BFA Hosts Vermont’s 96th All State Music Festival

Dr. Brian Messier conduction concert band 
Photo credit: Eric Bushey

Dr. Brian Messier conduction concert band Photo credit: Eric Bushey

Reilly Babinski, Writer

From May 11-13, Bellows Free Academy St. Albans hosted the 96th All-State Music Festival. This festival started in the 1920s and was held only in Burlington until the 80s when the festival started to move around the state.

According to Eric Bushey, the band director at BFA St. Albans, BFA was one of the first schools to host All-States in the early 80s, then again in the 90s, 2011 and now in 2023. 

Students were chosen through an audition process that happened in January at Hartford High School.  They could audition for either chorus, jazz ensemble, orchestra or concert band. “The music went out to the kids in March and April, and now they are coming together at BFA,” Bushey said. 

May 11 was the first day most of the ensembles practiced together with the exception of the jazz band who had met the week before.

The practices on Thursday, Friday and Saturday would lead up to the final performance on Saturday, May 13th, but there were performances on Thursday and Friday night as well. 

According to Bushey, Thursday night featured “The students who auditioned for a scholarship and were outstanding in different categories such as voice, percussion, brass, woodwind and piano.” The jazz scholarship students performed the following night during the jazz concert. 

Bushey said that the conductors who lead the ensembles are chosen by the state and often are nationally or even internationally known. One of whom is Dr. Brian Messier (’99), the band director at Dartmouth College, who is a 1999 BFA graduate and one of Bushey’s first students.

According to Bushey, BFA hosting the All-State Music Festival means a lot to the school and to him.

“I think music is one of those types of activities where you get everybody from around the state together and everyone’s auditioning against themselves really to do their best. Once they’re placed in an ensemble, it’s collaborative, and we’re working together. This is really a community,” Bushey said.