NORTH POCONO – When it comes to hard work paying off, there's few students who appreciate that quite the same way as North Pocono High School's talented band, orchestra and chorus kids.

There are some of those musicians and singers who go above and beyond what is expected of them, and compete to place themselves among the most talented students in district and regional music festivals.

The North Pocono High School sits within Pennsylvania Music Educators Association's District 9, which reaches from the New York border, down through the Scranton and Wilkes-Barre areas and down to Hazelton. To say it covers a wide swath of schools is an understatement.

This year, a number of North Pocono musicians and singers worked their way through several levels of PMEA festivals, which is no easy task.

Michele DelPrete, choral director, explained that in order to make it to the district festival performance, students have a few months to practice and audition a piece of music selected for the concert. This practice is all on their own time, of course, in addition to normal school and extracurricular activities.

“It's a lot of work for the kids,” said Michele DelPrete.

Those students who make it through the initial audition into Districts then must rank a certain level in order to audition for Regionals and States. Then, every two years, there's an opportunity to perform in the All Eastern competition, which is only available to students who've placed in the state level the year before.

“You have to make it to next level based on where you're at [in the previous level],” said DelPrete. “It's a pretty big deal for kids. And for us as their teachers at the school.”

Each festival usually represents about three days at a host school, a time constraint that could impacted schoolwork if fellow teachers didn't appreciate the importance of these festivals.

“Often times these students are missing two days of school for these festivals,” said DelPrete. “Teachers are very supportive of that.”

DelPrete explained that the point of these festivals is to expose students to more challenging music – something they might not get during normal school band or choral practice.

At the festival, students experience working with a new conductor, usually from a major university, and performing music that might not be performed at their own school, whether it due to different instrumental or vocal parts, different ensembles or something that's more challenging than what high school musicians and chorus members are used to performing.

DelPrete explained that the PMEA festivals represent a wonderful opportunity for students who intend to pursue music after high school, in addition to private study.

Another hope is that students involved in the festivals will bring that experience back and inspire other students.

“Any time you have that varied experience – that's gonna just help strengthen not only the kids personally, but they bring that back to our programs and it helps strengthen our programs,” DelPrete said.

The festivals are also a time for band and high school teachers throughout the region to mingle, network and to bring back what they've learned to their own school.

None of this would have been possible without a supportive backbone of the school and community.

“Between our faculty, our administration as well as our community – they're just so supportive of the arts here,” DelPrete explained. “We're very blessed in that regard. We're very thankful our students have these opportunities.”

The North Pocono festival participants were:

District Band participants: Daniel Jaggars (clarinet), Tony Zou (percussion).

Regional Band participant: Daniel Jaggars (clarinet).

All State Concert Band participant: Daniel Jaggars (clarinet).

All Eastern Concert Band participant: Craig Beavers (tuba).

District Chorus participant: Kaitlin Shanley (soprano 2).

District Orchestra participants: Cody Bellucci (cello), Jason Chen (violin), Jonathan Haikes (bass), Ian Hipps (violin), Daniel Jaggars (clarinet), Liam McGee (violin), Amanda Murphy (violin).

Regional Orchestra participants: Jonathan Haikes (bass), Ian Hipps (violin), Daniel Jaggars (clarinet), Amanda Murphy (violin).

All State Orchestra participant: Ian Hipps (violin).