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Lake Placid hosts Area All-State Music Festival

November 23, 2017
By GRIFFIN KELLY - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Canton band director Tim Savage stood Friday, Nov. 17, in front of the saxophone, trumpet, trombone, bass, drums and piano players in the jazz ensemble and made musical noises.

"Boo-ba-dop bop-bop boo-bop."

All the students understood what he meant and played it accordingly.

Article Photos

Kerry Mero plays piano while Sophia Popoulis instructs the treble chorus for the Area All-State Music Festival Friday, Nov. 17 in Lake Placid.
(News photo — Griffin Kelly)

Delighted with their performance, Savage sat down on a nearby stool and asked, "Who'd rather be here playing music instead of going to class?"

Every student raised his or her hand.

"Me, too," Savage replied.

Again on Saturday, Nov. 18, students from 19 high schools in Essex, Franklin and Clinton counties participated in the 2017 Zone 6 Area All-State Music Festival, presented by the New York State School Music Association. Lake Placid High School hosted the festival, and the final concert was held in the afternoon at the Lake Placid Conference Center. There were four performances: mixed chorus, concert band, treble chorus and jazz ensemble.

Hundreds of students in the three counties auditioned at the beginning of the fall, and NYSSMA whittled the numbers down to a little more than 250 participants. The students were given the music a few weeks prior to the performance but only start practicing with other schools two days before the show.

"The kids love it," said Jeffrey Soper, Zone 6 representative and music teacher at Malone Central School. "Because it's so timely, it quickly forces out the awkwardness of meeting new people, and in a day-and-a-half these kids create friendship through music."

Terry Saulsgiver, the chairperson for the jazz ensemble, said the festival allows students to learn and perform at higher levels than what they're used to, and through that, camaraderie is built.

"It's like the musical equivalent of sectionals, but instead of the children competing, they're cooperating," she said.

The students weren't only practicing with new bandmates and singing partners; they were also interacting with new teachers and conductors. Soper said that's what's so special about being a participant in the festival.

Abbie Wolff, a senior alto from Saranac Lake, said, "I think it's really cool to have all the different schools come together."

Her fellow chorus singer, John Holmlund, also from Saranac Lake, followed up by saying, "It's great to work with and learn from a new conductor."

The mixed chorus, led by conductor Mary Biddlecombe of Vanderbilt University in Nashville - who taught in Tupper Lake early in her career - and pianist Elizabeth Cordes of Tupper Lake, had the students perform songs in the Sacred Harp tradition, a style originating in late 18th-century America that was intended to get everyone singing. It imitates hymns and psalms, and is written for people who don't normally sing.

Soper said he believes this festival not only helps the participating students but also elevates their music classrooms as a whole.

"These kids go home and bring everything they learned to kids who didn't attend," Soper said.

Many of the teachers see this as a learning experience for them as well.

"It's a tremendous experience," Saranac Lake High School choral director Drew Benware said. "It gives us all a different perspective on music. I'm here as a teacher and a student."

Kim Weems, choral director at Lake Placid High School and host to the festival, said every music teacher is happy if a student becomes a lifelong participant in music, whether they make it a career, sing in a church choir or just become ticket buyers for shows.

"It's rare that a student can or should major in music," Weems said, "but it happens, and this festival helps facilitate that."



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