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Two NFA Students Advance to Prestigious NYSSMA All-State Performance Group

Two Newburgh Free Academy musicians were selected for the  New York State School Music Association's (NYSSMA) Area All-State performance group. Julian Lamar was selected as a participant for Vocal Jazz, Jazz Bass Voice and Grace Musante was selected as an alternate for Soprano 2. 

These top-scoring students prepared and performed a Level VI or an All-State Level VI NYSSMA solo last spring at the NYSSMA solo adjudication festival. Their scores were compared with other music students within NYSSMA Zone 9 which encompasses Orange, Ulster, Rockland, Sullivan, and Greene counties, and then advanced to compete with students across New York State. These NFA musicians scored in the top 1% of music students within the entire state.

Shared by NYSSMA, the All-State bands, chorus, orchestra and jazz ensembles are honors groups comprised of the top students from school music departments across the state. Typically, over 6,500 sophomores and juniors from across the state of New York prepare for All-State evaluations in the hope of being selected. The 5 groups are directed by renowned guest conductors and perform on one of three concerts in the Eastman (Rochester) Theater and Innovations Theater during the annual NYSSMA Winter Conference in late November or early December each year. Rehearsals take place in Rochester, NY from Thursday through the Sunday concert during the conference. 


More about Julian Lamar, NYSSMA All-State Participant | Vocal Jazz, Jazz Bass Voice:

Julian Lamar has been singing for eight years, participating in choirs in each of his schools. 

“Singing is a form of expression that I get to do with my peers that builds connections more profound than any other form of communication,” remarked Lamar when asked what he likes most about singing. 

Lamar has participated in NFA’s Madrigals, Acapella, and RDW Boy’s Glee choir throughout his high school career. Last year he starred in NFA’s fall musical “The Adams Family” and performed in the spring musical production “Bring it On,” both directed by Ms. Clifford. Last year, he also joined the NFA Jazz band’s rhythm section as their guitarist. Prior to attending Newburgh Free Academy, Julian attended Balmville Elementary School and Heritage Middle School. 

When asked to share advice for younger students who may be interested in musical performance, Julian encouraged involvement sharing, “Starting anything has its own challenges. As a [musical] community we don’t expect anybody to be a virtuoso, just themselves in the choir room. If you can just bring yourself, your voice, and some commitment to the craft with your mentors you can do a lot more than you’d expect.”

Lamar would like to continue learning about music and bring his education and experiences back to a classroom setting, “NFA has a been place that provided me all these opportunities and I can not thank them enough. My goal after NFA is to pursue music and singing in a classroom setting as a music teacher. I hope to inspire other generations after me to work beyond what they believe and trust in themselves. The music world is a space that my teachers made for me, and because of them, I’m inspired to continue their teachings to other students.” 


More about Grace Musante, NYSSMA All-State Alternate | Soprano 2:

“According to my parents, I have been singing since before I was able to talk,” shared Musante. Officially speaking, Grace began taking voice lessons at the age of seven and began classical training a few years ago. 

Musante feels as though singing is a huge part of her identity and enjoys the connections she creates while singing, “I can connect with my audience, especially when I can act and sing at the same time. Singing has also opened up many opportunities where I have been able to meet wonderful people from all over the world and find an even deeper love for music.”

Grace has honed her craft through dozens of performances and musical opportunities. Transitioning from Horizons on the Hudson to South Middle School, Grace started participating more in school-based groups and productions. In middle school, Musante was in Annie and Beauty and the Beast as well as Chorus. 

During middle school, Grace was also a part of the National Children's Chorus, which is based in New York City, and a local high school singing group called Jubilate, which included students from all over Orange County. 

Although the COVID-19 pandemic halted many performances, particularly those being held in person, Grace’s passion for musical performance remained and she participated in virtual shows, such as All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, Sound of Music, and Beauty and the Beast

While in Newburgh Free Academy, Grace was in the musical "All Together Now" and the Acapella chorus. Last year, Grace starred in The Addams Family as Morticia Addams and performed with both Acapella and Madrigals. This year, she has also joined Chamande and hopes to perform in the spring musical. 

Over the summer, Grace has attended multiple vocal intensives for Opera study, one in Interlochen, which is a world-renowned arts camp in Michigan, and one in Queens College. Finally, she has been chosen for All-County Chorus and Jazz Chorus, as well as Area All-State throughout her high school career. 

When asked to give advice to younger students who are interested in singing, Grace shared, “For younger students interested in singing, I would emphasize the importance of focusing on your vocal health and allowing your voice to progress without judgment of yourself. That means avoiding comparing yourself to others who are older than you or who have different voices from you. It is also important to choose songs to sing that are challenging but within a comfortable singing range. Most of all, enjoy yourself while singing and be open to all kinds of music.” 

After graduating from Newburgh Free Academy, Grace would like to major in voice and opera or Musical theater when she is in college and hopes to be a professional performer. 

Students are pictured with their teacher, Mr. TJ Swetz.


ATTENTION: Are your scholars or colleagues doing something great? Please contact the district Communications Team at communications@necsd.net. We’d love to visit your class or event and/or post your pictures and recap to highlight the amazing accomplishments throughout our district!

Date: 2023-11-06 07:41:40 AM


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