Local students get honor to study music | AspenTimes.com

Local students get honor to study music

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
The newly formed All-Valley Honors Choir, in performance earlier this month at Harris Hall. Tonight another new ensemble, the All-Valley Honors Band, appears for a free concert in Harris Hall.
Aspen Music Festival and School |

Katie Sansone has devoted herself to music. She spent two years teaching middle and high school choir in New Castle; earlier, while living on the East Coast, she ran an outreach music-education program for five years. For the past two years, she has served as associate dean at the Aspen Music Festival and School.

Part of what keeps Sansone going is that a good number of students she comes in contact with show a similar kind of commitment. Her jobs have often involved guiding young musicians into regional ensembles for the sort of intensive practice they couldn’t get in a music class that was part of a regular curriculum.

“When I was a teacher, I’d bring my kids to these programs, and they were some of the most educational and enjoyable events they could do,” she said.

Today, Sansone will witness just how motivated young musicians can be in pursuing an enhanced educational opportunity. Nearly 70 students, coming from as far as Glenwood Springs, will assemble at the Aspen Music Festival’s Harris Hall to participate in the inaugural All-Valley Honor Band. The newly assembled group will meet at 7 in the morning and rehearse, with only a handful of breaks, till 7 at night. Their day concludes with more music — a 7:30 p.m. performance at Harris Hall, free and open to the public, featuring the music they have been working on: Vaughan Williams’ “Sea Songs,” Sousa’s “Liberty Bell,” “Simple Gifts: Four Shaker Songs,” “The Star-Spangled Banner,” and a medley of pieces from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.

The concert will be conducted by Jason William Etheridge, an alum of the Music Festival’s American Academy of Conducting at Aspen. (Etheridge replaces Roderick Cox, who was prevented from getting to Aspen by weather. Cox is an Aspen Music Festival alumnus and assistant conductor of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra who will return to Aspen this summer to study in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen.)

Earlier this month, a companion program, the All-Valley Honor Choir, made its debut at Harris Hall.

The All-Valley groups are part of the Aspen Music Festival’s M.O.R.E. — Musical Odysseys Reaching Everyone — outreach program, which brings high-level musicians to the Roaring Fork Valley to give demonstrations in classrooms to perform. Sansone thought a program that was focused on the more ambitious students would be beneficial. The musicians in the All-Valley bands are nominated by the music teachers at their schools.

The music in tonight’s concert is part of the curriculum at the participating schools — Aspen, Basalt and Glenwood Springs high schools — and the students also work on the music on their own. But playing under a conductor, in a venue like Harris Hall and with similarly motivated musicians is an opportunity to concentrate on taking their music to a new level.

“It gives them an opportunity to work on true musicianship,” Sansone said. “In class, they’re also working on history, standards, theory. This is a day where they get to focus on music, just grow as musicians. Because they are the best students around, the learning goes pretty quickly. And they work hard all day.”

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