Student musicians rehearse for band festival

Robert Inglis/The Daily Item High school musicians play the flute while rehearsing with the PMEA District 8 Band in February at Danville High School.

Musicians and singers throughout Valley school districts will try to advance through a difficult field of talented classmates via virtual performances after the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association postponed all in-person events for the entire 2020-21 school year.

The canceled events include the PMEA District, Region and All-State festivals, District level fests and Music Performance Assessments.

PMEA President Phil Stattel said PMEA will host virtual conference and All-State events in the spring and will assist the PMEA districts in hosting their own virtual events, should they choose to do so.

"The safety of our students and members is paramount," Stattel said. "And, as these events involve students from multiple schools and school districts from throughout the commonwealth, it is essential to PMEA to limit any potential risk of COVID infection."

The in-person events routinely include dozens of members of Valley school bands and choral groups gathering for several days of rehearsals before a show. In February, Danville hosted more than 150 performers — including 57 from 11 Valley schools — from 49 schools for three days as part of the District 8 Band Festival. 

“All schools, educators, and educational organizations such as PMEA have the sole intent of protecting our students’ safety during the COVID-19 crisis. While the cancellation of in-person festivals this year will be hard for students, we must recognize PMEA’s legitimate concern for student safety above all else," said Danville High School Band director Tom Hiravi. "Additionally, the simple cancellation of in-person PMEA events does not preclude the possibility of virtual events, independent events held within the school district, or events hosted within the local area if social distancing guidelines and participating districts permit it at that time. As music educators, we will always strive to showcase our students and their hard work— this year may just require some new ways to achieve that goal.”

Stattel said PMEA will host virtual conference and All-State events in the spring and will assist the PMEA districts in hosting their own virtual events, should they choose to do so.

"We are working hard to help make this year as musical as it can be within the confines that we find ourselves," he said. 

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