All-State Music Festival Offers Valuable Experience, Strengthens Ensemble

(Above: Students from several schools in Rhode Island at the All-State Music Festival.)

Among the nearly 800 Rhode Island students who performed Sunday, March 26 at the 83rd Annual All-State Festival, hosted by Rhode Island Music Education Association (RIMEA) at the VETS in Providence, were nine student musicians from Portsmouth Abbey School. Playing in the All-State Orchestra were Katherine Choi ’23, Steve Cheon ’24, Nathan Lee ’24 and Jennifer Shon ’25. Bo Howenstein ’24, Gavin Liu ’25 and Jennifer Rui ’25 played in the All-State Concert Band, and Rebecca Li ’24 and Alaina Zhang ’25 sang in the All-State Chorus.

The group was accompanied by the School’s Director of Instrumental Music Joe Bentley, who later addressed the students, “Congratulations on a successful All-State weekend! We are all so proud of you for all of your hard work and dedication. This is the biggest crew we've sent to All-State since I've been at Portsmouth Abbey, and I'm so glad that our department is growing and achieving more and more every year.”

Beginning with two full days of rehearsals with other participating schools on Friday and Saturday, Sunday consisted of multiple performances, in each of the three categories. Jennifer Shon ’25, a passionate violinist and Abbey student, says although the weekend was “pretty demanding and arduous,” she felt the students’ effort was completely worth it and that their hard work paid off. This festival was Shon’s first time in the senior All-State Orchestra, which she says provided “an enormous array of orchestra experience.”

The RIMEA lauded the participants on their website, which reads, “Congratulations to all for thirteen truly magnificent performances!” 

The devotion of her peers to Abbey Sinfonia is, as Shon puts it, “deserving of great respect.” She shares the ensemble’s music is developed and created with the cooperation of the gathering of these students and the passion of their conductor, Mr. Bentley. Noting the level of commitment, Shon says the ensemble keeps “our love of music alive” and “as a result, the students likely become enthusiastic through engaging with music, which is what the Sinfonia strives to do.”

Abbey students are encouraged to always do their best. Through the All-State process, Shon says motivating herself to get through it has strengthened her passion for playing the violin. Asked about the biggest takeaway from the whole experience, Shon said, “I am extremely grateful for the experience it gave me and how supportive the Abbey was throughout the entirety of the process: the auditions, numerous rehearsals and even on concert day.”

Photos courtesy of Alaina Zhang, Jennifer Shon and Rebecca Li.