations to all the talented high school students that participated and the music educators who helped to get them there.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Marty-Lee Fenton January 16, 2013 at 10:40 PM
It is so nice to see good news of the talented youth of today and their interest in the "Wonderful world of music." I was fortunate enough to have been selected to sing in the CMEA Concert at Bushnell Convention Center, in Hartford, some 55 years ago and the experience was great. I made friends that have lasted a life-time .It then led to representing Naugy High at the East Coast MENC Choir Concert in Atlantic City's Convention Hall and singing with 495 additional voices. I remember it like it was yesterday. Congrats to the recipients of this honor and ENJOY! Marty-Lee


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