Every year, the Ulster County Music Educators Association holds auditions for students vying to join prestigious All County band ensembles. The New Paltz Central School District was represented in the 2016-17 school year by 32 students: eight budding musicians from Lenape Elementary, ten students from New Paltz Middle School and 12 New Paltz High School students. In addition, two eighth graders from New Paltz Middle School made the jazz band.
“These are all students who are really hardworking musicians,” says Sonja Nosovsky, band director at New Paltz Middle School. “They are dedicated students who take the time to practice more and work even harder outside of their school music program. A lot of them take private lessons outside of school, too.” And whether or not they go on to study music in college or become professional musicians, she adds, “these are definitely students who will have a lifelong passion for music.”
New Paltz students in grade six accepted into the All County elementary band ensemble are Andrew Barrese (percussion), Sophia Camiola (flute), Lindsey Clinton (clarinet), Henry Millman (trumpet), Aidan Rice (trombone), Harry Weinstein (alto saxophone) and John Goodermote (euphonium).
The latter’s brother, Loyal Goodermote, was also selected for the ensemble on euphonium, despite being a fourth grader; a rare achievement, according to his music teacher. “He made All County his first year playing,” Nosovsky says. “That’s amazing. For someone at that young age to feel comfortable playing for a total stranger [the audition judge] is a huge accomplishment that not everybody can do.”
New Paltz Middle School students chosen for the junior band ensemble are eighth graders Lydia Brutvan (flute), Josh Clinton (alto saxophone), Jessica Dugatkin (tenor saxophone), Noah Fishman (trumpet), Olivia Herman (clarinet), Sean Nielson (trumpet) and Carl Schroer (percussion); seventh grader, Evie Kortan (flute); and ninth graders Meredith Holod (percussion) and Emily Wong-Pan (French horn).
New Paltz High School students admitted to the senior band ensemble are tenth graders Anika Friedman (flute), Claudia Kaplan (clarinet), Logan Linares (trombone), Elizabeth Merano (oboe), Luke Taylor (bassoon) and Claire Taylor (French horn); eleventh graders Catie Scaduto (flute), Oliver Goland (trumpet), Sarah Holland (clarinet) and Grace Holod (French horn); and seniors Dongwook Kim (trombone) and Elijah McKee (alto saxophone).
The All County jazz band, formerly for students in grades 9-12 only, was opened up to eighth graders this year. Two New Paltz Middle School students were accepted: eighth graders Josh Clinton (piano) and Riley Brutvan (guitar). “We focus a lot in the band world on classical music,” says Nosovsky, “and jazz is a totally different style. I’m really proud of these two for taking the opportunity to audition and getting accepted into that group.”
The students who become part of All County ensembles are “the best of the best,” she says. “It is competitive. From the perspective of New Paltz Middle School, for example, I have a sixth grade band of 85 students, and I think 12 auditioned for All County and eight were chosen.”
The process begins with the students receiving a solo to learn from lists compiled by the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA). The difficulty levels of solos are on a scale from one through six, with elementary school students given a level two solo and junior ensemble candidates a level four. Students are given the material after Columbus Day weekend, and from that point on prepare for January auditions. The solos cover musical benchmarks specific to the instrument that the students are assessed on, with criteria that include musicality, note accuracy, tone, musicianship skills and technique. Senior high students audition through a NYSSMA solo festival.
Students in grades 4-6 also have to play three scales prepared from memory, with grades 7-9 memorizing seven scales. There is also a sight-reading evaluation, in which students perform a piece of music they’ve never seen before for one of approximately 12 judges, all either active or retired music educators or professional musicians. (Nosovsky, a judge for the elementary ensemble clarinet auditions this year, is both, as director for the NPMS band and musician playing clarinet and bass clarinet for the SUNY Ulster wind ensemble and jazz band.)
Students who pass the audition rehearse after school once a week and practice their individual parts at home while keeping up with material they’re working on for their school bands. The experience culminates in March with a festival for each ensemble and the Young Elementary Music Symposium (YEMS) focusing on improvisation techniques. (There is also an All County choral ensemble spotlighting regional vocal talent.)
The All County festivals for 2017 came to a close on Saturday, March 18 at Miller Middle School in Kingston with the orchestra ensemble’s festival and the YEMS event. SUNY Ulster hosted the choral and band festivals held earlier in the month.
The festival is the first time the students perform as a group with their counterparts from other districts. The opportunity to play with musicians more advanced than those in their home band is one of the reasons students try out for the All County experience, says Nosovsky. “It allows them to work with other students of their caliber, who are working just as hard and who love music just as much as they do.”
Having grown up in Ulster County and played clarinet in All County ensembles from fifth grade through her senior year (with one exception), Nosovsky is in the position of knowing firsthand what her students experience. “A lot of hard work goes into it,” she says. “But I think it says a lot about who they are as individuals. And to watch them grow as musicians, to have this opportunity as a teacher, is amazing. That special teacher moment where you get to see your kids succeed is so wonderful. At the end of the day, it just really makes me proud as a teacher to give back this experience to the students that meant a lot to me. It makes me happy and proud for all their hard work.”