Uniondale students have great success at the New York State Music Majors Festival


Uniondale student musicians can toot their own horns, as the middle school and high school bands and orchestras achieved high ratings at the New York State School Music Association Majors Festival on May 28.

The young musicians’ accomplishments highlight their dedication and talent, as well as that of their directors, who worked hard to prepare them.

“These awards are testament to the incredible talent and hard work of our students, as well as the exceptional guidance of our music directors,” district Superintendent Monique Darrisaw-Akil stated in a news press release. “We are proud of the distinction they bring to our district and their exemplary representation of Uniondale’s commitment to excellence in the arts.”

The Turtle Hook Middle School String Orchestra, under the direction of Cynthia McGinnis, earned Gold with Distinction, the highest possible rating. The honor goes to groups that demonstrate an exceptional level of technical and artistic skill, as noted on the NYSSMA website. Uniondale High School’s Knight Time Jazz Band and Concert Band, under the direction of Colton Wynter and Joe Boardman, also achieved Gold with Distinction ratings for their performances.

The Lawrence Road Middle School Band, directed by Marc John Delosso, received a Gold rating, signifying a performance of excellent quality with only minor technical or musical issues. The Uniondale High Select Strings Orchestra, led by Sapphire Aupont, also earned a Gold rating.

“For so many groups in one year to be able to go to NYSSMA Majors is completely outstanding,” Kelvin Jenkins, the district’s director of fine and performing arts for the past 15 years, said.

Jenkins said he was proud to see such high achievements in his final year before his retirement.

The district’s musical programs have come a long way since Jenkins started. Years ago, participation was “abysmal,” he said. But as new teachers spread their enthusiasm, students became more involved in their musical studies and began taking them more seriously.

“We’ve had parents and grandparents who went through the school system, and they all participated in the arts, whether it’s music or visual arts, and they have an investment,” Jenkins said. “They love to see their children achieve.”

According to Jenkins, the students typically receive the music for the NYSSMA Festival after the holiday season, and begin practicing it daily to prepare for the event. This year only the middle and high school took part, but Uniondale’s elementary schools have performed in the past as well, he said.

NYSSMA’s mission is to “advance music education across New York State” through its program, according to the website. Performers and ensembles showcase their talents in front of experienced adjudicators who are accomplished musicians and teachers.

The Uniondale ensembles participated in the “majors” category, which is for larger groups. Small groups, from soloists up to quintets, or groups of five, have their own category.

Performers are divided into six levels of difficulty based on their musical skills, and their chosen musical pieces reflect their abilities. They are evaluated on criteria including tone quality, dynamics, expression, articulation, note accuracy and rhythmic precision.

“Uniondale has a legacy of an excellent program,” Jenkins said.  “It’s very much culturally grounded in the community. I have no doubt that it will continue to be a thriving music program here as long as the community continues to support it.”