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'Friends' start year strong

Having started four decades ago, the Niskayuna Friends of Music is no spring chicken, but this year's program shows the group is still going strong.

A series of concert performances that started last week drew impressive attendance at a kick-off event, and ambitious plans are in the works for the visit of Francois la Roux, an artist from South Africa who is expected to make Niskayuna the hub of attention when he arrives on Monday, Nov. 13, for a three-day stint in local schools.

I guess the best way to look at it is that we are not 40 years old, we are 40 years young, said Diane Smith, the group's president. "We really want to showcase the talent of our students while giving them the opportunity to have a lifelong appreciation and love for music. And I don't want to underestimate the quality of our faculty either. There is some extraordinary talent in Niskayuna."

Starting cautiously as an informal group of parents and supporters in 1966, the Friends of Music is a volunteer organization dedicated to fostering music education, performance and enjoyment for the students of the Niskayuna school district.

The current school year is broken into four different concert series, with each one offering free high school and middle school music performances for local residents. Along with bringing the community together, Friends of Music provides scholarships and assistance to those participating in music competitions. Last week their support paid off when it was announced that four high school students were selected to perform at the Area All State Festival sponsored by the New York State School Music Association.

Sean Douglas will join the symphonic band on his trombone, Kelsey Lamb will play percussion with the wind ensemble, Leo Brown will play his violin with the symphony and Emma Ladouceur will sing alto with the choir. Three Niskayuna students, Matt Connolly, Alex Goldberg and Kendra Lamb have been chosen as alternates for the performances being held on Nov. 17 and 18 at Saratoga Springs High School. This two-day activity is considered the premier school music event in the region.

"The more support we get from members, the more programming we can do," Smith explained. "The biggest bulk of our fundraising comes from membership dues. Niskayuna Friends of Music really is a member-driven organization, and we are always looking for more parents or supporters to join. We want to help develop a love of music among our students and to nurture that so it will stay with them throughout their lives."

For more information on the Friends of Music or their upcoming activities, contact them at http://www.nisk.k12.ny.us/departments/fom. ""

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