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Dionte James to sing in All-State choir ensemble

Dionte James

There is no shortage of ambitious singers in the Middletown High School choir room eager for the spotlight, but Senior Dionte James’ first priority is finding the joy in performing with his friends. 

However, the spotlight will find him in Rochester on December 1-4. Dionte will be the lone Middletown representative at the New York State School Music Association’s (NYSSMA) All-State choir ensemble. He’ll be performing with nearly 150 of the best high school singers from around the state.

Every spring, NYSSMA attracts thousands of orchestra, band, and choir sophomores and juniors to audition and be evaluated by a certified adjudicator. Their solo piece is graded out of 90 points with an additional sight-reading test worth 10 points. Dionte’s hard work paid off with a perfect score (100) and an invitation to this prestigious experience. 

While he doesn’t believe he deserves this honor, his friends believe otherwise.

“Dionte has always been a dedicated member to the music department… Whenever you need help with singing a certain part, you can always turn to him,” his longtime classmate Stephen Yupa said. “He has always been such a supportive friend to me and others around him. His generosity irradiates onto others and lifts the spirit of all.”

Dionte sings in the Bass section of several music groups at Middletown High School, including Chamber Singers, Men’s Chorus, and Pipers. He has been involved in chorus since Maple Hill Elementary School with the now-retired Mrs. Antoinette DePasquale. Since then, he has been inspired by Twin Towers Middle School’s chorus teacher Mrs. Kathryn Lucas and coached by Middletown High School’s chorus teacher Mr. Gregory Bennett. However, his support in music extends past friends and teachers in the choir room, and to his family at home. 

Dionte’s mother has always kept him on track with his auditions, and making sure he doesn’t miss out on an opportunity to perform. Even his older sister, who was not a musician but was in ROTC, found ways to help him with what she does know: presentation.

“My sister recorded how I looked and stood out – trying to project myself with singing,” Dionte said. “She critiqued me a lot!”

Dionte’s love of music permeates throughout his school day. His audition piece got so stuck in his head that was involuntarily humming the song when going from class to class. He has been a member of All-County and Area All-State ensembles, but this is his first All-State invitation. Dionte is looking forward to hearing new, amazing voices, and having the opportunity to make new friends from all over the state.

But All-State isn’t the only occasion where Dionte will be able to experience this. He hopes to be invited to this year’s All-County festival, where he will sing with scholars from around Orange County. Dionte has already been selected to the Area All-State ensemble, where he will sing with scholars from around Orange County, as well as surrounding areas. 

The biggest honor would be the invitation to the National Association For Music Education’s (NAFME) All-Eastern Conference, where the best singers from across the east coast will be brought together. This may include Dionte, and his classmates Stephen Yupa (Senior, Bass I), David Atakora (Senior, Bass II), and Valerie DelValle (Junior, Alto II). The results will be announced in mid-November.

Dionte’s choir teacher, Mr. Gregory Bennet, has faith that he can go far. “The sky’s the limit for him. Who knows what he’s gonna do after he leaves here.”

Dionte credits his Middletown friends with giving him the confidence and courage to put himself out there. He believes that the many years of preparing for auditions together will become fond memories for all of them as they set off in their various directions in life. Dionte isn’t certain where exactly his direction is pointing, but he’s inclined towards a career in music. 

But one thing is for certain, his Senior Year musical journey is only just beginning!