Connecticut Valley Music Festival lands at Leland & Gray

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TOWNSHEND — After talking with other teachers, James Pecsok learned it's been at least 20 years since Leland & Gray Union Middle and High School has hosted a Connecticut Valley Music Festival Association festival.

"So we're very excited to host this year," said Pecsok, choir director and music teacher at Leland & Gray.

The association's District 6 winter festival on Saturday, Feb. 2, will feature guest conductors working with students from Brattleboro, Bellows Falls, Hartford, Springfield, Wilmington, Whitingham, Windsor and Woodstock. The concert begins at 3 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $6 for adults and $4 for students and senior citizens.

Michael Zsoldos of Woodstock is the special guest conductor for the high school jazz band. He is a woodwind specialist, educator, composer and conductor. He is a member of the Miro Sprague Quintet, the Jason Ennis Quartet and Eugene Uman's Convergence Project. He teaches at Dartmouth College and the Vermont Jazz Center in Brattleboro.

Bridgett Gattie, music director at Hopkinton, N.H, Middle High School, is the special guest conductor for the middle school concert band. She teaches band, jazz band, chorus and general music classes for 7-12 graders.

Mallorie Chernin, who served as director of choral music and senior lecturer at Amherst (Mass.) College from 1986 to 2018, is the special guest conductor for the high school chorus. She will be joined by Rob Gattie on piano.

Annually, teachers in the district meet to decide which school should hold the next concert.

"My colleague and I offered to host this year and since we haven't had it in a while, the other teachers were on board with having us host," Pecsok said. "We're just making sure we have the facilities ready to support the district high school choir, middle school concert band and the high school jazz band."

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That means ensuring there are places to have two days of rehearsal on Friday and Saturday then performance space for Saturday afternoon.

Looking at ticket sales from previous years, Pecsok anticipates a crowd of 350 to 500 people. He said 14 of his students will be in the choir and three L&G students will be in the middle school concert band.

"I know everybody in our community is excited to be hosting this festival and to be having music growing in that area," he said.

Pecsok said student enrollment in band and choir at L&G has tripled in size in the last three years. Rene Bernard is the school's band director.

The two teachers' intention has been to increase interest in the music program.

"We're excited about where things are going," Pecsok said.

In the festival program, Superintendent Bill Anton said the Windham Central Supervisory Union is "excited to welcome you ... We believe this will be an asset to our music and arts curriculum, and our students."

Addressing the students, Anton wrote, "You should take pride in knowing that all your dedication and hard work elevated you to be selected to participate and represent your school. As musicians, this shows great talent and merit and we wish you the very best in your performance."

Reach staff writer Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com, at @CMaysBR on Twitter and 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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