Making music at Green Mountain: The community of chorale in the county’s little town that could

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CIRCLES OF COMMUNITY  |  By JOANNA TEBBS YOUNG

I’ve written before about my admiration for the little town that could, aka Poultney. For such a little town it sure has a lot to offer in terms of shopping, eating, and entertainment. Well, you can also add to those accolades its cultural contributions: talks, writing groups and symposiums, an art center, and music.
And it is music that will be heard this spring at the focal point of Poultney’s Main Street: Green Mountain College (GMC). Within the walls of the white-columned Ackley Hall in its adorable little theatre I have heard and been very impressed by GMC’s well-dressed (and well-traveled) choir, which, directed by Associate Professor and Music Department Chair, James P. Cassarino, is equally comfortable performing gospel, folk, or popular music as it is classical.

And so they should. Their director brings with him vast experience and ability, which, after leaving his native Rutland to pursue his education, Cassarino brought back with him to Vermont in 1998 when he joined the faculty of GMC. With degrees in organ performance, music history, sacred music, and musicology from Castleton State College, Ball State University in Indiana, St. John’s University in New York City, and the University of Wales, Bangor in North Wales. With a post graduate degree in Welsh music, Cassarino is considered an authority in both the United States and Wales in Welsh-American music traditions.
He now conducts the college choir and the GMC/Community Concert Band, and since 2003, has been chair of the music department. And in his “spare time,” Cassarino directs the choir and plays the organ at Trinity

Episcopal Church in Rutland, where he has been Music Director since 2004.

“I can’t imagine not being involved in making music,” says Cassarino. “I’ve always considered it a privilege to direct choirs and instrumental ensembles because of the deep bonds that are made when we come together to rehearse, perform and to share our passion. Music is necessary.”

Music, like all the arts, according to Cassarino, brings people together. “Singing in particular helps us define who we are: our faith, joys, longings, values, and even love.”

But these connections happen through instrumental music also as Cassarino has found in the GMC/Community Concert Band. Composed of both students and musicians from around the area, the band is “a testament to community,” says Cassarino. “It is a joy to see musicians from throughout central Vermont converge on campus every week to play with GMC students. They are very nurturing with the students and friendships are developed.”

For all their ability, Cassarino notes that many of his students had never participated in music until their arrival at GMC. “I’m proud of the fact that by building the GMC music program, I have been able to expose students to all kinds of musical traditions and help them find their own musical voice.”

Having been an audience member, I can tell you that his tutelage reaps results. And I am not alone in this appreciation, as Cassarino points out. “We enjoy the enthusiasm that community shows us at our concerts.”
And now is your chance to show your own enthusiasm for quality music just down the road in the tiny cultural mecca of Poultney. Details for the two upcoming Spring concerts are below.

Friday, April 25 at 7:30 in Ackley Hall
Annual Spring Concert Band Performance
The GMC/Community Concert Band will perform its annual spring concert playing works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Debussy, Rimsky Korsakov, traditional Irish selections, and Billy Joel.  Directed by James Cassarino, the band includes students, faculty, and members of the community.  The concert is free and open to the public.

Friday, May 2 – 7:00 in Ackley Hall
The Green Mountain College Choir presents “In Nature’s Realm”
The GMC Choir, under the direction of James Cassarino, will present a program celebrating nature and our relationship with It. Highlights will include works by Haydn, Hovhaness, Randall Thompson, Dvoák, Ann MacDonald Diers, and John Rutter.  Several of the works are inspired by the nature writings of Henry Beston, Robert Frost, and Walt Whitman. The concert is free and open to the public.

This week’s Writing Prompt
Each week I will post two prompts related to this week’s article; one for personal insight and one for a creative springboard. Let them lead you where you want to go.

  • Prompt 1: Music to me is…
  • Prompt 2:  The auditorium was half full…

Joanna Tebbs Young is a writer and writing and creativity facilitator living in Rutland.
E-MAIL: joanna@wisdomwithinink.com
WEBSITE: wisdomwithinink.com
TWITTER: @jtebbsyoung