FRYEBURG, Maine — This year marks the 27th year of the Berklee Jazz Festival, held in Boston, and the nearly three decades that Fryeburg Academy’s award-winning music program has participated in the prestigious event.

Sadly this year also marks the end of an era for the festival: After 51 years of operation by Berklee College of Music, the college announced the festival’s suspension this year to reallocate funds to financial aid.

“As an alumna of Berklee College of Music, I’m sad to see that the decision to suspend the festival has been made,” says FA’s Music Director Mimi Rohlfing.

“I’ve loved sharing this amazing place with my students, and I know our students have looked forward to the constructive critique, camaraderie, and the bounty of astounding music they can consume in that one special day. However, I love change. Both Mr. (Mike) Sakash (Fryeburg Academy Arts Department chair), and I see it as an opportunity to expose our students to new musical and cultural experiences in the future.”

At this year’s festival, several Fryeburg Academy students received recognition for outstanding performances: Georgia Stafford earned the Judges’ Choice Award for her vocal jazz ensemble performance, and the ensemble received an Outstanding Musicianship Award for the school’s division.

Matt Gunther and Simon St. Pierre also received Judges’ Choice Awards for their instrumental performances in the New Standard Combo and Fryeburg Academy Big Band.

“The Fryeburg Academy Big Band played extremely well and rated sixth among some of the best high school big bands in the country,” said Sakash.

FA students named to the District II Honors Choral Festival that performed on Feb. 1 in Cumberland, Maine, were: Ayanna Ward, Alanceiah Waiters (featured in a solo for the second year in a row), McKenna McGrath, Sharlah-Mae Day, Grace Marshall and David Marshall.

FA students named to the District II Honors Jazz Band and Choir to be hosted by Yarmouth High School on April 1 are: Georgia Stafford (top alto in the district for the second year in a row), Alanceiah Waiters, Taylor Gunther, Arvin Ma, Brendan Simkins and Simon St. Pierre (first chair alto saxophone for the district).

“It’s a big accomplishment to be named to District II,” said Rohlfing. “The district is very large and includes schools like Gould Academy and the towns of Lewiston, Auburn, as well as Falmouth and Greely. Students from a large portion of the state compete to earn places in these ensembles.”

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