While other kids were playing games of tag on the playground, these young music-makers were busy mastering minor keys and scales.
Seven Port Chester students—William Brakewood, Cassandra Lagana, Emmalie Tello, Willie Campbell, Wiktoria Godawa, Tim Vyskocil and Barbara Garcia—have realized the rewards of a job well done as they gear up to perform at Westchester County Music Association’s All-County Band and Orchestra Festivals this March.
At the elementary level, spots awarded to Brakewood, a fifth-grader at King Street, and Godawa, a sixth-grader at Port Chester Middle School, were landed at auditions this past December.
“It’s been a great thing for me to improve at,” said Godawa, a sixth-grade flutist.
For the older kids of the group, a formalized grading system resulted in some stiff competition against other talented Westchester players.
Tello, a Port Chester Middle School clarinetist, achieved the highest mark at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Solo Evaluation Festival last May. After spending hours in front of a music stand perfecting a complex piece in C minor, she was pleased to find that plowing through the tougher parts of her chosen segment paid off in the end.
“I really love band, so I decided to do the best that I could,” she said.
In some cases, that determination may seem natural for those with music in their bones.
Lagana, an eighth-grader, was a previous qualifier for All-County Chorus three years running before trying her hand at clarinet. In the end, she found she could spread her vocal and instrumental talents equally.
“I wanted to do something different. In the future I want to try [to obtain the highest level of NYSSMA]” she said of her decision to multi-task.
Performances will be held at SUNY Purchase on March 12 and 13, just a few weeks from now. Through the trials, there seems to have been one lesson unanimously learned by all candidates: when a music teacher tells you to practice outside the classroom, he does so for good reason.
“If you don’t practice all the time, you’ll be lost playing,” added Lagana.
At this point, each student has begun to develop the fundamental tools to succeed, and they're unlikely to stray very far from the music room in coming years.
For Godawa, competing beyond the local area and expanding across New York is the next step—with a little motivation from players with a bit more experience.
“My cousin is a high school senior and a tuba player, so I get inspired by him,” she said.
For others, music is the universal language of communication, sometimes serving as better tools than even words.
“Music helps you express yourself," said Tello. "It can take you to another world."
The All-County Band concert is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 12 and the All-County Orchestra concert will be held at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 13. Tickets may be purchased at the SUNY Purchase box office. Call 914.251-6200 for more information.
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