By Nichole Smith
Music students across the state of Florida have the opportunity each year to participate in the Florida Music Education Association (FMEA) All-State Music Conference in Tampa, Florida. Three students from Montverde Academy participated in this year’s conference – Sophia Liu (grade 7), Kaitlin Bennett (grade 12), and Jason Tejada-Chancay (grade 11).
Sophia Liu has been playing the violin since she was in the third grade. But before coming to MVA this year, she had never played in an orchestra before. She is now the first chair of the intermediate orchestra. Mr. Villa, the strings teacher at MVA, recommended her to perform at the FMEA conference. She feels that her time playing with other musicians in the intermediate orchestra helped prepare her for the challenges of playing in the large orchestra at the conference. “It was amazing, but also really intense,” Sophia said. “It was amazing to see how much talent could fit in one room, and it was nice to see everything come together.” She loved being surrounded by so much talent. “On the first day, everyone auditioned, and they were put into each of their respective seating positions. Everyone did pretty well, even on their first tries. The conductor, she had a really sharp ear, so even when I couldn’t hear anything wrong, she heard some minor details, so it was really cool to meet all these new and amazing players.”
Kaitlin Bennett has performed at the conference three times since the fifth grade as a vocalist. In the fifth grade she performed in the SSAA; in the seventh grade, she performed in the mixed chorus; and in the twelfth grade, she performed in the SSAA women’s chorus. “All-state was incredibly challenging, but also amazing,” Kaitlin said. “Everyone that was there was determined to learn and was passionate about music. I’ve met many people and made new friends. For two whole days we sat in a conference room and practiced nonstop, doing amazing work. I’m a bit sad that this was my last year participating, but I’m glad I got the opportunity to go.”
Jason Tejada-Chancay started playing cello after he enrolled at Montverde Academy at the age of 10. “I think if I hadn’t come to this school in the sixth grade that I wouldn’t have started playing cello,” Jason said. “Now it’s going to be my career – it’s my passion! It’s what I’ll do for the rest of my life.” He is currently the 3rd chair cellist for the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra. Although he is accustomed to playing with a large orchestra, the stakes at the all-state conference were much higher, everything from the early audition process to the seating audition at the conference where he ultimately ranked 6th. “The people at the conference are the best of the best, so everyone is on their A-game and everyone is being the best they can be.”
It’s clear, though, that these students were up for the challenge and represented Montverde Academy proudly.