George Stevens Academy students Elana Williamson (from left), Edward Conte and Gabe Hall were chosen to participate next week in the Maine Music Educators Association’s All State Jazz Festival in South Portland. PHOTO COURTESY OF GEORGE STEVENS ACADEMY

GSA musicians chosen for all-state festival

BLUE HILL — For the second year in a row, senior Elana Williamson has been chosen to play vibes in the Music Educators Association’s All State Jazz Festival Thursday through Saturday, Jan. 3-5, at South Portland High School.  Also attending the festival will be senior and drummer Edward Conte and freshman and trumpeter Gabe Hall.

Auditions were held at the University of Maine at Augusta on Oct. 12. Williamson was selected to play vibes with the festival’s Honors Jazz Band from a field of vibraphonists from around Maine.

Williamson said that Steve Orlofsky, who directs the GSA’s jazz program, “helped me prepare for my audition,” which “went pretty well” but still made her nervous enough to come to the audition room without her mallets and to have “to run back to the practice room to grab them.”

“Mr. O. is a great band director,” she said, adding that she hopes that the veteran teacher will help her prepare for the festival once she gets her music. She wants to be as ready as possible for what she looks forward to most: “rehearsing with the entire Honors Jazz Band, a group of “very talented musicians that push you to be better.”

Williamson, who started playing piano when she was 9 or 10 years old, was introduced to the vibes in fifth grade. She loves “the interesting rhythms” of Latin jazz as well as classic jazz.

Williamson’s classmate Conte will play drums in the rhythm section of the All-State Jazz Choir while Hall will play trumpet in the Jazz Band.

“I’m very proud and happy for Elana, Gabe and Edward,” said Orlofsky. “The festival accepts only 11 trumpets, and Gabe is considered one of the best trumpet players in the state. The festival only takes five drummers, and Edward is one of those drummers; and the festival only accepts one vibes player, and Elana is the one and only. A remarkable achievement by these three students.”

With their respective ensembles, the students will rehearse with guest conductors Thursday evening, all day Friday and Saturday morning to prepare four or five musical selections. They will play these sets during a grand finale concert open to the public at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 5, in the South Portland High School auditorium.

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