BRATTLEBORO, Vt. – With great honor and prestige, the Vermont All-State Music Festival has been offering incredible opportunities to talented musicians for over 90 years, the longest All-State in the nation. Between the marching band, jazz band, concert band, orchestra, and choir, the host school and surrounding town welcome more than 400 students and their educators for an annual four-day festival of music. This year, the festival was hosted by Brattleboro Union High School from May 10-13.
Black River senior Aiyana Fortin auditioned and was selected to perform in the All-State chorus, for the fourth year in a row. As an Alto II, she was honored to perform in this select ensemble with 240 other talented musicians, even though this was be her last All-State performance.
The festival was planned a year in advance by Steffen Parker, who has been the festival director for more years than he’d like to admit, his assistant festival director Denis Lambert, and BUHS hosts Steve Rice and Patty Meyers, who coordinated housing for over 400 students with volunteer host families in the Brattleboro area. In addition to these two individuals, countless ensemble managers, teachers, instructors, and other volunteers made this festival possible, with several concerts over the four days, all showcasing amazing talent, preparation, dedication, and musicianship.
The first performance of the weekend was the All-State Parade, featuring thirteen regional schools. The scholarship concert on Thursday night celebrated the achievements of several individuals, in the percussion, piano, string, voice, woodwind, brass, and composition categories.
The jazz band filled the auditorium with incredible music on Friday night, beginning with a scholarship performance by Remi Savard on the piano. Accompanied by Eleanor Braun on bass and Wilson Knight on the drums, he performed “Stolen Moments” and “Autumn Leaves.” The Jazz Ensemble then performed “Oblivion” by Astor Plazzolla, “Vine Street Rumble” by Bennie Carter, “Three Blind Mice,” “Snibor,” and “Festival Time in the Ville.” They concluded the concert with “You Go To My Head,” by J. Fred Coots and Haven Gillespie.
Dr. Chris Oberholtzer, Jazz Ensemble Director, studied at the University of Southern Maine, Gorham, Indiana University, Bloomington, and completed his Doctor of Arts degree at the University of Southern Colorado, Greeley. Dr. Oberholtzer is currently the Director of Jazz Studies at the University of Southern Maine and loves to serve as a guest artist for ensembles throughout the country.
On Saturday, the All-State Choir, directed by Dr. Peggy Dettwiler, performed a unique selection. Over 240 voices united in the performances of “Awake the Trumpet’s Lofty Sound” by George Frideric Handel, “Good Timber Grows,” based on a poem and arranged by Roger Emerson, and “Three Madrigals,” a selection based on Shakespearean text in three movements, “O Mistress Mine, Where Are You Roaming?” “Take, O Take Those Lips Away,” and “Sigh No More Ladies, Sigh No More.” Savannah Yates from U-32 High School, soloist, began the next piece, “Soon Ah Will Be Done Wi’ de Troubles of Dis Worl’,” an African spiritual arranged by Diana Loomer. The choir concluded their performance with “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” by Paul Simon, arranged by Kirby Shaw.
Dr. Peggy Dettwiler studied at the University of Wisconsin, the University of Texas at San Antonio, and earned her Doctor of Music Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Dr. Dettwiler currently serves as Professor of Music and Director of Choral Activities at Mansfield University, where she conducts the Concert Choir, Festival Chorus, and Chamber Singers. The Mansfield University Concert Choir has been invited for twenty consecutive years to perform at state, regional, national, and international choral conventions, and Dettwiler has won nine gold medals and several prizes in international competitions. The choir was accompanied by Claire Black, a pianist, educator, singer, and dedicated performer.
The Concert Band performed four numbers, “Chorale and Alleluia” by Howard Hanson, “Der Traum des Oengus (The Dream of the Oenghum), Part 1” by Rolf Rudin, and “American Guernica,” by Adolphus Hailstork. They concluded their performance with “Landscapes” by Rossano Galante.
The Concert Band was directed by Dr. Cynthia Johnston Turner, the Director of Bands, Professor of Music, Area Chair of Conducting, and Artistic Director of Rote Hund Muzik at the Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia.
The Orchestra performed “Symphony No. 9 In E-flat (Opus 70)” by Dmitri Shostakovich, in five movements, Allegro, Moderato, Presto, Largo, and Allegretto. The Orchestra was conducted by Victoria Gau, whose “strong sense of style and drama” and her “enthusiastic and perceptive conducting” (The Washington Post) express her experience and expertise in her work. Gau is the Associate Conductor and Director of Education for the National Philharmonic, Artistic Director and Conductor of the Capital City Symphony, and Co-founder and Artistic Director of a new professional string orchestra, the Takoma Ensemble.
All-State came to a close on Saturday afternoon as musicians returned home to family and friends, with melodies and harmonies echoing through their minds and lyrics on the tips of their tongues. Each musician brought their experience back to their high school ensembles and will carry it with them throughout the rest of their lives.