All-County Festival Saturday at Chautauqua

The Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association’s annual Spring All-County Concert will take place this Saturday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Chautauqua Institution.

CHAUTAUQUA — Every spring since 1949 (with a notable exception of 1978 and during renovations in 2017), 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. This Saturday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m., this festival will return to the 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 (Daland Perry, Clymer Central School, Chairperson) conducted by Becki Place. Place has been the vocal music teacher and choral director at the Fred W. Hill Elementary School in Brockport, NY since 2005 where she teaches general music, conducts fourth and fifth grade chorus, and conducts the select singing ensemble “Hilltop Singers.” Prior to teaching in Brockport, she was the K-12 vocal music teacher in Madison, NY. Place holds a Bachelor of Music in Music Education from Roberts Wesleyan College, a Master of Science in Music Education from SUNY Fredonia and received her Orff Schulwerk training at the Eastman School of Music. Accompanying the Elementary Chorus will be Charles Johnson.

Performing after the Elementary Chorus will be the Junior Chorus (Kimberly Levan, Dunkirk Public Schools, chairperson). This ensemble is comprised of close to 200 seventh, eighth and ninth graders. The guest conductor will be Lou Shafer. Shafer is currently in his 23rd year of teaching and his fifth year as Choral Director at Frontier High School. He has guest conducted throughout New York and the northeast at All-County and area All State festivals with choirs from grades 4-12 as well as collegiate ensembles. An avid composer and arranger, Shafer’s creations have been performed and recorded by area choirs, vocal jazz ensembles and a cappella groups, notably, Buffalo’s own, The Lake Effect. He is a member of ECMEA, NYSSMA, ACDA and MENC. Doug Tramontana, Westfield Academy and Central School) will be accompanying the Junior Chorus.

The Junior Band (J. Nicole Zenns, Cassadaga Valley Central School, Chairperson) will follow the chorus. The band will be conducted by Amy Steiner. A native of Eden, NY and two-time Grammy Nominated Music Educator, Steiner attended SUNY Fredonia School of Music earning a Bachelor of Music Education degree and a Master of Music with an emphasis in Conducting. Amy studied under conductors Dr. Russell Mikkelson, Dr. Richard Larson, and Dr. Paula Holcomb. On her bassoon, Ms. Steiner has performed with the Erie Philharmonic, Erie Chamber Players, Cheektowaga Symphony, Erie County Wind Ensemble, Amherst Chamber Ensembles, and various other groups throughout Western New York.

After the Junior Band performance, the Senior Chorus (Jeannine Van Wey, Dunkirk Public Schools, Chairperson) will entertain the audience. Conductor Christopher Reynolds Sheehan will lead this group of high school singers. A native of Allegany County, NY, Sheehan is Director of Choral Music at the James I. O’Neill High School, Highland Falls, NY, where he has taught since 1996. There he oversees a mixed choir, men’s choir, women’s choir and chamber singers and teaches group vocal lessons, sight-singing and music theory. Choirs under Sheehan’s direction have performed to great acclaim throughout the eastern United States and Canada. Highlights include previous invited appearances at NAfME All-Eastern and NYSSMA All-State Conventions, the Carnegie Hall Statewide Choral Festival, the Kennedy Center, the Disney Honors and the New York State School Boards Association in addition to numerous collaborations with distinguished composers, conductors, accompanists and collegiate and professional ensembles. Accompanying the Senior Chorus will be Daniel L. Bromsted (Silver Creek Central School, Retired).

Rounding out the evening of music will be the Senior Band (Christopher Wakefield, Clymer Central School, chairperson), under the baton of Lieutenant Commander Diane Nichols, a native of Buffalo, NY. Nichols holds a Bachelor of Music Education degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo and a Master of Music in Wind Band Conducting from Louisiana State University. She has completed the Navy’s Basic Music, Section Leader, Ceremonial Conductor/Drum Major, and Senior Musician courses, and has studied conducting with Anthony Maiello, Carlos Riazuelo, and Donald McKinney. Lt. Cmdr. Nichols’ personal awards include the Meritorious Service Medal, Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (4 awards), Navy Achievement Medal (3 awards), and Navy Good Conduct Medal (5 awards).

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 Cynthia Mead Flaherty. Flaherty was born, raised and still lives in Chautauqua County. She graduated from Forestville Central School and went on to SUNY Fredonia where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music education. Flaherty taught in the Dunkirk City School District for 33 years in the elementary schools and middle school, where she taught general music, directed chorus, the middle school musicals and the steel drum band. The steel band did several concert tours of Washington DC, Boston, and New York City with the United Nations, the Statue of Liberty, Lincoln Center Courtyard, the White House Lawn, and the Capitol among the venues. Flaherty has only missed one CCMTA All -County Music Festival in the last 50 years attending as a participant, an accompanist, a teacher, an audience member and now as a conductor.

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 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.

Generous grants from The C. Malcolm and Jeanette M. Nichols Community Service Fund and The Ruth R. Olson Memorial 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 2019 CCMTA Scholarship winners will be presented to the audience at this concert. On May 1, 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:


Sofia Isabella (Voice: Soprano) Jamestown High School


Adeliz Gottinger (Cello) 10th grade, Fredonia High School


Grace Crino (Flute) 10th grade, Fredonia High School

Brad Belmondo (Trumpet) 11th grade, Westfield Academy and Central School

Gavin Kaminski (Voice: Baritone) 10th grade, Forestville Central School

Carson Phillips (Timpani) 9th grade, Frewsburg Central School

Dylan Lydell (Euphonium) 11th grade, Jamestown High School

Alicia Kluck (Violin) 11th grade, Fredonia High School


Johnathan Siggins (Trumpet) eighth grade, Frewsburg Central School

Tegenya Graziano (Cello) eighth grade, Fredonia Middle School

Cassidy Phillips (Flute) eighth grade, Westfield Academy

Owyn Darrell-Sterbak (Cello) seventh grade, Fredonia Middle School


Jacob Salisbury (Trumpet) sixth grade, Fredonia Middle School

Parker Bohn (Voice: Soprano) 5th grade, Dunkirk School 7

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.

All tickets are $5. Presale tickets are now available online at ccmta.ticketleap.com, and will also be available at the door one half hour prior to the concert.