All-County Festival returns to Chautauqua Institution in June

Submitted Photo Here is a shot of the All-County Music Festival inside of the Chautauqua Institution.

CHAUTAUQUA — Every Spring since 1949 (with a notable exception of 1978), the Chautauqua Institution has come alive with the sights and sounds of nearly 1,000 music students from around Chautauqua County who assemble for the Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association’s annual Spring All-County Concert.  On Saturday, June 2 at 7:30 p.m. this festival will return to the newly renovated Chautauqua Amphitheater. As always, the concert will feature the county’s best student musicians from the 20 school districts located in Chautauqua County, in one of several music ensembles.  Featured in this festival are the Elementary, Junior, and Senior All-County Choruses, and the Junior and Senior All-County Bands, culminating in a combined finale of all junior and senior groups.

Each student is selected first by their school’s music teacher and from there the list is pared down by the CCMTA chair people, who select the students (in some cases by audition, teacher recommendation, or through a score received by playing a solo for a New York State-certified music adjudicator) who will make the final roster for each group.  

Opening the concert will be the Elementary Chorus (Dana Bennett, Cassadaga Central School, Chairperson) conducted by Emily Phillips. Phillips has been an elementary music specialist for more than 15 years. She currently teaches at Canandaigua Primary-Elementary School in Canandaigua, NY where she leads general music classes for students in grades 3 through 5 as well as a fifth grade chorus of over 200 voices. She is a graduate of Ithaca College where she received both her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. Phillips is actively involved with the Greater Rochester American Orff Schulwerk Association, serving most recently as vice president. Her Orff Schulwerk Teacher Training Levels I-III were completed at the Eastman School of Music. She has led teacher education workshops sponsored by GRAOSA, Nazareth College, Houghton College, Greece Central Schools, and the Finger Lakes Music Educators Association.

Laura Hotchkiss, of Lakewood, will accompany the Elementary Chorus.

Performing after the Elementary Chorus will be the Junior Chorus (Mary Kay Himes, Pine Valley Central School, chairperson). This ensemble is comprised of close to 200 seventh and eighth graders.  The guest conductor will be Marjorie Switala. Switala spent 25 years expanding and growing the music program at Mayville Central School. After the Mayville and Chautauqua Districts merged and became the Chautauqua Lake Central School District, she served as the vocal instructor for seven more years until her retirement. Following her retirement from CLSC, Switala has been active with her own private voice studio as well as an adjunct vocal instructor at Jamestown Community College. Marjorie continues as a vocal adjudicator and also enjoys spending her time performing and directing church choirs and Lucille Ball Little Theater musical productions.

Wendy Marlinski (Chautauqua Lake CS) will accompany the Junior Chorus.

The Junior Band (Carrie Pawelski, Jamestown Public Schools, Chairperson) will follow the Chorus.  The band will be conducted by Erin Meissner. A native of the Midwest, Meissner received her undergraduate degree in Music Education from Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Following a successful tenure as Director of Bands, teaching 5-12 Instrumental and 7-8 General Music in northern Minnesota, Meissner completed her Master of Music in Instrumental Wind Conducting as graduate assistant to Dr. Paula Holcomb at the State University of New York at Fredonia. Meissner subsequently joined the faculty of Cornell University as Assistant Director of Bands and Musical Advisor to the Big Red Marching Band. In 2010 Meissner returned to SUNY Fredonia as a member of the conducting and theory faculties, conducting the Concert Band, teaching instrumental conducting, and aural skills. Meissner is currently covering a three-semester sabbatical as Interim Director of Instrumental Music in southwest Minnesota where she conducts the Wind Symphony and teaches conducting and music education courses.

After the Junior Band performance, the Senior Chorus (Phillip McMullen, Silver Creek Central School, Chairperson) will entertain the audience. Conductor Adam Luebke will lead this group of high school singers. Luebke is known for his passionate artistry and versatility with wide ranging repertoire. Hailing his choruses as “virtuosic,” “splendid,” “articulate,” “energetic,” “soaring,” and “joyous,” the Buffalo News has proclaimed, “Luebke was rightly led out for the bow.” Currently Music Director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus, Luebke has worked with conductors JoAnn Falletta, John Morris Russell, Carl St. Clair, Stefan Sanders and Tim Muffit; and soloists Angela Brown and Kevin Deas, among others. A frequent collaborator across genres, he has worked with Lehrer Dance, Irish Classical Theatre Company, and Cantus. He has recently conducted the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Amherst Symphony Orchestra, and Rochester Oratorio Society, and appeared at David Geffen Hall in Lincoln Center and the Chautauqua Institution.

Ann Rose Park (Cassadaga Valley CS) will accompany the Senior Chorus.

Rounding out the evening of music will be the Senior Band (Meghan Murray, Jamestown Public Schools, chairperson), under the baton of Dr. Darrin Thornton, an assistant director of the Penn State Marching Blue Band and serving on masters and doctoral thesis committees. His research focuses on pre-service teacher training, educational access and outreach in music and music education, learning in ensemble settings and lifelong music engagement. Thornton remains active as a performing percussionist, conductor, church musician, adjudicator, clinician, guest lecturer, and consultant. Prior to this appointment in the School of Music, he taught band/instrumental music at the elementary, middle, and high school levels in the state of New York; served on the conducting faculties at the University of Missouri and SUNY Fredonia; and held administrative posts at the University of Missouri, SUNY Fredonia, and Penn State. Thornton holds an undergraduate degree from Northwestern University, master’s degrees from National Louis University and the University of Missouri, and a doctorate from Penn State.

Since the 1960s, the concert’s moving finale has been Wilhousky’s arrangement of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” performed by a combination of the junior and senior bands and choruses. This year the finale will be directed by guest conductor David Lloret. A native of Dallas, TX, Lloret graduated from John Brown University with a degree in Music Education, and received his Master’s degree in Music Education from SUNY Fredonia. Prior to his moving to Western New York, he served as music director and youth pastor at the Union Church of Guatemala, where he spent most of his childhood years. Lloret began his teaching career at the former Mayville Central School prior to its merger, and retired in 2016 from Chautauqua Lake Central School after 31 years as a music teacher and band director. He has performed with the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, the Erie Concert Band, the Jubilee Brass Quintet, and is a current member of the Jamestown Community Orchestra and the Chautauqua Concert Band.

The concert itself lasts under two hours, but the time and preparation that go into the festival far exceed that moment in time on stage.  Students begin rehearsing their music as soon as they receive it from their chairperson, sometime in early spring.   

On the day of the concert, these dedicated student musicians will begin arriving on the grounds between 8 and 8:30 a.m. for a prompt 9:00 a.m. rehearsal start.  The day continues with more rehearsals, lunch, and a few small breaks in between, until the students have dinner and dress for the concert.  

A generous grant from The Reg and Betty Lenna Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation assist in making this festival possible. There are several expenses involved in a concert, not the least of which is providing each of the students with multiple published scores of music from which to study and perform. These purchases total thousands of dollars. Funding from the CRCF greatly aids in these expenses.  Portions of the sheet music have also been provided with support of the Instructional Media Center at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattaraugus BOCES, which facilitates access and housing for the sheet music collection.

The 2018 CCMTA Scholarship winners will be presented to the audience at this concert. On May 2, CCMTA hosted scholarship auditions at Forestville High School. These scholarships are awarded to Chautauqua County music students for summer music camp, private instruction or toward college expenses, should the student choose a career path in music.  

The Scholarship award winners are as follows:


Kailyn Gatto (Voice), Westfield Academy and Central School

Andrew Young (Voice), Falconer High School

Ed Turner Memorial Scholarship ($500):

Adrianna Burgos (Voice), Forestville MS/HS


Selin Arnavut (Voice), Fredonia High School

Asha deHarder (French Horn), Jamestown High School

Amelia Harper (Cello), Fredonia High School

Nathan Merrill (Alto Sax), Forestville MS/HS

Matthew Sigler (French Horn), Southwestern High School


Madeline DeJoy (Violin), Washington Middle School

Kelson Laska (Tuba), Frewsburg Middle/High School

Julia Myers (Voice), Southwestern High School


Reece Beaver (Voice), Southwestern High School

Marencia Bohn (Voice), Dunkirk Middle School

Benjamin Seigel (Cello), Fredonia High School

In addition to the Spring All-County Festival and providing music study scholarships, CCMTA also sponsors a Winter All-County Music Festival each February featuring the Elementary Band, Women’s Chorus, Jazz Chorus, Percussion or Brass Ensemble, and the Jazz Ensemble. CCMTA runs a solo festival in February, where students prepare and play for a New York State-certified music adjudicator, who in turn provides the student with valuable comments and tips on how to improve his or her musicianship.

Presale tickets are now available online at and will also be available at the door one half hour prior to the concert.  Adult tickets are $6 cash; student and senior tickets are $4. Parking in the Institution Main Lot will be free.