Back to Article
Back to Article


Peyton Bigora, Staff Writer

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

Some of the East End’s top music students gathered together and performed at the Hamptons Music Educators’ Association music festival on February 3, 2018. The Hamptons Music Educators Association (HMEA) performance includes a choir, orchestra, band, and jazz band.

HMEA seeks out students on the East End of Long Island who are musically inclined with a plan of pursuing music after high school. Students are nominated by their teachers and then selected by those running HMEA. The selection process weighs heavily on each student’s New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) score. NYSSMA scores are based off of a student’s solo performance in front of a judge. Therefore, the higher the score, the higher a student’s chances are of being accepted into HMEA or other music performances including SCMEA and NYSCAME.

WHB senior Angela Yu expanded on how students are selected for HMEA.  “To be nominated… your teacher must nominate you if they feel you are a good candidate to play in this select band,” Yu said.

Once nominated, HMEA officials look at students’ New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) scores. According to Yu, “These scores are based off evaluated performances students give to judges; they range from a score out of 28 for the first four levels and out of 100 for levels 5, 6, and those applying for All-State with a Level 6.” The bottom line: the higher the score, the higher a chance of being selected.

According to Mr. Seifert, “Over sixty band, chorus, and jazz ensemble students were nominated for HMEA. Over forty were selected, and ultimately, thirty-seven participated.”

WHB music educators prepare students weeks before official HMEA rehearsals begin. Choir instructor, Ms. Pawluk, claimed, “It is incredibly important that students hear what the piece sounds like before they sing it… in this way, they have the main idea of how the work is shaped, what the phrasing is, dynamics and even emotions.”

Mr. Seifert does the same with his students beginning after Thanksgiving. “Mr. MacDougall [a fellow WHB music teacher] and I hold extra rehearsals twice a week for all of the Band members of HMEA.  We focus on one piece of music per rehearsal, rotating through the four pieces that will be in the concert.”

Considering HMEA rehearsals are exceptionally long– ranging from five to six hours– many not in the music department question why these one-on-one preparations are so vital. According to music teachers though, it is festivals like this that promote music education in schools.

Ms. Pawluk said, “HMEA is definitely an important part of music education. It allows students to have the chance to experience a new environment, new styles of music, an ensemble director and even make friends.”

Mr. Seifert agreed, “It’s a great opportunity for our students to serve as musical ambassadors from Westhampton Beach and it allows students to forge long-lasting musical relationships with students from neighboring districts.”

The 2018 performance was, as usual, a success all around. WHB junior William Jayne said he is “happy with the outcome of HMEA, and Jazz HMEA, and am happy to have partaken in both.”

A particular performance sparked much attention at the festival. The HMEA choir sang a piece composed by Jake Runestad entitled Please Stay. This arrangement is meant to bring awareness to suicide and its effects on, not only those suffering with depression, but those who are in their life. What makes this song so compelling and tear-jerking is not only the lyrics, but the dialogue embedded into it. This dialogue includes the voice of those suffering – “Some days are still such a struggle”– and those who witness the suffering– “Suicide does not get rid of your pain it just passes it on to everyone else.”

Ms. Pawluk finds moving is “the text painting, meaning that the chord structure and movement of each pitch represents the lyrics perfectly. The piece can mean something different to anyone who listens to it.”

The WHB choir instructor hopes the audience takes away and understands “that there are people still struggling, people who have overcome a struggle or those who are helping others with their struggle. It is essential to never lose sight that we are all here to comfort one another and be reminded that our “story is not over;’” just as the song portrays.

Some view HMEA as simply just another high school ensemble, but for the music department and the students involved, it is so much more. It promotes music education in our community, brings people together, and encourages students to be expressive through the arts.