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PPS Music Students Accepted to Allstate

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PPS Music Students Accepted to Allstate
Posted on 01/27/2021
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Five Portland Public Schools students have been accepted to the 2021 All State Music Festival. The jazz festival is at the end of January and the beginning of February, with finished recordings to be released in May. The band/orchestra/choral festival will be held in May.

Selected were:

Allstate Honors Chorus – Deering High School junior Emily Cheung
Allstate Orchestra – Portland High School sophomore Cassandra Lerch (violin)
Allstate Jazz Ensembles – Portland High School juniors Graham Ganter (violin) and Christopher (Topher) Kavookjian (guitar) and sophomore Benjamin DiYenno (guitar)

“Being accepted to the Allstate Honors Ensembles is the highest level of achievement in performing groups in our state,” said Julianne Eberl, the district’s music director and conductor of the high school and middle school orchestras.

Students are recommended by their teachers for Allstate, based not only on outstanding musical ability but also for being significant contributions to their public school ensembles – as performers, section leaders, and mentors to other music students, Eberl said. Several district students worked very hard and submitted excellent auditions, but the selection process is rigorous and not all had scores that qualified them to participate this year.

“It has been a particularly challenging process this year with our students, beginning with remote auditions, new technology for them to access, learn how to use, and then apply, and finding new ways to develop their artistic expertise necessitated by the pandemic,” she said.

Jayne Sawtelle, Portland High School music teacher, said, “The COVID-era process of auditioning was super different.” She said that jazz and concert band students typically work on their audition material with their private teachers and her. “Then we all travel together to Augusta or Biddeford for a big audition day. The jazz festival involves staying in a hotel for two nights and rehearsing for two full days to put on an amazing concert. The band/orchestra/choral festival is typically held over three days at UMaine in Orono. During this pandemic, instead, the students worked on all the material alone or over video with their private teachers, and then submitted a recording with multiple requirements. The recording was reviewed by judges and then students were graded.”

Eberl said, “The repertory is rigorous in all categories – Band, Chorus, Jazz Ensembles and Orchestra.  Many students begin planning and preparing for Allstate six months in advance. The adjudication process is also rigorous with judges, who are accomplished performing artists and educators.

In addition to Graham Ganter’s being accepted to the Allstate Jazz Combo, which is very rare for a musician on an instrument not typically associated with jazz, the PHS student is a musical standout in other ways. “I'm proud that Graham Ganter is also the concertmaster of the PPS High School Orchestra, as well as an amazing jazz violinist, and has represented Portland Public Schools at Allstate Orchestra in the two prior years,” Eberl said.

Emily Cheung is Deering High School’s representative on the Portland Board of Education this year. DHS music teacher Christian Giddings said: “As we know, the audition this year was virtual, so Emily had to record, produce, and make her audition and submit it entirely on her own. I helped throughout the process but the burden of the work was on her. She showed exceptional discipline and hard work, and if you know Emily, she is incredibly humble. She is very deserving!”