Two selected for all-state musical awards

Alex Almonte (choir) and Zach Spondike (jazz band) were both selected for second consecutive year.


Zach Spondike

Every year students from across the state work to perfect their musical talents to audition for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association, PMEA. This organization hosts many events throughout the year for band, choir and orchestra students.

The process has many steps for students who start by auditioning for Districts and later they may move on to Regions. For the best of the best, the final step is States, one of the biggest accomplishments a high school musician can achieve.

This year, two very talented Shaler Area students were selected for this honor. Junior Zach Spondike was selected to be a member of the PMEA All-State Jazz Band and senior Alex Almonte was selected for the PMEA All State Choir.

Spondike is one of only 18 students from Pennsylvania to be selected for this competitive program. Last year, Spondike was awarded the opportunity to perform at States as a sophomore. This year he auditioned for All-State Jazz Band with a series of videos playing the alto, tenor and baritone saxophone. Spondike was one of only two people in the state to be selected to play the Tenor Saxophone in the All-State Jazz Band.

Spondike said he was thrilled to have the opportunity to create music with some of the most talented people he’s ever met.

“It is always a fun time to perform with fellow musicians. Jazz is just a good time,” Spondike said.

In addition to playing the Tenor Saxophone, Spondike also plays the clarinet and other types of saxophones.

“I first started playing the clarinet in 5th grade and then started playing the saxophone in 6th…Now I can play most instruments in those two families,” Spondike said.

Spondike is also a member of the Pit Orchestra for the Spring Musical, Honors Jazz Ensemble I, Honors Wind Ensemble, and is the Drum Major of the Shaler Area Marching Band. He also participates in the Three Rivers Young Peoples Orchestra.

Additionally, he was also selected for PMEA District I West Honors Band, PMEA Honors Jazz Ensemble, PMEA District 1 Orchestra, and Allegheny Valley Honors Band this year alone.

Despite the countless hours Spondike spends practicing and then participating in numerous bands and festivals, he somehow finds free time. When he has the time, Spondike enjoys hanging out with friends at Millvale’s steakhouse, otherwise known as Hardee’s. Another one of Spondike’s hobbies includes his involvement in the cover band the “Book Club”, which contains both Shaler musicians both past and present.

Spondike plans on continuing his love of music in the future and keeping it in his life one way or another. He is considering a degree in either Music Education or performance.

Senior Alex Almonte is another and skilled performer who is involved in a variety of projects within the district. Almonte auditioned for PMEA District choir earlier this year. Once he was selected for this honor, he took many steps to get to the State level.

Alex Almonte

“Students from across Allegheny county learn two vocal pieces to audition with for Districts in November. Judges of music teachers, coaches and choir directors listen to each audition blindly. From there, a handful of members are selected for District choir. Once you are a member of this choir, you then repeat the same progress to audition for the next step, regions.”

Once students go to Regions, they then have to prepare a vigorous audition via a video application.

Not only did Almonte make all-state choir this year, but he was also selected for this group last year as well.

Alex is a member of Shaler Area’s Honors Chamber Choir, Concert Choir and Honors Wind Ensemble. He also performs vocally for his church, is Co-Captain of the Shaler Area Drumline, helps with the Elementary School Musicals and balances countless extracurricular activities.

Alex is also a cast member of Shaler Area Plays and Musicals. You may recognize him as playing the Marius in “Les Miserable”, Sir Evelyn Oakley in “Anything Goes”, the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast” and, most recently, Lord Farquaad in “Shrek”.

Next year, Alex will be continuing his education at Penn State University for Music Education. He hopes to share his passion for music to inspire future students.

This year the PMEA state festival for both Spondike and Almonte was scheduled April 23-25 at Kalahari Resorts in the Poconos. Both students were to train with professionals from across the country. Due to the Pandemic, this event was unfortunately cancelled.