When Rowan Travis heard his preschool teacher play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb’ on the piano — the official “clean up song” of the classroom, he was hooked.
“I wanted to play piano,” the Homer High School senior said.
And it took six months of nagging before his parents relented. They were leery of sending a little boy of 5, who didn’t even know how to read English, to piano lessons to learn to read music. And would he lose interest in two weeks?
Travis’ interest never waned.
He’s still taking piano lessons, now with Marina Gorelaya, a classical pianist, and is as dedicated as ever to music.
Travis and fellow senior Christopher DeLage represented Homer High School at four-day, competitive high school music conferences:
DeLage at the All-National Mixed Choir in Orlando, Florida, getting to meet Z. Randall Stroope, a renowned composer and conductor; Travis at All-State Mixed Choir in Rochester. Both are low basses, able to sing the lowest notes on the scale.
The two have been singing in groups since about the fifth grade. “We have been in pretty much every chorus together,” DeLage said.
This year, they are in the school’s concert choir and the Blue Notes jazz chorus. DeLage sings for St. Margaret’s Church choir, which he joined when he was 6, and Travis is in “Cinderella the Musical.” Travis also plays French horn and the xylophone in the band.
“It was amazing,” said DeLage, who stayed at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., from Nov. 24 to 27. “I got to meet a lot of people from all around the country. My roommate was from Washington state. He talked about his music program, talked about his state program. It was fascinating to hear all the experiences. We got together to do concerts.”
“I got to meet a conductor for which I have been singing his stuff since sixth grade,” he added of Stroope.
DeLage got to shake Stroope’s hand and converse with him. He asked what song he’d recommend for the Homer choir.
“He was very insightful, a really nice guy, not afraid to be eccentric to get his point across. A lot of fun to work with. He’s written over 300 pieces of music. He remembered every note from every piece.”
Travis, who was in Rochester Nov. 30 to Dec. 3, worked under David Fryling of Hofstra University with singers from across New York.
“It was honestly one of the best weeks of my life,” Travis said. “Being around all the people that are so passionate about what I am passionate about, making new friends … to be able to stand in line and randomly strike up a conversation. Everyone was so nice.”
He’d be humming a part in line, and someone else would sing their part and someone behind would sing their part.
“Ten to 20 people would be singing.”
Travis had to get a perfect score on his spring New York State Schools Music Association solo to be eligible for the All Choir experience.
“Then this year, there was a lot of work that got put into it, for both of us,” Travis said.
“You have to get a 100 on college level music,” said Cara McLaughlin, vocal and classroom music teacher at Homer. “You have to get a 100 and be the best. At all-nationals, you have to get into all-state in your junior year and sing a cappella and be videotaped.”
That’s just for the application. It required daily practice.
DeLage did a four-part song, “Sing We At Pleasure,” as a video audition for the national competition. And being mindful he was up against so many stellar New York singers, he supplemented his application with the German song, “All Soul’s Day.”
“We would come in here,” said DeLage of the chorus room. “Rowan would play the piano. But it was more fun than work.”
They would tackle “All Soul’s Day,” in German. The language is difficult, he said.
“There are a lot of vowels you don’t use in English and noises you wouldn’t normally do.”
“They are just really dedicated,” McLaughlin said. “They like being involved.”