Fleming to deliver keynote address at school music conference

Renee Fleming

World-renowned vocalist Renee Fleming, who grew up in Churchville, will deliver a keynote address at the New York State School Music Association’s CyberSummit2020, a reimagining of the association’s annual winter conference.

The conference annually draws hundreds of students and educators for workshops and professional development opportunities, but this year’s event was canceled in July due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

The new event, said Dr. John J. Gallagher of the New York State School Music Association, “temporarily replaces the traditional All State/Winter Conference held during the first weekend of December in Rochester each year.”

The event will still spotlight 900 of the best student musicians from across the state but has been reimagined into a virtual event due to the pandemic.

Fleming will address those that have registered for the conference at 6 p.m. Thursday. Her remarks will be made live and streamed to those virtually attending the conference.

She is expected to talk about her experiences a s a student in New York’s public schools and at SUNY Potsdam’s Crane School of Music. She will also likely address creative responses to the current public health crisis that has affected many musicians and educators, and the ways music and the arts can have a positive impact beyond performances.

Fleming is a soprano known for her sumptuous voice, consummate artistry and compelling stage presence. She is the recipient of a National Medal of Arts, the nation’s highest honor for an individual artist; and four Grammy Awards. In 2014, she was the first classical artist to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the Super Bowl.

In addition to numerous professional credits on some of the world’s most famous stages, Fleming has also been passionate about the role music education has played in her life.

Music educators — the event has drawn 2,500 educators in the past — have registered for sessions related to classroom music, band, orchestra, chorus, marching band, advocacy, arts administration, and other topics. Some sessions will be presented live, but most have been recorded and uploaded for viewing, said Dr. John J. Gallagher of the New York State School Music Association.

Nine hundred students have again been selected for one of NYSSMA’s eight all state ensembles. The students will work with virtual coaches in addition to their school music teachers to upload their part to one piece of music, rather than the traditional three or so pieces, Gallagher said.

The student videos will be mixed for a virtual concert that will be available for view in February or March.

The All State Conference traditionally occurs during the first weekend in December. Last year was the 84th annual conference and the 22nd to take place in Rochester.

This is only the third time in the Association’s long history that the All State Festival and Winter Conference has been canceled. Previous cancellations occurred during the war years of 1943, 1944 and 1945, and in 1991 when an ice storm caused power outages throughout the state, including the festival site at Kiamesha Lake in Sullivan County.

This year’s festival was canceled July 28, after the selection process for the 2020 All State ensembles was completed. Students were notified in August of their status.

The New York State School Music Association is the largest state affiliate of the National Association for Music Education. Its mission is to advance music education across New York State for its membership and students in member school programs.

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