Panama Central School Band, Chorus Claim Victory In Boston Competition

PANAMA The Panama Central School District is continuing a long-standing tradition of musical excellence.

Recently, the Panama band and chorus competed in a regional competition in Boston. Both programs received superior ratings – scores of over 90 points – and the Panama band brought home another trophy to display in the school’s halls.

“We’re so proud of the kids for earning that superior rating,” said Anne Dolce, band director. “Because we’ve never seen the majority of these schools before, and some of them are even private schools, we just don’t know what kind of program they’re bringing with them. You always want to go for that first place, but earning a superior rating is always the goal, because the score is based solely upon our own performance, regardless of the other schools. To come away with the first place prize is just icing on the cake.”

According to Dolce, the superior rating is especially impressive because Panama was the first school to compete on the morning of the competition. The competition began at 8:30, which meant that many of the chorus students were awake at 5:30 in order to warm up their voices. However, performing that early in the morning is still very challenging, she said.

Dolce attributes the school’s musical success to the students’ unrelenting work ethic. According to Dolce, students are always critiquing and analyzing their own performances to ensure that they prepared for competitions, such as the one in Boston.

“When you set the bar high for the program that you have, it’s scary because you’re expected to always improve upon it,” said Dolce. “But the students are so engaged during class – they’re working as hard as they can, and they’re working with each other to get better. They might speak up and say, ‘I don’t think we’re playing soft enough at this measure,’ and that feedback can only serve to make your ensemble stronger.”

Steve Swanson, Panama’s chorus director, echoed much of the same praise Dolce was so eager to hand out.

“This trip to Boston was in the making for over two and a half years,” said Swanson. “Not only was it a long-range goal for each of the 65 students participating, it was daily reminder about always striving to do better. I would often say, ‘Give me your best on your worst day.’ As is true in most areas of life, we don’t always feel up to the task at hand, but that’s when the tough get tougher, the dedicated exercise more dedication, and the prize is really more about the journey. We had so much support from our students, families and community members, as well as fundraisers and music parents – a venture such as this is impossible to do on your own. Billy Stevenson put together an awesome itinerary, and parent chaperones helped us execute every time schedule detail with clockwork perfection. None of this would be possible without our administrators and school board members’ support and approval. It was truly a community effort, right down to the fire department’s welcome back home with lights and sirens. It was and will always continue to be an unforgettable experience.”

And of course, many of the students who participated on the trip clamored about how much fun they had, and how proud they were to return to Panama with a victory and two superior ratings.

“The trip to Boston was not just fun, but meaningful,” said student Brianna Marsh. “For a little school to go all the way to Boston for a band and chorus trip, and come home with a first place trophy is awesome. This trip just goes to show how hard we really worked and how dedicated the Panama band is.”

“Mrs. Dolce gave us the time out of her life to help us and believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves,” said student Nick Kirby. “We didn’t know what our competition would be like, but we just went in with confidence and showed that we are just as good as anyone else.”

“Achieving first place has taught me this: we, the Panama band and chorus, came together as one music department, set a common goal and achieved that goal,” said student Ben Taylor. “Our teamwork, listening and cooperation in rehearsals and in Boston are better than any trophy ever.”

Following the competition, the Panama students enjoyed the city of Boston and all it had to offer for the weekend, such as a Blue Man Group concert and a land and water tour of the city.

When the band and chorus returned to Panama, they were greeted by the local fire and police department, which gave them a congratulatory escort back to the school.


The Panama Central School band will be performing its last concert of the year tonight at 7 p.m. at the high school. Admission is free, and the band will be playing many of the same songs from the competition in Boston.