Winter All-County Concert Slated For Dunkirk

DUNKIRK – The Dunkirk High School Auditorium will be the site of the 2013 Chautauqua County Music Teachers Association-sponsored Winter All-County Festival and Concert. The concert will take place on Saturday at 5 p.m. This event features the county’s best student musicians from the 18 school districts located in Chautauqua County, in one of several music ensembles. Featured in this festival are the Elementary Band, Women’s Chorus, Percussion Ensemble, Vocal Jazz Chorus and All-County Jazz Ensemble.

The first group on the concert program will be the All-County Elementary Band. This group features selected fifth- and sixth-grade students from the county’s elementary band programs, and will be led by guest conductor Philip J. Briatico. Briatico currently teaches instrumental music at the Elba Central Schools, located in Genesee County. During his time at Elba schools, his ensembles have received awards and recognition for different marching band competitions as well as the NYSSMA Major Ensemble festival. His responsibilities include teaching all instrumental music lessons as well as group ensembles in grades 4-12. Briatico currently serves as the president of the Genesee-Wyoming Music Educators Association. In addition, he has also served as the conductor of the Corfu-Pembroke Community Band as well as being a guest conductor for the Batavia Concert Band. Briatico received his Bachelor of Music in music education from Buffalo State College and his Master of Music from the State University of New York at Buffalo.

Maryellen Giese, retired teacher from the instrumental music department at Kendall Elementary School, will conduct the Women’s All-County Chorus. Geise conducts the Hochstein Youth Singers (grades 3-12), the Hochstein Singers (grades 7-12), and teaches Adult Voice Classes at the Hochstein School of Music and Dance in Rochester. She directs the “Sweden Senior Singers” in Brockport, and spends time on the other end of the baton as a singer and board member of the Rochester Oratorio Society. Giese earned her bachelors of music education at Nazareth College of Rochester. Her graduate work was at SUNY Brockport and the Eastman School of Music. She retired after 31 years of teaching in the Brockport Central School District where she served as a vocal music teacher and music department chair, directing choirs and vocal ensembles at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She is a member of the American Choral Directors Association, the National Association for Music Education, and regularly conducts honors choruses throughout New York State. She has multiple listings in Who’s Who Among American Educators and was the recipient of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra 2008 Music Educator Award, and the 2009 Faculty Service Award from the Hochstein School of Music.

The Percussion Ensemble will be conducted by Roger Chagnon III. Chagnon has taught music at Brocton Central School, Westfield Academy and Central School, and is currently chair of the music department at Ripley Central School. He received his bachelor’s degree in music education from Bethel College, where percussion was his principal instrument, and his master’s in music education degree at SUNY Fredonia. Chagnon fondly remembers being a member of the Chautauqua All-County Percussion Ensemble as a high school student and is excited to return as its conductor for a third time.

Jeff Welcher received his bachelor of music education degree from Crane School of Music at Potsdam, and his master of music education from West Chester State University. He was the vocal music director at Oneida High School in Oneida where he conducted the Concert Choir, Freshmen Chorus, Vocal Jazz Ensemble and Freshmen Jazz Lab. He retired in 2011 and is currently directing the Vocal Jazz Ensemble at Syracuse University. Welcher has been involved with the NYSSMA Conference Vocal Jazz Ensemble as chairman and is one of a small number of teachers certified for Vocal Jazz adjudication in New York state. He has done guest conducting and adjudicating for All-County, Regional, and All-State Choirs and Vocal Jazz Ensembles throughout the Northeast. Welcher is an active member of ACDA, serving as Eastern Division Repertoire and Standards Committee Chairman for Jazz Ensembles. He is also a member of IAJE, a certified judge for the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella, and a recent recipient of the Syracuse Symphony Musicians Award for Outstanding Choral Director. As a performer, Welcher is a member of the Syracuse Vocal Ensemble, and active church soloist/organist and jazz vocalist/pianist.

The last group of the concert will be the All-County Jazz Ensemble, featuring 22 of the best high school student jazz musicians in Chautauqua County. This year’s group will be directed by Ken Kuriscak. Kuriscak received his bachelor’s in music education from the State University of New York at Fredonia and his masters in music education from the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught in the Niagara Falls City School District in Niagara Falls,, the Bradford Central District in Bradford and the Royalton Hartland Elementary Schools in Middleport. Currently, Kuriscak directs the NW Jazz Ensemble and the 701 Jazz Band at Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School. In addition to these ensembles, Kuriscak also teaches Music Lessons and Music Theory at Niagara Wheatfield. Aside from teaching at Niagara Wheatfield, Kuriscak has directed the NCMEA Junior High All-County Jazz Ensemble, the ECMEA Senior High All-County Jazz Ensemble, and the Monroe County Junior High Jazz Ensemble. Kuriscak performs regularly as a freelance saxophonist in the Buffalo/Niagara Area. He was named “Best College Jazz Soloist” by Downbeat Magazine in 1996, was a finalist and received a scholarship in the East Coast Jazz Festival in 1997, and toured with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra in 1998. He has also performed with the Erie Philharmonic Orchestra during their Pops Concert Season. Kuriscak’s major instrument is the saxophone, and he doubles on flute and clarinet.

The organization for this festival begins nearly ten months prior to the program. Each student is selected first by their school’s music teacher. That list is pared down by the CCMTA chair people, who then select the students (in some cases by audition, teacher recommendation, or through a score received by playing a solo for a New York State-certified music adjudicator) who make the final roster for each group.

Other duties of each chairperson include finding the guest conductor to lead the group, compiling and disseminating music to each of the students selected for the ensemble, and organizing any rehearsals prior to the day of the festival. At long last, the chairperson’s final act is to introduce the guest conductor. It then becomes the students’ moment to shine, showcasing their hard work and talent to an enthusiastic audience of over 500.

The concert itself lasts under two hours, but the time and preparation that go into the festival far exceed that moment in time on stage. Students begin rehearsing their music with their teacher as soon as they receive it sometime in early December from their chairperson. They may then be required to attend one or two additional rehearsals throughout the months of January and February.

On the day of the concert, these dedicated music students begin arriving at the school between 8 and 8:30 a.m., for a prompt 9 a.m. rehearsal start. The day continues with rehearsals, lunch, and a few small breaks in between, until 4:30 p.m. when the last students dress for the 5 p.m. concert start time. Tickets will be available at the door, $5 for adults and $3 for seniors and students.

In addition to the Winter All-County Festival, CCMTA

provides scholarships to area music students to aid the student in continuing music education;

sponsors a Solo Evaluation Festival, where students prepare and play for a New York State-certified music adjudicator who in turn provides the student with valuable comments and tips on how to improve his or her musicianship; and

hosts a Spring All-County Music Festival each year featuring the Elementary, Junior High, and Senior High Choruses, and the Junior and Senior High All-County Bands, held in the Amphitheater of the Chautauqua Institution on Saturday, June 1 at 7:30 pm.

For more information, visit or contact your school district’s music department.