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Norwood displays school music programs today

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NORWOOD - Six different school districts will be represented today at the St. Lawrence County Music Educators Association Pop Choral/Stage Band Festival in Norwood.

The event will run from 4 to 9 p.m. on the village green and will kick off the 41st annual Norwood Village Green Concert Series.

The series always begins the Thursday following Memorial Day.

“We started this St. Lawrence County Music Educators Festival with just a couple of groups, and it wasn’t called a festival. Over the years it has grown and we’ve had every school district represented in the festival,” Concert Series President Joe Liotta said. “We hope each year to get eight to 12 groups that we can actually fit into the schedule. Some groups respond right away, and there is always a change at the last minute.”

School groups from Potsdam, Norwood-Norfolk, Massena, Hermon-DeKalb, Canton, and Parishville-Hopkinton will perform. Eleven groups will showcase their talents in the event.

The Norwood-Norfolk Jazz Ensemble, led by band teacher Sarah Towler, will get things started at 4 p.m. and will be followed by the J.W. Leary Junior Stage Band under the direction of Dave Alderson.

“Last week we had a few little adjustments, but we have had representatives from every district in the county over the years,” Mr. Liotta said. “How we are able to do this - for one thing we have the equipment and the series owns a complete sound system. We also own a portable piano and all of the microphones and all of that stuff.”

Mr. Liotta said that he has hired four local high school students who have been helping with set up and preparation for the concert.

“(Wednesday night) we’re going down to finalize the set up, and we’re meeting at 2:30 p.m. (Thursday) again to make final preparations. The other reason we can do this is because our sound person, Andy Van Duyne, helps us and he has done this for a long period of time,” he said. “I’ve got help from my board members, who are all knowledgeable about this. Running a festival like this can be very tricky but with all of the great help we are able to do it. We’ve got a lot of expertise within our own board.”

Parishville-Hopkinton will take the stage beginning at 5 p.m., with the Stage Band performing first and the school’s Select Choir following suit. The two groups will be conducted by Music Director Don Cannamela and Vocal Teacher Andrea Ellison respectively.

Mr. Liotta, who was a music teacher for over 30 years, said that while the Concert Series began in 1974 schools have been performing at the event since 1980.

“Each group brings their own unique kind of thing. For example, the Hermon-DeKalb group is not a full band per se, but for their jazz rock ensemble, the students themselves pick the music. No other group is going to imitate that group,” he said. “(The performances) have a lot of variety.”

A joint performance by the Hermon-DeKalb Rock Ensemble and Jazz Band will hit the stage at 6 p.m. and will be coordinated by Matt Gayle and Jonathan Pabis.

The AAK’s Showchoir from Potsdam will be led by Laura DiMatteo at 6:30 p.m. and will precede the school’s Stage Band under the direction of Kylie Stenger at 7 p.m. High school Jazz Band Director Jill Rubio will close the Potsdam portion of the show with her group’s performance at 7:3 p.m.

“With school groups, you’re always dealing with spring sports etc. and it is sometimes hard to get everyone here,” Mr. Liotta said. “Being able to do this needs organization and you have to keep the thing moving. We’ve been very fortunate over the past years.”

The final hour of the music festival will feature the Jon Hunkins-led Massena Central High School Stage Band at 8 and the Canton High School Stage Band at 8:30 p.m., directed by Tim Savage.

Today’s event is free of admission, and Mr. Liotta is expecting a total attendance near 700.

The festival is supported by the St. Lawrence County Music Educators Association, the Potsdam Rotary Club and many individual contributions.

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