Sonoma spirit wows Anaheim music festival

Sonoma High School students are among the award-winners at the prestigious Heritage Music Festival. Photo by Anne Stanley

A parade of matching well-dressed teenagers strut in single-file down the cross walk, grinning and waving at astonished drivers.  No, the Beatles didn’t commission a new photo for the Abbey Road album -— this was the Sonoma Valley High School choir, one of four SVHS groups competing at the Heritage Music Festival in Anaheim on Friday Martch 25.

SVHS students’ enthusiasm and dedication impressed the competion judges. “I want to come to Sonoma Valley and teach these students!” said one judge to the choir.

Along with performing, students enjoyed a series of activities.  While it was storming in Sonoma, students attended a Medieval Times dinner on Thursday night.  They performed on Friday, then spent the entirety of Saturday at Disneyland and California Adventure.

“I kept thinking to myself ‘this would be a great way to end the night,’ then something else great would happen!” said Zach Rockafellow, guitarist.

The awards ceremony was held on Saturday evening at the Hyperion Theater in California Adventure.  SVHS won a silver medal for concert choir, silver for show choir (also known as the Jazzberries), silver for chamber choir (also known as Madrigals), and a bronze award for band.  SVHS was also honored with the Spirit of Anaheim award, which is given to the school group which best represents its community.

“This is the nicest group of kids I’ve ever taken to Anaheim” said Darrel Ross, SVHS math teacher and long-time music chaperone.

While there were awards, the real purpose of the festival was to provide feedback to students and conductors on what the performers can improve on.  A pannel of three judges listened to the performance, then had a brief seminar with the groups to work on the music.

“What I loved most about your performance was your honesty,” said one judge about the choir.

Positive energy and camaraderie characterized the trip.  “Everyone really cared about each other and wanted to succeed,” said Brianna McGuire, soprano.

However, there was a bittersweet tenor to the trip as well.  Barbara McElroy, SVHS music director for over 35 years, is retiring this June.  Students worked especially hard to make her last year a great one.

Sunday was spent at Universal Studios, culminating in a dinner at the Italian restaurant Buca di Beppo’s where students presented Mrs. McElroy with an “Oscar” for best teacher.  An exhausted but gratified group of musicians returned after a long drive late Monday afternoon.


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