A first time for everything

Barbara Holzhauer is first diocesan music teacher to manage Onondaga County All-County Music Festival

It was a festival to remember. The Elementary All-County Music Festival for Onondaga County was held April 18 at Nottingham High School in Syracuse. The annual event was especially memorable this year, not just for the more than 300 talented student musicians participating in band, orchestra or chorus and representing over 30

elementary and junior high schools throughout Onondaga County, and their family and friends in attendance: The festival marked the first time a Catholic music teacher had been selected by the Onondaga County Music Educators Association (OCMEA) to manage the event.

   Barbara Holzhauer, a music teacher at Most Holy Rosary School in Syracuse, was thrilled to be asked and accepted the position. “We [the diocese] have never been in the rotation to be concert manager before and I was so honored to be asked,” she said.

   Holzhauer believes the diocese did not previously participate in the rotation of music teachers because Catholic schools in Onondaga County had a smaller presence in the district than public schools.

   Although Holzhauer has been a member of OCMEA for the past ten years, two years ago she was asked to become the diocesan representative for the organization.

   “During the first year I got to meet so many wonderful teachers and this year they asked if I would consider being the manager for the concert,” explained Holzhauer. “I said ‘Sure, if someone can guide me.’”

   Holzhauer, who made the commitment in August 2014, began a nine-month process coordinating and managing key aspects of the music festival from securing a concert facility, ordering the music, finding practice areas and conductors, ordering equipment to juggling the infinite details that go into making an annual event of this size a success.

   “There’s a lot more that goes into this event than people realize,” laughed Holzhauer. “I may be the one to oversee things but there’s no way one person could do all this alone. I had amazing help and so many dedicated volunteers who stepped up to lend a hand. I especially want to thank Mary Kate Walsh from St. Mary’s and St. Rose; Rebecca Russell from Holy Cross; Katherine DeMedicis, a music teacher at Cathedral Academy at Pompei School and Holy Family; Joe Carello and John Rohde from The Band Bus. I relied on these folks for help constantly.”

   Despite the hectic pace for planning the festival, Holzhauer enjoyed every aspect of her role as manager. “OCMEA has been a great organization to be part of. I hope through my efforts at OCMEA both as manager of the festival and as a member of the executive board, a lot more teachers will be interested in becoming a member,” stated Holzhauer. “It’s through this organization that we support our students and share so many wonderful ideas.”

   If there was any aspect of planning for the event that was a challenge for Holzhauer, it was the selection process. Despite hundreds of students being recommended across the county to participate in the fesitval, only 350 students total were selected.   

   “All the students who were recommended are incredibly talented, and it’s heartbreaking that we can’t give every student the opportunity to participate,” explained Holzhauer. “The selection process was very difficult and any student recommended for the festival should be extremely proud.”

   The students who participated in the festival gave two performances on April 18 and a dress rehearsal the day before. “Everyone was extremely excited but I’m not sure if the excitement was all about singing and performing or the fact they could have pizza in the high school,” laughed Holzhauer, who stated students are treated to pizza on the day of the concert. “Sometimes with kids, it’s all about the food.”

    Holzhauer has taught music at Most Holy Rosary for the past decade. She is a New York State Certified K-12 teacher and holds a bachelor’s degree in both music and theatre. She has performed with the Committee Del Arte, Syracuse Opera Company and Oswego Opera Company and also directed the Camillus Children’s Theatre. She maintains a successful music studio in Camillus, where she lives with her husband and two children.

   When asked if she would take the job of manager on again, Holzhauer laughed. “People may think I’m crazy but yes, I would do it again. I’ve written a lot of notes for the next person but I’m really just excited that the diocese is in the rotation from now on. Even though it was a lot of work, everyone came together to give these kids a chance to perform and do their best. I am grateful to everyone who participated.”

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