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All County musicians to perform at Dunkirk High School

Submitted Photo The Winter All County will take place Saturday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m. at Dunkirk High School.

February has long been a busy month for the music educators of Chautauqua County. Two county-wide events take place during this blustery month: CCMTA Solo Festival, and the CCMTA Winter All-County Festival.

Both are sponsored by the Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association and rely for their success on not only the organization of the music educators from all 19 school districts in Chautauqua County, but also the dedication, hard work and talent of thousands of school aged music students throughout this corner of the state.

The Dunkirk High School Auditorium will be the site of the 2020 Winter All-County Festival and Concert. Taking place on Saturday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m., this event features the county’s best student musicians from the school districts located in Chautauqua County, in one of several music ensembles. Featured in this festival are the Elementary Band, Junior Orchestra, Senior Orchestra, Contemporary Voices vocal ensemble, and the All-County Jazz Ensemble.

This festival is graciously sponsored in part by a grant received from the Courier Capital Fund and the William and Helen Long Fund at the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation. The Instructional Media Center at Erie 2-Chautauqua-Cattauragus BOCES facilitates access and housing for portions of the sheet music used in this concert.

Tickets will be available at the door for $5 and can also be purchased in advance at any time through ccmta.ticketleap.com.

The first group on the concert program will be the All-County Elementary Band, chaired by Rebecca Wendell (Chautauqua Lake CS) and conducted by Timothy Murray. Since September 2013, Murray has been the director of elementary and junior high bands for the Cheektowaga-Sloan Union Free School District. His Elementary Band (grades 4-5), Concert Band (grade 6), Symphonic Band (grades 7-8), and Jazz Band (grades 6-8) perform regularly, and include Erie County All-County musicians. The Concert and Symphonic Bands perform biennially at the Darien Lake Music Festival. Murray also frequently conducts the pit orchestra for John F. Kennedy High School’s musical productions and had the honor of conducting the Saratoga Warren County Music Educators Association (SWCMEA) grades 6 and 7 All-County Band in October 2018 in Ballston Spa, NY.

The Senior Orchestra, chaired by Katie Derrenbacher (Jamestown Public Schools), will follow the baton of Lynne Ruda. Ruda is the Director of Orchestras at Lancaster High School in Lancaster, NY, where she has led her orchestras in performances with renowned guest artists and has showcased her ensembles in clinics and conferences across New York State. Mrs. Ruda is the conductor of the Greater Buffalo Youth String Orchestra, is assistant faculty at the Bravo Chamber Music Workshop, and is highly sought after as a guest conductor at honors festivals across the state. She is a 2020 finalist for the Music Educator of the Year Grammy Award. In addition to her music accolades, Ruda is also a village trustee for Lancaster and a volunteer firefighter. In 2018, she was named “Citizen of the Year” by the Lancaster Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nora Murnane-Robertson will conduct the All-County Junior Orchestra, chaired by Emily Greetham (Fredonia CS). Murnane-Robertson has taught string orchestra at the elementary, middle and high school levels. She has taught in the Baldwinsville, Victor and West Seneca School Districts. She is currently the Director of Orchestras at West Seneca West Senior High School, where she also serves as the Coordinator for Music Education. Under Murnane-Robertson’s leadership, the Orchestra and String Ensemble at West Senior have participated at NYSSMA festival evaluations and received “Gold” and Level 6 “Gold with Distinction” ratings. Nora also conducts a summer orchestra program in West Seneca that affords all past and present members of the string department an opportunity to perform during the summer months. In addition to her teaching activities at West Senior, Nora maintains an active private violin/viola studio and performs regularly with her string quartet.

Dr. Kym Scott will lead the All-County Vocal Jazz Ensemble, chaired by Sally Berg (Sherman CS). Dr. Scott graduated with a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in Choral Music from the University of Southern California. In 2013, she conducted members of the USC choirs in several performances with The Rolling Stones in Los Angeles and Anaheim during their “50 and counting” world tour. She finished her time at USC with a summer 2014 tour to China and South Korea, performing with the USC Thornton Chamber Singers and presenting lectures on Australian choral music at the World Choral Symposium in Seoul. On the faculty at West Virginia University since 2014, Dr. Scott has presented lectures at state and regional conferences including the West Virginia ACDA and MEA conferences, and the Southern Division ACDA conference. She also conducted the West Virginia All-State High School Honor Choir in January 2016.

The last group of the concert will be the All-County Instrumental Jazz Ensemble, chaired by Andrew Minton (Sherman CS), featuring several of the best high school student jazz musicians in Chautauqua County, and directed by Ricardo L. Hayden, Jr, band director at South Butler County, PA School District. Hayden has performed with several groups through the years including The Gibbons Big Band, GRT Jazz Trio, Trinity Jazz Orchestra, The TMG Big Band, One Accord, ReCover Band 10 and The Elite Showband. He has also performed in various pit orchestras for musicals for a multitude of schools and organizations in and around Pennsylvania. Since 2014, Hayden’s groups have earned the Henry Mancini Award for “Outstanding Student Orchestra.”

The organization for this festival begins nearly ten months prior to the program. Each student is selected first by their school’s music teacher. That list is pared down by the CCMTA chair people, who then 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 make the final roster for each group.

Other duties of each chairperson include finding the guest conductor to lead the group, compiling and disseminating music to each of the students selected for the ensemble, and organizing any rehearsals prior to the day of the festival. The chairperson’s final act is to introduce the guest conductor. It then becomes the students’ moment to shine, showcasing their hard work and talent to an enthusiastic audience.

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 with their teacher as soon as they receive it sometime in early December from their Chairperson. They may then be required to attend additional rehearsals throughout the months of January and February.

On the day of the concert, these dedicated music students begin arriving at the school between 8 and 8:30 a.m., for a prompt 9 a.m. rehearsal start. The day continues with rehearsals, lunch, and a few small breaks in between, until 4:30 p.m. when the last students dress for the 5 p.m. concert start time.

In addition to the Winter All-County Festival, CCMTA provides:

Scholarships to area music students to aid the student in continuing music education;

Sponsors a Solo Evaluation Festival, 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; and Hosts a Spring All-County Music Festival each year featuring the Elementary, Junior, and Senior Choruses, and the Junior and Senior All-County Bands, and will be held at the Chautauqua Amphitheater on Saturday, June 6, at 7:30 p.m.

For more information, visit www.ccmta.net or contact your school district’s music department. CCMTA can also be liked on Facebook: www.facebook.com/CCMTAmusic.

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