Emma Jacot-Descombes traveled to Burlington, CT on Wednesday, March 14th to participate in the New England Music Festival, working for 3 days with the prestigious, Dr. Janet Galvan. Dr. Galvan is Director of Choral Activities at Ithaca College, conducts the Ithaca College Choir and Women’s Chorale, and is Artistic Director for the Ithaca Children’s Choir.

The New England Music Festival process begins for students and their teachers back in September, as they examine a list of music and make a selection that seems to fit the performing ability of the student. Students work to prepare this selection of music, which they perform for a judge at a Solo and Ensemble Festival, which takes place in White River Junction, Vermont in December. When completed, the students’ performance ratings are used to select the highest achievers to form a 250-voice chorus.

These gifted singers are sent six pieces of difficult chorus music and spend hours learning that music in preparation for the festival. Each year a different community in the six New England states hosts the Festival, housing students in local homes, and providing space and an environment that is conducive to quality music making. Conductors of national and international stature are contracted to lead these students in rehearsal and in the performance. The result is a high level of music making and a musical experience that will last a lifetime. (www.nemfa.org)

RLRS is one of approximately 50 different schools that participate in this festival, and only one of two that participate from Maine.


by Emma Jacot-Descombes


A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of participating in the New England Music Festival which was held in Connecticut. The whole experience was amazing.

Coming from a small town, where our chorus has such a small amount of participants, and one, I repeat a single boy, I was overwhelmingly awestruck at the amount of talented individuals I got the privilege to sing with.

It was such a learning experience as well. From the audition process, where they gave me musical critiquing directly after, to the actual practicing and performance at the festival itself, I learned so much!

When I went into the audition, I had prepared one piece of music to perform in front of a judge in a small room. After I had finished singing for her, I was given musical advice, including some tips about being in the right headspace, and certain support techniques to further project my voice. It’s things like that, that make it such a valuable experience.

A few weeks after the audition, I found out that I was accepted to participate in the festival, and a few weeks after that, was given a folder of five songs to be learned and eventually performed with the other accepted participants. It’s a real lesson in responsibility. It teaches the student that it’s their responsibility to learn their own music on their own time, and that they won’t always have time to do it with the help of someone else. I was fortunate enough to have some help from my music teacher, but had to do a lot of independent learning.

When I got to the actual festival itself, in Connecticut, it was awesome! Our conductor taught me so many things. Everything from dropping your jaw and letting the note come from above you head, all the way to feeling your “soft palate” and hitting higher notes with a piano voice instead of just forcing it out to stay on pitch.

While there, I got to stay with a “host family,” that provided me a place to sleep and took care of me. There are generally two or more NEMF participants in each “host house” and even in the short few days I was there, my “host sister” and I became good friends.

I was the only student there from Rangeley School to go this year, and I think that it’s an important and valuable experience that should be offered to kids here in the future. I can’t wait until some of my other friends at this school are old enough to go through the audition process, and potentially continue to do festivals like this.

Honestly, writing about this just does not do the experience justice, as to just how valuable it really was. I will remember it forever, and hopefully, continue to participate in it for years in the future. I am so fortunate to have had the opportunity to not only travel for the audition, but to travel to the actual festival to participate, and it should definitely continue to be an opportunity for all kids who are interested, in the future.

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