Local students selected for state chorus festival

COCOLAMUS – Three East Juniata High School students are driven for the love of music.

The school’s music program will be represented in choral, orchestra and wind ensemble programs at this year’s Pennsylvania Music Educators Association state level event April 17 to 20 in Erie.

Gabe Edwards, Brynne Guyer, and Jennie Tressler advanced to the state competition following regional performances earlier this year. Edwards will perform violin 1 for the third consecutive year in the orchestra. Tressler returns for the second time to the state level. This year, however, is her first wind ensemble performance. Last year she performed in the concert band. This is Guyer’s first state event as she sings alto 2 in the choral group.

“I told my ensembles this year that what makes them different from the rest is their drive for what they do,” said Kevin Milliken, music director at EJHS.

Milliken points out that all three competitors receive musical instruction outside the classroom at EJHS.

Edwards travels to Port Trevorton to receive violin lessons from musician Priscilla Conrad. Tressler takes lessons with local performer Jerry Stone in Lewistown. Guyer also receives vocal help from retired EJHS choral director Gene Hoffmaster and from Edwards’ mother, Christy Edwards.

“I was confident,” Milliken said of the three students going into their respective regional events.

Noting this was Guyer’s first entrance to state level, he said, “Brynne worked really, really hard. It’s tough to get there.”

Milliken cited the statistics. He said approximately 24 regional band performers out of 185 go to the state level. In choral, he estimated 32 of 170-plus students make it to the PMEA event in Erie.

The students themselves admitted they have worked hard to mark this achievement. They said their desire to play and sing music is the key.

All three EJHS students have career goals for their future, none of which includes a degree in music. Seniors Tressler and Edwards say they hope to have music as a minor. Edwards will be attending Elizabethtown College with a major in computer science and a minor in music and a minor in Japanese. Tressler is still trying to narrow down her college choices but has chosen a major of molecular biology and a minor in music.

Guyer, a junior, said she wants to also minor in music one day and major in communications.

The hard work is worth the finished product, they said.

“I work for the music itself,” Edwards, who admits he comes from a “musical” family said.

“You have to love (music) to be good at it,” Guyer said, admitting that as a young child she wanted to quit playing music. She began piano lessons in second grade. By the time she got to high school, “I loved (music).”

Her desire to push forward instead of quitting intensified through high school.

Milliken questioned Guyer, “Do you remember last year you told me you were going to make it to states this year?”

Guyer said she remembered that conversation.

“And look,” Milliken said, “You did.”