Young vocalists represented CAHS at state chorus festival
Two Connellsville Area High School sophomores have earned a prestigious honor. Alysia Cramer and Sophia Jones were selected, by audition, and represented Connellsville at this year's Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 1 Chorus Festival. The festival was held recently at Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Pa.
These accomplished vocalists have been singing since they were young children.
Cramer is a daughter of Donald and Leisa Cramer and studies voice with Michelle Harbaugh. She was narrator as a third-grader in “Cinderella Jr.” at the Center for Performing Arts in Carmichaels, where she performed for four years. She has had several leads in the eight musicals in which she performed, the latest as Mrs. Potts in last year's “Beauty and The Beast Jr.” at Connellsville Junior High East. This year at CAHS, Cramer sang in Jacobs Choir in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.” She has taken seven years of private percussion lessons from Ben Haines.
Cramer is in Belle Choir, Concert Band, Marching Band and the Indoor Drumline. She says her talent is a gift from God and she enjoys using it to glorify Him. A student of the gifted program, she maintains a 4.0 GPA and is involved in CAHS Patriots, Student Council, Prom Committee, Reading Competition and Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science. She is a member of Girl Scouts and 4-H Leadership Club.
Jones is a daughter of Michelle Zamperini and Steven Jones. She's involved in Student Council and is a member of Belle Choir. She studies dance at Premier Dance Center and has performed in productions at the Geyer Performing Arts Center in Scottdale. She was a narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” this year. She is a private voice student of Gayle Cuneo.
When a freshman at Junior High West, she earned a place in the District 1 Chorus Festival but was unable to attend due to a conflict with a church activity to which she had committed.
“Sophia was a pleasure to have as a student,” said Marilee C. McFadden, choral director at the former Junior High West. “She performed a solo or in a duet in every Junior High West spring and winter concert and choreographed a Grease Medley the students performed when she was a seventh-grader. She was always willing to help in any way.”
The final concert at the District Festival was presented to a packed auditorium. Choral selections performed included pieces by great masters like Randall Thompson and Harry Burleigh, as well as new choral works composed by Nancy Galbraith (from Southwestern Pennsylvania) and Stephen Hatfield. Festival conductor was Andrew Clark, director of choral activities at Harvard University.
Clark is a graduate of Carnegie Mellon University where he studied conducting with Grammy Award-winning Robert Paige.
The PMEA is a service organization to music education in Pennsylvania. District 1 includes more than 550 school and private music teachers from Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties. PMEA sponsors educational and enriching music festivals for high school and junior high orchestra, band and chorus students. From District 1 festivals, students may advance to Region, All State, Eastern Division and National groups.
Auditions for Region Chorus were held during the District 1 Festival.
Cramer advanced to represent Connellsville at the Regional Festival in March at Moon Area High School. Region 1 is comprised of all the counties in District 1 plus District 5 counties which include Butler, Mercer, Beaver and Lawrence.
The Region Chorus concert was held at Moon on March 23. Guest conductor was Dr. Anthony Leach, conductor of the University Choir at Penn State University.
“The girls are both sophomores, so it is somewhat surprising and very exciting that they got in,” CAHS choral director Henry L. Molinaro said. “They did very well in auditioning.
“Alysia is a very quiet girl with good listening skills,” he continued. “She takes everything in, she's well-disciplined and practices a lot. These are the keys for her. She has a lot of ability. Sophia had a lead in the musical and is very talented. As their director, I'm looking forward to what they will accomplish. Every year is different. It's always up to them to find the time to audition for these choruses in the upcoming years. Both of these girls have a lot going for them. I am excited to see them grow musically in the next couple years.”
“Alysia is very talented and determined to do her best,” Harbaugh said. “She has spent a significant amount of time practicing and studying to accomplish her musical goals. She loves singing and has worked hard for the honor of being selected to represent CAHS at this year's PMEA District and Region Chorus festivals.”
“This experience was truly amazing,” Cramer said. “It was an honor to be selected to attend the PMEA festivals and to have the opportunity to work with Andrew Clark and Dr. Anthony Leach. The festivals helped me to grow as a musician and to create new friendships with others who also have a passion for music.”
“Sophia is a rare talent and a pleasure to have privately,” Cuneo said. “She has an expressive, soulful voice. Her love of soul and the blues is unusual in one so young, but she enjoys exploring all genres. Sophia is going places.”
“At District Chorus, I learned that no music is too challenging, just unfamiliar, in a fun and professional surrounding,” Jones said.
Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.