Newly-formed Litchfield a cappela group given statewide honor

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LITCHFIELD -- In Litchfield, a special honor was given to a group of high school students who learned to unite their voices and create something the school has never heard before.

The a capella singing group is made up of six students, one sophomore and five seniors, from Wamogo Regional High School.  They have been named Honors Performance Ensemble and will be recognized for their singing achievement in a concert performance at the Connecticut Convention Center, in Hartford on Friday.

“I was really surprised that we won," said senior Alex Renna. "I thought, it is our first year, like we’re not really going to go, but we have nothing to lose, but we actually won!”

Renna and her classmate Wyatt Sattazahn had asked administrators for an advanced choir class to be added to the school's music education program.  Their request was granted making it the first of it's kind in the program.

The students sang together for the first time in September, then entered the statewide music educators call for outstanding performers in November. By New Year's they were chosen as Honors Performance Ensemble by the Connecticut Music Educators Association.  They are one of only two singing groups in the state to receive the honor.

“New Year’s Eve I got an email," said Matthew Valenti, choral director for Wamago. "'Congratulations you won this, ' I was like 'wow this is great!' So I immediately emailed them (the students) and said we won! It was fabulous.”

Valenti is a 40-year veteran of music education, retiring three years ago, but never stopped teaching.  He now works part time at Wamogo.  He said it only took a handful of rehearsals to see there was something special with this group of students.

“I gave them 'Teenager in Love' for their first one," said Valenti. "They got excited about it and in three rehearsals they would have been ready to perform.”

The students sing a variety of music from Broadway favorites, to oldies, to original songs composed by Valenti himself.

Valenti and his wife have composed eight original musical productions side-by-side. Many of them showing at the Warner Theatre, some to crowds over a thousand.

His students told FOX61 the chance to work in a small group has inspired them to pursue their own dreams of music education.