PORT CHESTER, N.Y. - The Port Chester-Rye Union Free School District is proud to announce that 34 students from the Elementary Schools, Middle School, and High School level have been named as All-County Vocalists and will participate in the annual Westchester County School Music Association's (WCSMA) All-County Chorus Festival at SUNY Purchase Saturday, March 10th.
Port Chester Middle School 8th grader Briana Velasquez will be participating in her fourth All-County concert this weekend.
"I was nervous and scared the first time I went," Velasquez said. "But then I realized I was surrounding myself with people that like to sing just as much as I do. It gave me the confidence to really sing."
PCMS music teacher and WCSMA Board member Mark Zizolfo sees the non-for-profit program as an opportunity for the most talented and committed choir members to build on their skills.
"It's good to be around students with the same level of commitment and talent," Zizolfo, an All-County participant himself, said. "The music is a whole level of difficulty harder across the board. It's the closest thing to being in a professional choir."
Although Port Chester's students are selected in late fall, the students don't recieve the sheet music for the festival until mid-January, only two months before the performance. Because this means the students are only afforded three practices, Zizolfo and fellow music teacher Michael Johnson volunteer their time before and after school to ensure the students are prepared for the show.
Johnson, another All-County student, spoke about how the memorable experience has a transformative effect on his students.
"I see a change in my elementary school students. When they come back you can see they are more mature and more comfortable. Being with other vocalists puts them out of their comfort zone and allows them to pick up new vocal strategies and techniques," he said. "It's a unique opportunity for these students to perform at such a venue. It really creates a lasting memory."
For students such as Velasquez, it had always been a dream to take the SUNY Purchase stage.
"When I first saw it I was like 'I want to be on that stage!'," Velasquez said. "It's the best experience you can have as a concert vocalist. I'm very grateful."
While the WCSMA charges a $20 participation fee per student to cover choir directors, the district, unlike others, generously picks up the tab. The WCSMA uses the gate revenue ($22 per ticket) to underwrite the theatre rental costs.
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