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11 north country students head to all-state conference

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Sackets Harbor music teacher Deborah A. Davis teaches hundreds of students every year.

This year, however, one of her students is joining 10 other students throughout the north country at the New York State School Music Association All-State Conference, a feat that marks the highest achievement a high school orchestra, band or chorus student can make.

The four-day conference, which serves as a convention for music teachers and a concert for the students, runs through Sunday at the Riverside Convention Center in Rochester.

Most students need to make a perfect score to attend.

“You’re being judged, so it’s nerve-wracking,” Sackets Harbor senior Rachel S. Sousa said. “I was hoping for that score, but I didn’t expect it. I’m not one to expect things.”

Miss Sousa is the first student from Sackets Harbor to attend since the 1980s, according to Mrs. Davis.

Miss Sousa’s perfect score was derived from sight reading and her ability to sing in French proficiently.

Other schools, including Watertown High School and Beaver River, Carthage, Potsdam and Thousand Islands central school districts, frequently have high-achieving music students who attend.

Russell J. Faunce, the association’s representative for the north country, said he feels he has a good group of students this year. Although he is Watertown High School’s director of music, he judges other competitions throughout the state, so there is no bias when it comes to the four students who qualified from his school. This year, he traveled to Westchester County, New York City and Albany to judge in individual competitions.

“It’s a talented group of kids,” he said. “Most of the kids start in fourth or fifth grade.”

Beaver River Central, like several other schools, has more than one student going. Junior Lillia J. Woolschlager will sing in the mixed chorus and perform in the piano showcase.

“I usually play piano every day and practice both for about 14 hours a week,” she said. “I’m planning to go to college for music education.”

As a member of the conference’s mixed chorus, classmate Andrea R. Peters, a junior, said some of the music she’s been practicing is in other languages, including Russian.

“A lot of practice involves listening to a track over and over,” she said.

Carthage Central School junior Jacob A. Zehr said he finds singing in other languages easier than singing in English. His brother was invited to a past all-state conference, so being asked has become somewhat of a family tradition.

“I’ve done different pieces in different languages,” he said. “I find it easier to memorize because you’re singing syllables rather than words.”

Although Sackets Harbor is sending its first student in recent memory, Miss Sousa plans to use the experience and years of singing to her advantage.

“My heart lies with Broadway, and I’d like to move to New York City,” she said.

She said she knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life in theater ever since her first lead in “Bye Bye Birdie.”

“When she wins her first Tony, she’ll thank her teacher, Mrs. Davis,” Mrs. Davis said.

Students attending from Jefferson County are Mr. Zehr; Miss Sousa; Ruth Briggs, Thousand Islands Central, and Maria Bufalini, Taylor Burrows, Michaela Levine and Genny Wise, Watertown High School.

Students from Lewis County are Miss Peters and Miss Wools-chlager.

Students from St. Lawrence County are Aubrey Grudowski and Elizabeth Smith, Potsdam Central.







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