EYE ON EDUCATION: 2 Lake Placid High students selected for All-State concert

Lake Placid High School senior Hannah Wylie and junior Andrew Scanio pose outside the school. (Provided photo)

LAKE PLACID — After months of rigorous vocal training and anticipation, Lake Placid High School senior Hannah Wylie and junior Andrew Scanio just received good news from the New York State School Music Association’s All-State chorus: the two students were selected to perform at the NYSSMA Winter Conference with around 200 other students.

While there are more local, less competitive choirs like All-County and Area All-State, getting selected for the All-State NYSSMA concert is the highest achievement for a chorus student. The original pool of applicants for the All-State concert often hovers around 5,000 across the state, and while Lake Placid Middle and High School’s chorus director Taylor Prosper helped several students audition for more localized choirs, he chose Wylie and Scanio for All-State because he knew they’d bring the talent and dedication required to succeed.

For the audition process, students have to learn a solo piece ranging from a basic Level One to a Level Six. Both Wylie and Scanio chose a Level Six, which is a college-level piece of music. They went through lengthy training for the audition, too, since their solos were in Italian.

Though Scanio sang one Italian solo in middle school, he said it was much shorter and easier to learn. But Prosper invested in the students’ talent, spending time introducing them to the pieces, going over pronunciation, timing, then diving into the “nitty-gritty” nuances of dynamics, volume and Italian vowel treatment.

“I knew they’d put in the time to learn a six-minute Italian solo. It’s a lot of work and a really big commitment,” Prosper said.

Wylie learned “Il mio bel foco,” and Scanio sang “Pieta Signore.” Prosper said he was grateful the students got the opportunity to learn music in a different language.

“When you first sing in a foreign language … you often don’t know what you’re singing about. That often comes later, which is the opposite of when you’re singing an English song. It kind of allows students to explore a song for its beauty and feel, before they judge it for the content.”

Wylie’s chorus roots go all the way back to church choir in the first grade, and Scanio developed a love of singing after starting out with piano lessons in elementary school; both students have participated in choirs ever since. Prosper said he watched the students grow as singers, from Level Ones singing “Row Row Row Your Boat” to Level Sixes belting Italian solos. The NYSSMA Conference only selects students who score a 99% or 100% on their solos.

After months of rehearsing for their auditions, the students only had to wait for word from NYSSMA about their acceptance. Both students described their high anticipation during that time; Wylie said she received positive feedback from her audition, and Scanio said he felt good about his solo, but the acceptance letter was still “surprising” for Scanio and an “honor” to Wylie. Prosper said he was proud of his students’ hard work, and their presence in the chorus will be a wonderful opportunity to represent the community.

“It’s awesome as a small district we get to say, ‘Hey, we’re really good too,'” Prosper said.

And the competition was tighter this year than ever before. Because of COVID-19 public health measures, the conference had to cut the final chorus in half. Prosper said this made the audition process more “cutthroat” than ever before.

This year’s annual NYSSMA Conference is a three-day event held in Rochester’s Convention Center, and students will spend two days rehearsing for a concert on the final day. While they get a chance to learn the music for a brief period before the conference, the chorus only has two days to practice together; Prosper said it’s an intensive training period, and attendees will have the chance to work with expert conductors who are often world-renowned. In their off time, students can browse the convention center to learn about potential music programs, schools and other vendors while networking with other students.

Wiley hopes to become a biology and theater teacher, which she expects will involve music in some capacity. And while Scanio is keeping his post-high school plans open, he “definitely” wants to keep music in his life going forward.