National Recognition

A Panama Central School senior has set a precedent by earning herself a spot among 670 of the nation’s most musically talented and skilled high school students.

Kennadee Woods, a Panama-native, has less than a month to practice the seven songs she’ll perform during the National Association for Music Education 2013 All-National Honor Mixed Choir All-National Honors Ensembles performance. But, with the help of Steve Swanson, choral music director at PCS, and Marjorie Switala, a retired teacher who serves as Woods’ vocal instructor, she’ll bring nothing less than her best when she performs in Nashville this October.

According to Woods, the news of being selected was shocking, mostly because she never expected it.

“I was balling, and in disbelief,” Woods said. “Knowing that you’re one of the selected, and that they think you’re good enough, because I was scared that I wasn’t, but now that I have (been selected) – nobody can bring me down. If I’ve made it to this point – nothing can stop me now.”

Woods will perform at the 2013 NAfME All-National Honors Ensembles event on Wednesday, Oct. 30, in the presidential ballroom of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. During the performance she will sing seven songs as part of an ensemble choir. Several of the songs are in languages other than English, including: Indian, Latin and Greek.

Although she isn’t fluent in those languages, she plans on at least learning the English translations because she feels it helps to understand the meaning of the song when its performed, she said. Her favorite out of the seven is “Autumn,” a piece written by Kevin Memley with words written by Thomas Hood.

“I like the mood of the song, I love the slow tempo and it’s in a pretty key,” Woods said. “I’m going to try and go for a solo in this song.”

To earn her spot with the NAfME, Woods first qualified for junior and senior high Area All-States in SATB Choirs, Select Woman’s Choirs, 2012-13 Conference All-State Honors in Rochester. According to Swanson, that experience then led to to a first for a Panama musician, as Woods became an honored member of the 2013 NAfME Mixed All Eastern Choir. The group is comprised of vocalists from 12 states, and Europe. Her selection came as a result of a video recording submitted in June.

“I was overjoyed – like a proud parent,” Swanson said. “People think that this is a little school, and that we can’t compete – but yes we can. You’re competing with yourself, and getting yourself to do your best. It’s not about quantity, or size – its about quality.”

Swanson has seen a number of other students enter the competition, but none have ever made it as far as Woods, he said. And, he believes Woods’ success will serve to inspire other students.

“I like knowing that I’m influencing others to create their own dreams,” Woods added.

In addition to her choral work, Woods also takes piano and guitar lessons, is a freestyle swimmer on the PCS swim team, is a member of the National Honors Society, is the treasurer of the Student Council, and the leader of a Christian youth group called the Impact Group. She’s also working on writing some of her own original music. After graduating, Woods hopes to study special education at Jamestown Community College, and eventually to transfer to SUNY Fredonia.

Woods will appear in several PCS productions before she graduates, including a variety show on Thursday, Oct. 24, and a winter concert on Thursday, Dec. 12, which are open to the public.

For more information, or to order tickets to the NAfME concert, visit