Crawford County's best head to all-state festival

Apr. 18—After years of practice, often involving hours spent on the same repetitive movements — after becoming not just competent but among the best in the state and earning the right to perform on what for many will be the biggest stage of their lives so far — after all that, does a young musician still feel any nerves as the day of the show approaches?

For tenor saxophonist Jocelynn Lane, the answer is yes, but rather than being a bad thing, Lane called it "a great opportunity."

"I'd say there's a lot of pressure," the Maplewood Junior-Senior High senior said Tuesday with five days of preparation remaining. "I'm used to a smaller band, especially at Maplewood, so having a band with 150-plus people is a little overwhelming for me, but it gives me motivation to do better. There's always better people around me, so it gives me a lot of people to look up to and get better from."

Lane is one of eight Crawford County students participating in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-State Festival this week, with concerts taking place Friday and Saturday at the Warner Theatre. Joining her in Erie are: senior trumpet player Alison Merritt and senior soprano Kristen McGarvey from Cochranton Junior-Senior High; junior French horn player Katie Gillette and senior alto saxophonist Katie Miller from Conneaut Area Senior High; senior tenor Cooper Breckenridge from Meadville Area Senior High; and junior flutist Elizabeth Watkins and senior alto Alexis Banner from Titusville High.

With acapella and jazz ensembles performing Friday evening, orchestra and concert band Saturday morning, and wind ensemble and chorus Saturday afternoon, there's something for everyone — all of it good, according to Maplewood band director Jamie Gardner.

"All the kids are so good," he said. "The kids are fantastic."

Local music devotees will likely be interested in the Saturday concerts — all of the Crawford County students will be performing during the festival's final two shows — but Gardner urged potential attendees not to ignore the Friday concert featuring 25 of the best jazz musicians in the state.

"They're just killer," he said. "They play the paint off the walls."

Crawford County musicians and their teachers are used to traveling to the Poconos, Hershey, Philadelphia, Lancaster and other locations in the state's eastern half for the annual All-State Festival. Gardner said this is just the second time the event has come to Erie during his 25 years as a band director.

With the festival taking place nearby, local music leaders are even more involved than usual. Meadville choir director Molly Moyer is serving as host for the All-State Chorus.

Moyer called the role "something I've always dreamed of."

The innocent-sounding title brings with it plenty of logistical responsibilities. With a chorus of approximately 240 high school students, the host has to arrange a site with a big enough space for rehearsals and figure out how to get them there safely.

"It is a lot of work, but it's rewarding," Moyer said. "To get to host kids that are the best in the state of Pennsylvania — that's pretty rewarding."

The guest conductor for the All-State Chorus, Bach Choir of Bethlehem conductor Christopher Jackson, selected a variety of works with poetic connections, Moyer said. The songs take as their texts poems by Langston Hughes, Christina Rossetti, Alfred, Lord Tennyson and others.

"These are some challenging works but these are all-state musicians — they should be challenged," Moyer said. "At this level, there's going to be some tough music. These kids have worked hard to get here, but are also continuing to work hard to prepare for these concerts."

For performers like Lane, who first picked up the saxophone in fifth grade, the process has been a long journey.

"This whole time it's taught me being persistent and not to give up," she said, recalling hours spent in the evenings after school. "I'd go home and for like a month or two straight I would be practicing the same sections of music for an hour straight, go through all the songs for an hour every night — so definitely persistence."


Three Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-State Festival concerts take place this weekend at the Warner Theatre in Erie. The a capella and jazz ensembles perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday, the orchestra and concert band at 11 a.m. Saturday, and the wind ensemble and chorus at 4 p.m. Saturday. General admission tickets for each show are $18 and are available online at

Crawford County's all-state musicians

Cochranton Junior-Senior High

Alison Merritt: Concert Band, trumpet, senior

Kristen McGarvey: Chorus, soprano 2, senior

Conneaut Area Senior High

Katie Gillette: Wind ensemble, French horn, junior

Katie Miller: Wind ensemble, alto saxophone, senior

Maplewood Junior-Senior High

Jocelynn Lane: Concert band, tenor saxophone, senior

Meadville Area Senior High

Cooper Breckenridge: Chorus, tenor 2, senior

Titusville Area High School

Elizabeth Watkins: Concert band, flute II, junior

Alexis Banner: Chorus, alto 2, senior

Mike Crowley can be reached at (814) 724-6370 or by email at