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All-County Festival Returns to Chautauqua

A past grand finale at the Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association’s annual Spring All-County Concert is pictured.

CHAUTAUQUA — Every spring since 1949 (with a few notable exceptions), 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 at 7:30 p.m. the festival will return to the renovated Chautauqua Amphitheater. The concert will feature the county’s best student musicians from the twenty school districts located in Chautauqua County, in one of several music ensembles. Featured in this festival are the Elementary All-County Orchestra, 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 this year’s concert will be the All-County Elementary Orchestra (co-chaired by Katie Derrenbacher, Jamestown Public Schools,and Alexandra Goff, Fredonia Central School) and conducted by Hamburg, NY native James H. Kontrabecki.

Following the orchestra will be the Elementary Chorus (Kasey Way, Bemus Point Elementary School, and Kevin Way, Fredonia Central School, serving as co-chairs) conducted by Erin Ayer. Accompanying the Elementary Chorus will be Trevor Napoli (Fredonia).

Anne Dolce

Performing after the Elementary Chorus will be the Junior Chorus (Marie Karbacka, Washington Middle School, chair). The ensemble is comprised of close to 200 seventh and eighth graders. The guest conductor will be Will Steadman. Andrew Rainbow of Erie will be accompanying the Junior High Chorus.

The Junior Band (Gina Wakefield, Washington Middle School, chairperson) will follow the chorus. The band will be conducted by Todd Macon.

After the Junior Band performance, the Senior Chorus (Phillip McMullen, Silver Creek Central School, chairperson) will entertain the audience. Conductor Pamela Dawson will lead this group of high school singers. Accompanying the Senior Chorus will be Kent Knappenberger (Westfield).

Rounding out the evening of music will be the Senior Band (Meghan Murray, Jamestown High School, chairperson) under the baton of Cynthia Johnston Turner.

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 Anne Dolce (retired from Panama Central School who has taught the past two years in Jamestown). Dolce graduated from Jamestown High School and pursued her bachelor’s in music education degree from Dolce from West Virginia University. Upon graduation from WVU she taught high school band in Prince George’s County, Maryland and taught seventh and eighth grade band at Walt Whitman Intermediate and was also the Assistant Silkline Director for the Mount Vernon High School Marching Band in Fairfax County, Virginia. Dolce moved back home to Chautauqua County in 1992 where she spent the next 30 years as the Director of Bands at Panama Central School until her retirement in 2022.

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.

Presale tickets are available online at ccmta.ticketleap.com and will also be available at the door one half hour prior to the concert. Adult tickets are $5 cash; children under 5 are admitted free Parking in the institution’s main lot will be free.

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