Andes' Jade Litaker earns acceptance into Berklee Summer Music Program

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By John Bernhardt
“My heart is singing for joy this morning! A miracle has happened! The light of understanding has shone upon my little pupil’s mind, and behold, all things have changed.” —Anne Sullivan

Andes Central School teachers Sandy Reynolds and Tamara Tisch had to be feeling a little bit like Anne Sullivan, Helen Keller’s remarkable teacher and companion of long ago, when they learned that their pupil, Jade Litaker had been accepted into the Berklee College of Music’s Summer Program.

Litaker, a junior, is the shiniest jewel in the ACS music program, and her acceptance notification at the largest and most comprehensive summer music program anywhere in the world is testament of her potential.

This summer Litaker will be one of 1,000 participants from across America and 70 countries around the world to gather on the Berklee campus in Boston to experience the summer of a lifetime at the world’s most prestigious institution for the study of contemporary music.

Vocal praise
“Jade has arguably one of the best natural singing voices of any student I’ve ever worked with,” reported Reynolds, her vocal teacher at Andes.

Litaker will engage in an intense week of study emphasizing mastery of singing performance skills in her chosen style of contemporary music. The week includes private instruction, classes, workshops, rehearsals, performances, and lectures and demonstrations led by Berklee’s world-class faculty.

As part of her week, Litaker will audition for music scholarships. Some $3.5 million in scholarships are awarded to five-week students through audition each summer.

Associaton’s assistance
The New York State School Music Association is the catalyst behind Litaker’s selection. Each spring Sandy Reyolds, the vocal music instructor at Andes, and music accompanist Janice Armstrong, prepare Litaker and several other students to be evaluated at an adjudication festival in Norwich.
Based on their musical ability, students perform at NYSSMA festivals at one of six performance levels. Singing at level six, the most complex performance level, Litaker has dazzled festival judges with near perfect performances for several years.

Those NYSSMA judge’s evaluation sheets were all the Berklee selection committee needed to see when choosing Litaker as a participant in the 2012 Five Week music program.

Recognizing Litaker’s unique talents, Andes is using their unique “smallness” to help prepare Litaker for a possible career in music. Litaker is the only student in an accelerated music theory course taught by Titch designed to provide Jade with advanced music instruction typically available to students at much larger schools.

Singing competition
Part of Litaker’s instruction includes Face-Off Friday’s a singing competition Titch designed to assist her student in making a more serious commitment to her movie theater goals. Much like television’s popular reality singing competitions, ACS has a weekly sing-off of its own. Titch hopes that in engaging her star student in these weekly competitions, Litaker will better understand the effort and preparation required of success in the music industry while, at the same time, gaining confidence and stage presence as a performer.

Each week, Titch and Litaker square off in a singing competition judged against performance criteria by a panel of students and any staff members who view both performances. Judges use a rubric to evaluate performances against indicators in several areas; voice quality, stage presence, uniqueness of performance and overall performance. Song choice and preparation varies and includes multiple genres including punk rock, jazz with scatting, operatic, music theater, rhythm and blues, pop hits, level 6 NYSSMA solo selections, duets, house music, and more. The competition will culminate with Titch battling Litaker in a battling duet on the final day of school.

Making a difference
“Our Face-Off Friday is slowly beginning to have an impact,” Titch relays. “Jade’s confidence and stage presence have seen a boost. Most importantly, Jade is beginning to appreciate the role effort and preparation play in quality performance. The nice thing is when Jade wins I win,” smiled Titch.