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Valerie Del Valle Accepted to the All-Eastern Music Ensemble; The Third in 30 Years
Middletown High School junior Valerie Del Valle is making music department history!
Valerie is the first Middletown scholar in 22 years to earn a place in the National Association for Music Education All-Eastern Honors Ensemble. She will perform with musicians from 11 states, the District of Columbia and Europe on April 13-16 in Rochester. Valerie sings Alto 2 in the high school’s audition-based Chamber Singers ensemble, and was accepted into this year’s All-Eastern Treble Choir.
“Selection to [the All-Eastern Treble Choir] is not easy or common, for any student or school district,” said long-time MHS choral director Gregory Bennett. “It is the highest honor that a school-musician can accomplish during their academic career.”
This accomplishment puts Valerie in the same group as some well-regarded Middletown alumni. Kelly Esposito was the first to be selected in 1993, and she now owns a local music education business. The second instance was in 2001 by Aaron Tveit, now a Broadway star. Valerie is only the third person from Middletown to receive this opportunity. What’s even more unique about Valerie is that, unlike Aaron or Kelly, she has never taken private voice lessons. Valerie didn’t expect such an honor to come to her until she read her “Congratulations” email.
“I was really shocked,” Valerie said, “because when I started off singing, I wasn’t really that confident.”
That doesn’t mean Valerie isn’t familiar with the demands of musical excellence. In addition to her involvement in Chamber Singers, she is a member of the audition-based groups Wind Ensemble and Chamber Orchestra. She also performs in Jazz Band and the new Modern Band. Valerie picked up the violin at 8 years old, and added the flute to her skillset in her sophomore year. Recently, she started learning the oboe and alto saxophone. Valerie finds joy in learning new instruments, and believes it helps her gain a better understanding of an ensemble as a whole.
With Valerie’s many musical commitments, she tries to practice every day - but with a special approach. She doesn’t always sing or take out her instruments. Sometimes she just listens to her music pieces and analyzes. She looks for the most difficult sections, identifies where her stamina and range might be challenged, and sees how her part interacts with the others in the ensemble.
Eligibility for the All-State and All-Eastern Honors Ensembles requires an audition with a Level 6 solo piece, the most challenging level in the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) repertoire, and a sight reading test. The musician’s score of both, combined with the adjudicator’s written comments, are taken into consideration when selecting scholars for the ensembles. Valerie earned an audition score of 99 out of 100 during the NYSSMA Festival last May.
Valerie’s meticulous attention and dedication to her music doesn’t end with scheduling time to practice. In the days leading up to her NYSSMA audition last year, she turned down a friend’s prom invitation to keep her voice in good condition.
“She represents the spirit of what hard work, effort, and perseverance means,” Mr. Bennett said.
However, like most people that lived through the COVID-19 pandemic, Valerie had her share of struggles. For four months, she barely picked up her violin or practiced singing. But when in-person learning returned, Valerie gained a new love of music, which drove her to take advantage of musical instrument education.
Soon Valerie will meet music-lovers just like herself at All-Eastern. One of the major things that scholars look forward to in these regional ensembles is the chance to meet fellow musicians. Valerie is a more reserved person, and finds that sharing a space with like-minded people makes for an easier experience forming friendships. She’s also excited for the chance to perform more challenging music pieces, and hear the band ensembles play.
Kelly Esposito-Broelmann, the first Middletown scholar to attend All-Eastern, remembers the experience as incredible. “...It’s an honor that not many receive,” she said. “...It’s a huge accomplishment for [Valerie], for MHS, and for the Middletown community!”
Despite not having in-person education in her first year, and the fact that she’s not even done with her junior year, Valerie is very satisfied with all the accomplishments and experiences she has been able to achieve so far. As she looks ahead to her post-high school plans, Valerie hopes to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a marine biologist. However, Valerie is determined to incorporate her love of music into her future.