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Sun Valley: Competing for PMEA District Spots

PMEA band

Imagine what it is like to show up to a weekend sleep-over with dozens of people you mostly don’t know, spend hours practicing music you had to learn on your own, then perform in front of an audience of people you mostly never met. Five Sun Valley student musicians were selected this year to do just that as part of the 2019 Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) District 12 Chorus and Band festivals.


 Musicians from Chester, Delaware and Philadelphia counties prepared for the blind auditions held at Rustin High School Saturday, November 17.  Sun Valley High School sent 14 students to the auditions to qualify. Levi Das, Billy Fisher and Senta Johnson were selected to attend the District 12 Chorus festival February 7 – 9, 2019 at West Chester University (hosted by West Chester Henderson High School).  All will be led by a director selected from a university music program.  Zack Volturo and Claudia Miller will represent Sun Valley at the District 12 Band festival January 24 – 26, 2019 at the festival at Owen J. Roberts High School. 


Contributing to growth


Zack Volturo, a senior, is a district pro, being selected for multiple district festivals in 2018.  His experience with the PMEA festivals has been a formative one.  “Last year I participated in district band, chorus, and orchestra-- and was accepted to region band. I had a great experience working with fantastic directors and learning new perspectives on the art of performing.”  Concentrating on band this year, Zack will be a member of the percussion section playing a variety of instruments such as snare drums, marimbas, Timpani, and more.   It’s an opportunity that continues to contribute to his growth.


“It is a much more professional environment than what I am used to in my own high school concert band. It has allowed me to see further past the notes and rhythms and understand what will really move the audience.  Districts has significantly impacted my musicianship.”  Zack believes his experience also impacts his fellow musicians at Sun Valley.  “I am able to apply this information at Sun Valley and bring more to the table during our own concerts, as well as share it with my peers to help them grow.”


Senta Johnson, chosen as an alto for the district chorus, agrees that the district experience builds character.  “This experience has made me step up as a leader. My work ethic is something I would like to pass down to the underclassmen. I only hope they are inspired by how ambition pays off.”


Strengthening music programs

PMEA chorus  

The challenge of the PMEA audition and festival experience is an important one for the music teachers at Sun Valley.  Nicole Moyer, chorus teacher at the high school, supports her students who are willing to work hard for the experience.  “I believe having students involved in the PMEA ensembles helps strengthen my program overall,” said Moyer.  “Whenever one of my students has a positive "outside of school" musical experience it helps improve my program.” 


Moyer has seen a growth in interest in the PMEA chorus festivals at Sun Valley, watching two students even reach states in recent years.  She sees the experience as one she can support and share with all students in the chorus classes.  “My students have become more and more interested in auditioning for these ensembles. So, I have begun to teach some of the audition music and program some of it into our winter concert,” said Moyer.


“When I program a piece of music that an honor choir is expected to sing, it challenges my choir and brings them to a new level.”  Moyer knows the pressure of auditioning with peers from all over the area. “It can be very competitive. The top 20 of each section make it into the district honor choir,” she said.   “Sometimes there are about 40-50 students auditioning for 20 spots.  At regional auditions only 10 make it.  It is a very hard thing do.”


A total of 160 students from Chester, Delaware and Chester Counties will convene to learn and rehearse select music that will be performed on February 9. Vocalists will audition for the Regional Chorus Festival to be held on March 21 – 23, 2019 at Haverford HS.  Moyer is thrilled with the results for Sun Valley this year.  Not only is she sending three students to districts, many of her students placed very high or are alternates.  Victoria Carrillo, Tommy Christladi, Ryan Costigan, Michael DiFurio, and Zack Volturo all are possible inclusions in the festival as they ranked either 21stor 22ndin the auditions.


A memorable experience 


Tommy Christaldi, an alternate for Tenor 2, has had the district experience in his sophomore and junior years.  While he is disappointed in not placing in the top 20 this year, he is appreciative of the entire experience of auditioning and attending districts while at Sun Valley.  “To some, coming this close might be disappointing, but in my book it's a win,” said Tommy.  “Districts both last year and the year before were really unique experiences,” he said. “It made me more driven and focused on improving my choral technique rather than just looking at chorus as a place to have fun.  It was an eye-opening experience, seeing what so many other performers are capable of.”


The hard work prior and during the festival has stuck with him.  “You have to deal with the stress and responsibility of learning four or five new pieces of music,” he remembers.  “You meet a lot of really cool and talented people.  And working with college choir directors was an experience I really appreciated.  It made me more appreciative of the work Mrs. Moyer puts in, as well as thankful for the familial atmosphere within our own choir.”


For Zack, that familial atmosphere can extend to the district experience as well.  “What I enjoy most about districts is the bridges I am able to build with students who share the same interest as me and are doing the things I do. I am able to keep in contact with them without seeing them at my own school on a day-to-day basis.”  Zack will be part of the 125-piece ensemble band who will perform on January 26 withDr. Will Wrap from Kutztown Universitydirecting.  Musicians will audition at the festival to be part of the prestigious Regional Band Festival March 7 – 9 at Central Bucks West High School which combines the top half of both District 12 and District 11 adding Montgomery and Bucks counties. 


His band teacher, Mr. Pry, is proud of the extra effort all his students put in to audition:  “It is the students who are responsible for the audition material. The music comes out in May and they begin work on their own to prepare the solo, making it more satisfying for them to succeed in the audition.”


It is the fruit of that success that Senta Johnson will appreciate in her first District experience.“I look forward to surrounding myself with other students who share the same interest and ethic. This is an amazing opportunity to work alongside other devoted individuals from other schools doing what we love, and I am so excited to be a part of it.”


All musicians will audition and can qualify for Regional festivals at the district events.  Congratulations and good luck to our talented and hard-working students representing Sun Valley this year!



About PMEA District 12


Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA) is an affiliate of the nearly 80,000 member National Association for Music Education (NAfME). PMEA is a service organization to music education in the Commonwealth. The membership includes those engaged in music instruction at all levels, from preschool through college and university, retired educators, as well as those in the music industry. In addition, students enrolled in music education may participate in collegiate chapters and secondary students may participate in Tri-M Honor Society. PMEA provides leadership in professional growth and offers special opportunities for musical development to school students. PMEA District 12 serves the music educators and students of Philadelphia, Delaware and Chester counties.