Connecting Columbia Union Seventh-day Adventists

Shenandoah Valley Academy Music Is on the Road Again

Story by Janel Haas Ware

After a three-year hiatus, Shenandoah Valley Academy’s (SVA) choir and orchestra hit the road for a tour of the Midwest during the 2021–22 academic year. For many students, this was their first music tour ever. Under the direction of Daniel Biaggi, music director, and Kelly Wiedemann, associate music director, the group set out bright and early on a Tuesday morning.

Their trip started in Chicago, where they took an Architecture Boat Tour into the heart of the city, explored Navy Pier, visited the Cloud Gate (pictured, right), tried deep dish pizza and went up 103 stories to the top of the Willis Tower. Nearby performances included concerts at the Burr Ridge church in Darien, Hinsdale Adventist Academy and AdventHealth Hinsdale. “It was extra special to visit the place that began my teaching career and see former colleagues and students,” says Wiedemann, “although a bit jarring to discover the students I taught in first grade are now seniors!”

Next, they gave two performances at Ohio Conference’s Spring Valley Academy in Centerville, toured Kettering College and Kettering Health Main Campus, and enjoyed a vespers with Spring Valley students. Both schools enjoyed mingling with “the other SVA.” From there they played at the Kettering church (pictured), the Taylor Mills (Ky.) church, visited the Ark Encounter in Kentucky, and concluded with a performance at Mountain View Conference’s Highland Adventist School in Elkins, W.Va.
“Even though we were tired from the busy travel schedule, morale was very high. We were still laughing and enjoying being together,” says sophomore Jonathan Pelote. “It was nice having long stretches of time on the bus to talk and hear [different] per- spectives on both lighthearted and difficult topics.”

Hania Kantzer, senior and concertmaster of Orchestra and Strings, commented on what was most meaningful to her: “For me, it was discovering that what I see as a fun activity is actually so impactful to other people. ... While we’re having a good time, I discover all these people find our music so valuable. ... The tour affirmed music as a life-long calling and something that SVA is called to do because it benefits more than just ourselves.”

Biaggi reflects, “Seeing our young people ready to share their music in any place that was needed and the people being impacted by their message reminded me of Ellen White’s powerful quote: ‘With such an army of workers as our youth, rightly trained, might furnish, how soon the message of a crucified, risen, and soon-coming Saviour might be carried to the whole world!’ (Messages to Young People, p. 7).”

Wiedemann adds, “As a director, there is no greater joy than seeing my students discover this higher calling.”

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