All-State Groups: Part of our Heritage

NOTES DA CAPO - By John L. Puffenbarger
November 1989

Music educators in our state have long recognized the importance of all-state groups, which give talented young musicians from across the state an opportunity to perform with their peers in an outstanding organization.

All-state groups in West Virginia were first organized during the late 1920s. In 1931 the fifth annual West Virginia All- State Orchestra and Chorus (there was no All-State Band) gave concerts on the evening programs of the West Virginia Education Association meeting in Charleston. It was not until many years later that the groups played as part of the WVMEA Conference.

Orchestras were very strong in those days as 143 students from 25 schools comprised the All-State Orchestra. In the All- State Chorus 198 students from 25 schools participated. The programs were presented to capacity audiences at the Charleston High School auditorium.

The West Virginia School Journal reviewed the concerts and stated, "The instrumentation of' the orchestra left some things to be desired in the way of some of the woodwinds and some of the lower string parts and was also a little overbalanced in the brass and clarinet sections. The concert given by this organization, however, was accounted the finest work, yet heard in West Virginia." In reference to the chorus concert the School Journal wrote, "'The organization of the voice parts in the chorus was beautifully balanced and from many sources was regarded as the best concert that has been heard in this series of assembling the young folks from the high schools in West Virginia."

We should always recognize the contributions of music teachers who work behind the scenes. Some of their names appear frequently throughout the years. These programs were under the general direction of J. Henry Francis, director of music education in the Charleston schools. Karl V. Brown, supervisor of music in the Spencer schools, was general chair for the chorus, while the chorus conductors were Marie D. Boette, supervisor of music in Parkersburg, and Francis. The accompanist was Christine Johnson of Point Pleasant. Henry C. Shadwell, director of industrial music in Huntington, served as general chair for the orchestra, while the directors were Francis and Shadwell. Sectional directors and their schools included Lucy Jackson, South Charleston; Virginia Cooper, Moundsville; Olla Walton, West Union, Gladys Medley, Elkview. Magdalene Servais, Dunbar, Virginia Brand, Wheeling (Triadelphia), and Alta Cherrington, Huntington.

Sectional directors for the orchestra were John Swales, Parkersburg; Katherine Moore, Fairmont, Marguerite Cormany, Stotesbury; Sadie Lidin, Pennsboro; F. Oliver Edwards, Wheeling; Stefano Ceo, Wheeling (Triadelphia); W. Conrad Paff, Saint Marys; Harry Bowman, Montgomery; F,.W. Nalbach, East Bank; Glenn Sallack, Beckley; and M. F. Fortney, Elkview.

In lieu of an all-state band. a band contest was promoted by the Wheeling Chamber of Commerce in witch nine high school bands participated, including five from Ohio. Walter Metrezat, director of the West Virginia University band, was the adjudicator. The West Virginia bands were Triadelphia District's (Wheeling) state champions, Warwood (Wheeling), Wheeling, and New Martinsville. Because of hard feeling created by the band contests, they were eliminated in 1935 and replaced by "festivals". (More about this later).

(Please send pictures or other items of historical interest to John L. Puffenbarger, P.O. Box 6, Buckhannon, WV 26201).