KS: You bring so much experience to the students at RFA, and the RFA Music Program is one of several in the Rome School District. These programs have always been supported whole-heartedly in the district. Talk to us a little about the philosophy of music in our school district and how it plays a critical role for students. How does RFA’s program stand out?
MR: Music is the universal language. Musical involvement improves a student’s self-discipline, dexterity, coordination, self-esteem, thinking skills, listening skills, creative abilities, cooperation, teamwork and personal expression. At RFA we provide many options to students interested in music. There are two choirs, orchestras, and bands along with other curricular music classes. There should be more to come soon as well, as we are working on adding some new music classes to the curriculum. There are also many extra-curricular activities for the students to choose from (auditioned choir groups, band and string clubs).
KS: We have had several students go on to study music further, whether it’s professionally, teaching, music therapy, etc… How does RFA play a part in their preparation for careers in the music field?
MR: There are so many opportunities and classes that our students get to take and experience that will definitely play a part in their future, whether it be music or something else. I tell my music students, don’t choose to pursue music as a career, that they can still go on to music in their lives as they can always sing in a band, or sing at a local event, or restaurant.
KS: Talk to our readers a little about the competitive process in NYSSMA (New York State School for Music Association) and the levels and what each mean. This is a huge achievement for our students.
MR: There are two parts to NYSSMA, Solo Festival and Major Organization. Major Organization is for an entire ensemble, where they perform three pieces of music and are adjudicated by two professional NYSSMA judges. There are levels I-VI with VI being the most difficult in both majors and solos. I do level VI with Concert Choir which is very difficult for a mixed ability group. But we always get it done, and get a good grade as well. Concert Choir has received from Silver Rating to Gold with Distinction (Ratings – Bronze, Silver, Gold, Gold with Distinction) rating over the past 7 years.
Solos are just one person and they are actually auditioning for Area All-State (best in four counties) and All-State (best in the state) ensembles. If a student makes an All-State ensemble, they are then eligible to participate in All-Eastern and All-National Honors Ensembles. My Concert Choir students audition with level VI solos and I have between 12 and 25 students participate per year.
KS: You have traveled all over the country performing and competing. How does this come about for our school?
MR: I search and search the internet for performance and competition options, then decide if I think we can fundraise enough to take the trip and then go from there. Some of the places our students have performed are the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Disney’s Magic Kingdom, Carnegie Hall, Europe, and many more. I make it a point to have my students perform at as many places as possible.
KS: I may be a little biased here with your program as my son Zach is a member of your A Capella Choir as well as the Select Choir at RFA. You will be traveling soon to Virginia to compete? Can you tell us a little about that upcoming event?