FREDONIA - On Saturday, Feb. 1, Fredonia Central School will be filled with music students from around Chautauqua County. However, they won't be gathered in the auditorium for a grand concert, or rehearsing for an upcoming festival. They will be scattered throughout the building; some waiting anxiously in the halls, others inside classrooms that have been converted to audition centers. Each student will be holding a sheet of music they have prepared for this experience.
Beginning early in the morning, carloads and busloads of students will show up to Fredonia Central School, enter the building, register themselves, and head to the warm-up facility (traditionally the gymnasium). There they will drop off their coats and cases, make sure their lips and voices are warmed up, their bows are rosined, their fingers are nimble, and their instruments are tuned and ready and find their assigned room for their scheduled appearance.
Once inside, they will meet with a certified adjudicator -a music teacher who has also been trained by the New York State School Music Association to judge these solos. The 10-minute experience consists of the student performing prescribed scales, their prepared solo, and a short sight-reading example. Sight-reading music is a skill that proves the student can translate notes and rhythms on the written page into a music melody with which the student is unfamiliar.
Pine Valley student Emily Pfleuger listens to her teacher, Mrs. Karyl Bergey-Glenn.
The music teachers of Chautauqua County have spent the past months readying their students for this event. It is the duty of the educator to help the student pick the correct solo (one which is appropriately challenging for the student's present ability) and guide them through the process of learning a demanding piece of music literature. The teacher must also ensure the students know their scales and how to break down a bit of sight-reading presented to the student during the evaluation. It must be noted that alongside these nervously - waiting students will be their music teachers, who are just as excited to hear that their students have done their best.
There are over 700 titles in the NYSSMA manual from which to choose; music for all instruments and ensembles ranging from an easy level I to the most challenging level VI - considered to be of collegiate- or professional-level difficulty.
Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association President Andrew Minton, a Sherman Central School band director, rates this event highly among the events CCMTA sponsors. "The benefits of preparing, practicing, working toward this goal and completing the process," Minton said, "provides students with experience that will carry on into all aspects of their lives, including public speaking, the interview process, presentation, self-esteem and value in working to produce results for personal happiness and growth."
The adjudicators, for their part, listen to the students and offer comments that help the students grow as musicians. They are musicians in their own right; specialists in their instruments who have developed their craft and give insight into tips and tricks they have learned over the years. The adjudicators give a written assessment of the performance and score the student accordingly. This is a positive experience for the students, and a necessary one for the student to be considered for the Spring All County Concert at Chautauqua Institution on the first Saturday in June.
Although performing a solo on this day is a requirement to be considered for the All County Junior or Senior High Bands, many students choose to go through this for the experience and personal growth. There will also be several elementary music students performing alone for the first time. Their adjudicators, who are well aware of this, will take this into consideration to ensure that the student walks away with a constructive, positive experience from Solo Fest.
"We are honored to host more than 400 Chautauqua County Student Musicians and their teachers here at Fredonia," says Andrew Bennett, one of the Fredonia Central School music teachers who help organize the event. "This festival would not be possible without the support of our High School Principal Todd Crandall, maintenance staff, and faculty. All are more than willing to help make this day possible."