SOUTH PORTLAND — Kaelan Gildart and Jonathan DeRoche, two South Portland High School juniors and vocalists, will perform in the 2021 All-Eastern Honors Ensemble, premiering April 23.

The students will join high school musicians in Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont for a virtual weekend in March, announced the National Association for Music Education Eastern Division.

“This year, students will individually record their performance from home, led by a virtual performance of their
conductor,” NAfME Eastern Division said in a release. “The recordings will be edited together to produce a virtual ensemble for the concert performance. The concert will be premiered on April 23rd at 8:30 p.m. during the designated concert hour at the 57th NAfME Eastern Division Virtual In-Service Conference.”

DeRoche has been interested in music since fifth grade when he was given an opportunity to perform in the high school’s musical that year, he said.

Since then, he has come to love performing music, writing songs as well as meeting friends through music festivals and events, and he was thrilled to discover that he had been accepted to All-Eastern Honor Ensembles this year, he said.

“Overall, it’s going to be weird because COVID makes everything music that much more difficult, but I’m excited to see where it takes me,” DeRoche said. “It’ll be very, very cool.”

South Portland High School Junior Jonathan DeRoche was selected to perform in the NAfME 2021 All-Eastern Honors Ensemble. Courtesy photo Jonathan DeRoche

The weekend event will give students something to look forward to and have fun doing, he said.

“It’s nice to have social interaction and I’m a social person, so it’s been kind of weird not to have that,” DeRoche said.

DeRoche is thankful for South Portland High School’s support as well, he said.

“I love my teachers,” he said. “They’ve helped me out tons through the years. They’re the reason I’m able to do this, because South Portland High School pays for things like All-Eastern.”

When Gildart learned she was accepted to All-Eastern Honors Ensemble, she was thrilled, she said.

“I honestly was worried I might not get in at all just cause it was a simple application process and you didn’t have to send in any auditions or anything,” she said. “So it was just previous stuff, and I didn’t know if I met their standards just with that, but I was really excited when I found out that I did get in.”

As a singer, Gildart enjoys acting while she sings, adding character to the songs, she said.

Kaelan Gildart is a vocalist and junior at South Portland High School. Courtesy photo Kaelan Gildart

“I do definitely get nervous but once I’m on stage I find it really fulfilling and exciting and I like getting to play a different part every time,” she said. “It’s really fun to put myself in the shoes of another person whether it’s fictional or not and fulfill the role of whatever story I’m trying to tell on stage.”

Although the honors event this year is virtual, bringing a set of new challenges, the format allows for singers to submit their best takes for the final performance in April, Gildart said.

The pandemic has caused frustrations for music students, but the allowance for a virtual performance will be overall beneficial, she said.

“I definitely know for me and some others, including my friends, this is something we want to do as a career, and it really helps us get through quarantine, like performing virtually,” Gildart said. “It’s definitely beneficial to our mental health.”

Gildart said one of her favorite parts about doing music events is meeting people from other regions, states and schools.

“It’s really fun for me, and I love getting to see how other people approach the music and how other people sing and what their techniques are and just socializing in general,” she said.

Both students plan on continuing musical education and performances after high school, they said.

Gildart plans to study musical theater in college, she said.

Through music programs and classes at school, DeRoche finds his peers accepting of everyone, and there is a mix of competition and cooperation, he said.

“It’s kind of grown up with me and I think I would be a lot less happy in life if I wasn’t involved in music,” he said. “I would have different friends, be a different person. Even if somewhere down the road I don’t go anywhere involving music, I would still be doing music and community theater. I’d still be active in that kind of community.”

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