Armstrong singers head to Harrisburg performance |
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West Shamokin student Olyvia DiDiano will perform at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-Star Choir in Harrisburg Saturday. Friday, March 21, 2014.

Two Armstrong School District students selected for their singing talent are bound for a state choral performance this week.

Cassandra Velcko and Olyvia DiDiano are the only ASD representatives who ranked high enough in regional auditions to advance on to perform at the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association All-Star Choir in Harrisburg on Saturday.

Velcko is from Ford City and is the daughter of Kathy and Tony Velcko. DiDiano is the daughter of David and Maria DiDiano and lives in Kittanning Township.

“Singing has always been a big part of my life,” said Velcko, a senior at Ford City High School.

She grew up participating in her school choir and at her church, the North Apollo Church of God. And although Velcko sings all styles of music, she has a special love for choral compositions.

In fact, Velcko plans to study music composition at college but won’t know where that will be until she completes a round of university auditions later this spring.

DiDiano, who is a junior at West Shamokin High School, has been involved over the years in choirs at school and at St. Mary Mother of God Parish church in Yatesboro.

But she also recalls her days as a young child singing with her sister, Haley, and their cousins during family get-togethers.

“My grandmother and great-grandmother would teach us songs, and we’d have to sing them in front of everybody —we’d put on plays and choreograph everything,” she said, laughing as she named songs, including “That’s Amore” and “You are my Sunshine.”

She plans to study speech pathology at college and would like to minor in music.

DiDiano and Velcko credit their school music teachers for their success in getting so far and to vocal coach Emily Crossley, a former Kittanning High School music teacher who gives private lessons to both of them.

“Mr. Josh Myer deserves a lot of credit for encouraging me, for his excellent research and for giving me a lot of help with auditions,” Velcko said.

DiDiano said West Shamokin’s music teacher Cathie Reefer has put in a lot of after-school hours helping her prepare for the upcoming concert.

Velcko, an alto, and DiDiano, a soprano, will be putting in hours of practice on Thursday and Friday in Hershey.

At least eight songs will be performed, including one in Russian and one in Latin. The songs chosen for the performance include music from different cultures and time periods, Velcko said.

While attending the PMEA All-State concert, DiDiano plans to audition for the All-East concert next year and will be judged on one of the songs she has been preparing for.

“It was hard learning the languages. We had to do some research,” DiDiano said.

“They really hammer the pronunciation because that’s something we’re judged on,” she said.

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-543-1303 or [email protected].

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