Arts & Entertainment

Somers Student Musicians Prepare for Statewide Festival

Younger student musicians performed at the Prelude to NYSSMA event. Credits: Christine Mahoney
Older students who performed during the later session of Prelude to NYSSMA Credits: Christine Mahoney

SOMERS, N.Y. – The Somers Tuskers Arts Rising Stars (STARS) booster club hosted its inaugural “Prelude to NYSSSMA” event on Friday, May 12, at Somers High School. The unique performance opportunity allowed any student musician to perform a solo in front of an audience of family and friends prior to the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Up-County Instrument Festival on Friday, May 19, and Saturday, May 20, held this year at Somers High School.

The prelude event consisted of two sessions: an earlier one for younger students and a later one for the older students. Children ranged from grades two through 11, playing the full range of NYSSMA levels (1 through 6). A variety of instruments were played such as violin, viola, piano, clarinet, snare drum, euphonium, bass and saxophone. During the second session, a showcase of Level 6 vocals performed with piano accompaniment by Dan Forman. The range of vocal parts included Soprano 1, Alto 2, Bass 2 and Tenor.

STARS is a fairly new booster club made up of dedicated parents and teachers working together to support the performing arts groups in all four district buildings. Through its recent membership drive, the club was able to present a graduating senior from Somers High School with a $1,000 scholarship this year. STARS hopes that, with continued support, the booster club can provide more scholarships and music education grants in the future.

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Somers has been recognized as being one of “The Best Communities for Music Education” by NAMM (National Association of Music Merchants Foundation) for the last two years. Also, the Somers High School Chamber Choir recently received the highest rating of “Superior” at the Rhythms International Music Festival in Quebec City, Montreal, Canada, during April break. Likewise, the Somers High School Band received the highest rating, “Level 6 Gold,” at the NYSSMA Major Ensemble Festival last year. It will perform at this festival again this year on May 22.

NYSSMA sponsors an annual festival at which students perform solo and ensemble repertoire that they have prepared for adjudication by a NYSSMA-certified adjudicator.

Each district in Westchester County takes turns hosting. Somers’ last turn was in 2003.

NYSSMA is the state branch of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME). Over 100,000 students across New York State attend NYSSMA festivals annually.

Westchester has such a high rate of participation that the county is served by three separate festivals: The Piano Festival; the Down-County Festival; and the Up-County Festival, which hosts students from more than two dozen public and private schools.

The projected attendance for this year’s Up-County Festival is 1,610 students. Forty NYSSMA-trained adjudicators will travel to the festival site from all over the New York greater Metropolitan Area on May 19 and 20 to evaluate the students on their performance. A grade and written critique are given, based on established criteria such as tone, pitch and rhythmic accuracy, intonation, and sight‐reading.

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