Mount Abe busts a groove in NYC

NEW YORK — A team of 97 Mount Abraham Union High School students rocked a nationwide music competition in New York City early this month, achieving top awards. Mount Abraham was the only school representing Vermont in the New York Heritage Music Festival, which drew 13 schools from states as far away as Virginia, Texas and California.
On April 1 and 2, students competed in a series of choral and instrumental performances at New York City’s famous Riverside Church, renowned for its intricate Neo-Gothic architecture. Evaluated by a panel of seasoned judges with composer and music professorial backgrounds, Mount Abe musicians won serious praise and hardware.
Led by Instrumental Director Matthew Tatro and Vocal Director Megan LaRose, Mount Abe brought home “silver recognition” for its jazz band and a “gold recognition” for its chorus and its concert band. These awards were based on a point system. Mount Abe’s chorus won the most overall points for the choral competition.
Among all of Mount Abe’s talented musicians, the judges felt that one shined a bit brighter than the rest. Senior Haley Shahan, who is a saxophonist and vocalist in the jazz band, was awarded a prestigious “Maestro Award.”
“Roughly 2,100 students were involved in this event, and only eight were chosen for this top award for an outstanding performance,” said Tatro.
Finally, Mount Abe students capped off their winnings with the reception of the “Spirit of New York Award,” presented by the organizers of the festival to the school whose students best exhibited a high level of citizenship.
“Of the 13 schools that participated they found Mount Abe to be the most respectful of each other and others,” Tatro said.
Every other year Mount Abe music students head to a faraway destination to compete in a nationwide competition. This New York event marks the seventh competition Mount Abe has attended, and past festivals have been held in places such as Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and Virginia Beach, Va., among others.
In addition to seeing other music groups from around the country, Tatro points out that these competitions have many advantages.
“Preparing for a performance of this level allows us as educators to focus on finer points of music and really explore it in greater depth than we would for a regular concert,” said Tatro. “Another benefit is that the students receive feedback from professionals … they get input from people other than just me.”
LaRose said the teens’ hard work in preparing for the competition paid off.
“Our students really exceeded all of our expectations in terms of their performance, their presentation of themselves, how they traveled, and as good citizens,” she said.
“The students did an excellent job,” said Tatro. “They should be very proud of what they accomplished as I am proud of them.”
Reporter Andrew Stein can be reached at [email protected]

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