Ila Greenawalt and Dylan Opalinski: two Southmoreland High School seniors that are involved in the music department and are going to study music education this fall. The duo most recently attended the PMEA (Pennsylvania Music Educators Association) and NAfME (National Association for Music Education) conference.
Opalinski performed as a member of the PMEA All-State Concert Band, while Greenawalt took part in the Future Music Educators Honors Symposium. The conference took place April 3-6 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center.
Opalinski attended states as a part of the PMEA All State Concert Band. Opalinski is no stranger to music festivals, but he noted just how differently states compared to the other music festivals he’s attended.
“States was a lot different than region and districts,” he said. “We only had five chaperones. It was kind of like we were on lockdown – we didn’t have a lot of free reign – but it was kind of odd to be on our own.”
Greenawalt however, had a different experience at the symposium, stating that the “freedom was unusual” as they were used to always being monitored on other trips and festivals.
“They put a lot of trust in us, and it was a very different and interesting experience,” Greenawalt said. “I could go to any session I wanted to without having to worry about a chaperone.”
Band director Mrs. Jamie Gore also attended the conference from a teacher’s perspective, where she said it was “huge.”
“It was also the NAfME conference, which is made of 13 states from Maine to Maryland,” Mrs. Gore said. “It was interesting to talk to teachers from Maine about our curriculums’ similarities and differences.”
The conference took place at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center, where Mrs. Gore said “all four floors were filled.”
“It didn’t even feel congested though, since it’s so huge,” Mrs. Gore said. “The city has so much to offer and it was a great experience.”
Even though there were differences from other festivals, Opalinski enjoyed the familiarity of playing with another group of talented musicians.
“I was playing with some of the best musicians in the nation. It was really nice to own your craft next to people of your same skill level,” he said.
The ensemble was directed by Dr. Travis J. Cross from UCLA. Despite his young age, his resume and work ethic were impressive and was very impressionable with the musicians.
“He was a lot younger than most conductors I’ve had in the past,” he said. “It’s even more impressive because he already earned his doctorate at a young age. It was also nice because we related to him a lot more.”
Dr. Cross was very adamant on the students doing what one would not expect from a band festival: singing.
“We sang for a half an hour every morning and warmed up after every break. It’s a general rule that if you can sing well, you can play well,” he said.
In addition to PMEA All State Band being there at the convention center, the NAfME All East division conference, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the Navy band and choir was there as well, which Opalinski was able to watch perform.
“It was really nice to see the other symphonies and organizations perform. The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra was there, as well as the Navy band and chorus,” he said. “They’re a super professional ensemble, and it was pretty cool that I got to go see that.”
Greenawalt, who attended all of the conference’s performances, also enjoyed the Symphony and the Navy ensembles.
“The Navy band played Stars and Stripes Forever by John Philip Sousa and the piccolo part has always been something I’ve wanted to hear played live for a long time,” Greenawalt said. “They were absolutely phenomenal.”
After the concert, Opalinski got to look around the exhibit hall.
“I was able to see a lot of colleges and musical organizations, and I even got a music book from there,” he said.
Meanwhile, Greenawalt attended the Future Music Educators Honor Symposium, where she attended numerous workshops along with actual music teachers.
“Some of the most important information I got out of the program was to have some piano background going into college,” Greenawalt said. “I also learned to get used to not being in the field that you desire. A lot of people want to teach high school concert band, but you have to be open to trying new things.
You’re certified to be a music teacher, whether it be elementary, middle, or high school band, choir, or even orchestra. You have to be prepared to teach any K-12 music class.”
Greenawalt was so thankful for this opportunity.
“It was a super long, but fun weekend and I learned so much over the 4 days,” Greenawalt said.
In particular, Mrs. Gore and Greenawalt were “honored” to have went to a workshop taught by Dr. Tim Lautzenheiser, called simply by Mrs. Gore and Greenawalt “Dr. Tim,” an infamous music educator at the collegiate level. Mrs. Gore said it was “fantastic” to hear from him, along with Dr. Peter Boonshaft, another well known public speaker and music advocate.
“At the end of the workshop, (Dr. Lautzenheiser) passed out a paper for everyone to put their contact information, and (Greenawalt) and I put a small thank you note at the bottom,” Mrs. Gore said. “He was so genuine and caring, and he was able to personally email us a thank you to our thank you. I can’t even imagine how busy his life is, and he took the time out to do that for us. He even sent (Greenawalt) an original manuscript of one of his books.”
Opalinski is extremely grateful for this experience, and declares it as his favorite music festival throughout all of high school.
“States was by far my favorite music festival, mostly because of the amount of stuff that we got done. It was a very efficient and advanced ensemble,” he said.
As the lights dimmed on the stage of Opalinski’s final band festival of his high school career, he looks forward to his future at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where he will be pursuing a degree in music education.
“Music allows you to get a lot of feeling and insight of life. It dictated my career path, my friendships, and relationships, and from learning off so many teachers throughout life, I learned so much about variation to teaching paths,” he said. “I’m looking forward to my adventures in music education at IUP so I can learn even more about my craft and develop some variations of my own.”
Greenawalt was also “grateful” for the opportunity to attend the symposium. She will be attending Slippery Rock University to study music education this fall.
“I gained a lot of contacts for the future, and I made lots of new friendships,” Greenawalt said. “This experience was the most riveting and rewarding one I’ve ever gone through.”
Mrs. Gore also had a “wonderful” time at the PMEA/NAfME conference.
“I always learn so much from these conferences. I also keep seeing former students and teachers I used to work with while at the conference,” Mrs. Gore said. “It honestly could’ve been called Our Past, Present, and Future conference because of everyone we saw. It was a great experience.”