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Singing to a new tune

Choral students compete for states

March 29, 2008
By David Hurst,
EBENSBURG — The region’s top high school voices — choral students from 11 counties, including Bedford, Blair and Cambria — will show off their talents today at Central Cambria High School.

What started with choirs from dozens of districts from Somerset County to Clinton, whittled down 400 hopefuls into a choir of 176 high school students this week, Central Cambria music teacher and Choir Director Paul Seymour said.

By the time the choir croons its final note, participants will have learned a dozen new songs, some in foreign languages, and have performed under University of Maryland guest conductor Philip Silvey.

And 32 students will be on their way to Hershey for the all-state choir in April.

‘‘These kids have been through a lot to get this far,’’ said Seymour, who is co-hosting the event with Cambria Heights director Ryan Skiles. ‘‘By the time they get here, this is a real moment for them, something to really be proud of.”

Students from 48 schools gathered in Central Cambria’s auditorium Friday. The district was host to the 75th Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Region III Festival.

For students like Jenna Farkus, 16, of Central High School in Martinsburg, it has meant staying with host families, getting to know like-minded — or like-voiced — peers and hours of practice.

‘‘You get to see different schools, meet new people and conductors and just have fun learning new music,’’ said Jenna, one of 32 whose Wednesday audition will take her to states this year.

For Mariah Seymour, 16, and Josh Duman, 15, both Central Cambria students, this year’s festival was a first.

Josh was amazed on his first day of practice.

‘‘You have your individual part to sing and it doesn’t make sense until you finally put it together with everyone else,’’ he said.

Of course, the piece is in German. In fact, seven songs the choir tackled were in foreign languages, students said.

‘‘It’s neat to sing with such a large choir; and everyone’s so good, so it’s competitive,’’ said Bob Werder, 16, of Conemaugh Township.

Jenna said the choir has put in 12-hour practice days this week.

It’s no picnic, directors said.

But by the time students are finished, they hope they’ll take more home than memories.

‘‘The PMEA considers this to be our gifted music program. We hope these kids pick up what they’ve learned and take it to their home schools,’’ Paul Seymour said.

Article Photos

(Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski)
Central Cambria High School in Ebensburg hosted practice Friday for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Region III Chorus Festival.

Fact Box

The PMEA Region III Chorus Festival concert will be held at 11 a.m. today at Central Cambria High School, Ebensburg. Students from 48 schools in the 11-county area from Somerset to Clinton, including Bedford, Blair and Cambria counties, will perform.

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