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Ledyard High School students make All-State music festival

Students across Connecticut had the opportunity to audition for the Connecticut Music Educators Association’s Eastern Region Music Festival last November.

If accepted into the festival, they were then invited to audition for the All-State Music Festival. Auditions occurred in February. If accepted, then they were able to participate in the All-State Music Festival itself, which occurred in April.

The All-State Music Festival ran from April 23-25, and was entirely virtual.

Each ensemble had two different Zoom sessions with their clinicians over three days.

The Ledyard High School students who placed in All-State Orchestra this year were Sarina Barnes and Lucas Crowe. Placing for All-State Choir were Ava Johnson and Sebastian Martelle.

It should be noted that Sarina Barnes was accepted to both the All-State Orchestra and Choir, but students must choose only one ensemble to perform with.

Sophomore student Sarina Barnes participates in symphonic band, marching band, wind orchestra, select singers and acabellas. She is also in the Thames Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

“I feel very accomplished as the audition recording process was quite taxing. I was accepted into both the All-State Orchestra and All-State Choir making the time of practice and dedication worthwhile,” said Sarina.

As a sophomore, Lucas Crowe was the highest scoring trombone player in the state, which placed him as first chair in the orchestra.

Lucas states, “Obviously this is a really great accomplishment as there are very few trombone spots. I’m super excited to continue learning and improving as a musician.”

Lucas is in multiple ensembles at LHS such as jazz band, symphonic band, marching band, chamber choir and carolers. He also performs with the Thames Valley Youth Symphony Orchestra.

Junior student Ava Johnson says, “I feel shocked that I have come so far as a musician to have reached All States and I am so proud of myself for all the hard work I have done to get there. My score was a 191 out of 198.”

Sophomore student Sebastian Martelle states, “It feels incredible to be recognized as one of the best singers in the state. It’s an accomplishment I could’ve only dreamed of until it actually happened. I was truly honored to be accepted into the choir and it is one of the greater accomplishments of my school career.”

It was a very challenging year due to COVID, making these students’ accomplishments even more meaningful.

Choral Director Melanie Cometa commented, “In the beginning it was disappointing to learn that we were not going to be doing any in-person singing, or playing, but they [students] have been really perseverant in creating this digital content and they have adapted well to making music in a new way.”

Band Director Zach Thomas added, “There was initially a lot of concern with sharing germs in any way, and so we had to adapt in our music classes in how we approach that.”

The safety guidelines for in person band instruments includes the use of a specialty playing mask that has a slit in it for the mouthpiece to go through, and down covers which cover the end of the instruments which is basically a mask for the instrument.

Other ways to stay safe included the usual social distancing among students and playing the instruments outdoors.

Cometa stated, “Our singers do rehearse indoors, but we open all the windows to encourage good airflow. We have special singers masks for our upper level ensembles and those students rehearse for 30 minutes and then we give the room an hour to change the air.”

She continued, “Our non-auditioned groups do not have special masks, so we limit their singing time to 15 minutes. They are still in their regular masks and everyone is socially distanced. All face the same direction and we try to get the airflow as good as we can.”

Thomas added, “Melanie and I made a decision early on to pretty much go with no in- person playing and singing for most of the months of the pandemic until recently, both for an abundance of safety, caution reasons and also we thought it was going to provide the best experience for students as opposed to the on-again off-again roller coaster ride that we all have experienced during this time.”

LHS Music Program conducted a significant amount of virtual projects (60 – 70 videos), which are on the Ledyard Music YouTube page. For those projects, students did all of their recordings at home.

According to Thomas, “The silver lining is that there has been a lot of audio engineering and recording experience happening this year that is definitely not a skill that we (usually) cover. “

Students are certainly excited to have even a little bit of live singing and playing back in their lives.

Parent Sabrina Crowe exclaims, “Ledyard Music, under the strong leadership of Mrs. Cometa and Mr. Thomas, rocks! They have continued to find ways for their students to strengthen their craft and display their love of music.”

She continues, “Ledyard Music has responded to this global pandemic with creativity and flexibility by offering different opportunities for student growth, bringing in professional musicians and composers to speak and work with their students, and providing platforms to their students for making music together while apart.”

The Ledyard High School music program has gained a reputation as being a very strong program. That strength starts with the elementary band teachers and continues with the tireless dedication of Ledyard Middle School band director Mr. Sturm.

Parent Cari Barnes states, “The students come to LHS well-prepared for high school level playing and performing. The Ledyard Music Boosters (of which I am a part) also does a great job supporting programs through fundraising and other avenues.

Barnes continues, “The teachers have worked tirelessly to compile these recordings into spectacular performance videos. While it’s not the same as a live concert, we appreciate the hard work and dedication of all of the students and teachers during these trying times.”

In reference to the students who made the All-State Music Festival and all of the music and band students, Cometa said, “We love our students, we loved them before the pandemic and we love them even more now.”

She continued, “They are just as committed as we are to making good music and bring ng joy to our community. We are just really proud of them. We know that this is not the year that they have imagined for themselves, but they have taken it in stride and they have done a really excellent job in keeping music alive in our schools and in our town.”

Sarina Barnes concludes, “LHS has a very strong and close-knit music community that I am very proud to be a part of. I feel very grateful to have two terrific music directors as my teachers.”

Ava Johnson agrees, “I love the music program at LHS. We have an amazing band and choir director that have made my high school music experience phenomenal!”

Maretell adds, “The community that is Ledyard Music is one of the most encouraging and supportive communities I’ve been a part of. It has helped me improve as a musician and as a person in general. I couldn’t ask for a better music program than the one at LHS.”

Aidan Schuler lives in Ledyard and is part of the Times’ Young Journalists Initiative.

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