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Nine Students Perform at TCNJ Honors Festival for First Time

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Arcangelo Iurato '21 and Brianna Rodriguez '20
2 March 2020

March is Music in Our Schools Month (MIOSM). To commemorate MIOSM, the Valley Echo is highlighting Passaic Valley's involvement in the The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) Honors Festival for the first time. The festival is an annual event that provides high school music students across the state the chance to perform in a collegiate environment.TCNJ Honors Festival student performance; property of Ms. Vanderstreet

In order to take part, TCNJ asks for teachers' submissions. Ms. Pia Vanderstreet sent them a list of students she felt would be a good fit for the festival.

"I thought it was a really good opportunity for our students to have and perform at a college level with students that have similar interests and the same talents," said Ms. Vanderstreet.

Even though the event was a success for our school, it wasn't always an easy task. "It was a challenge," stated Ms. Vanderstreet. "There are long rehearsals and the level of the music is collegiate."

Following student selection, Ms. Vanderstreet took on an advisor role. Students put in most of the effort and time preparing for the event. "Other than nominating them and going down with them, I was an observer," she said. "The week before the concert I helped them with their music in school and afterwards."

For some students, this was their first time of being part of an enriching experience like this. "It was super surreal, because I didn't think I'd even have the ability to be considered for this event," Ashley Povolo '20 said.

Participants Marryann Capalbo '22, Mallory Cestone '23, Emma Giron '23, Christian Kim '21, Christopher Perez '22, Ashley Povolo '20, Mia Preziosi '20, Youanna Sefein-Shenouda '20, and Tess Van Dam '22 learned four college-level pieces of choir music to perform at the TCNJ Honors Choir Festival.TCNJ Honors Festival promotional image

"This was my first experience in another real choir. The only choir I've ever been a part of is PV's own," Preziosi noted. "It was a very different experience. The rehearsals were more intense, the practices were more precise, and the music was much more complicated."

The event was held over the course of two days, and the participants spent around ten hours rehearsing at TCNJ before the actual performance.

Most of the participants were accustomed to prolonged rehearsals, but learning four unfamiliar songs within a much shorter time span, for a prestigious event like this, created some challenges. "We learned each piece in a span of twenty minutes, sometimes even shorter." Povolo said. 

The students represented Passaic Valley beautifully. More importantly, they learned and grew as performers as a result of the challenge. "After the TCNJ Honors Festival, I felt more confident than I have ever felt in my life." said Youanna Sefein-Shenouda. "I went in thinking there was no way we were going to memorize that many pieces in a few hours, but we managed to pull it off."

Based on the experience, Ms. Vanderstreet is considering participating in the future. "It was a great experience for the nine students who were involved. They're still going around and singing all the songs," she said.