Perfecting Pitch: Mariela Palencia reaches choir excellence


A former Duke Ellington School of the Arts student. Mariela Palencia (11) is the only student from Falls Church High School to get selected for All-State and All-National choir this school year. 

All-State choir is a rigorous event where students audition to be selected. Students must be accepted into the District choir first, which in total includes 13 high schools in Fairfax County. Students who are placed  eight get to move on to the All-State choir. About one to three students from each school are selected to participate in the All-State choir after they audition. When students are selected they get to work with nationally recognized conductors to prepare for their final performance. The selected students get two days to rehearse from about nine in the morning to approximately eight in the evening. On the third day, students showcase their talent. 

Before Mariela was seven, she always loved to create her own melody with anything around her. Whenever she would see an audience, she wanted to entertain them with her music skills. When Lynelle Palencia, Mariela’s mother, realized that Mariela could match her pitch with the music that she played, she helped foster Mariela’s talent. Ever since then, Mariela loved to sing and perform which led her to All-State choir. “I was definitely shocked in a way because there are a lot of talented singers in our choir,” said Mariela. “I felt like a lot of them deserve to be in All-State, but I was also very honored because it showed the prestige of it”. 

Performing and singing is what Mariela enjoys to do. She got to perform at the recent school play Mamma Mia. This school year was Mariela’s first time starring in a school play at a public school. Mariela was very excited to play the lead because of her strong connection with the character. 

Choir director Christopher Redden-Liotta as a student had also attended a large event that was similar to All-State choir. Having that experience helps him support his students, like Mariela, who want to participate in the All-State choir. “It’s one of my favorite days of the year,” said Dr. Redden-Liotta. “It’s the moment where I get to be the bearer of really awesome news.” 

Mariela expanded her interest in music when she became seven years old. “She was born into music, but started taking voice lessons when she was seven.” Ms. Palencia would put music on when she was in the car with Mariela as a kid, and she would notice that Mariela was able to match the notes with her voice. Ms. Palencia’s other kids are more interested in sports, so when she saw that Mariela had this talent she immediately wanted to help Mariela exercise her talent. “My family couldn’t really afford lessons, and I couldn’t major in music,” said Ms. Palencia. Not being able to afford lessons inspired Ms. Palencia to open her music studio in Falls Church called Crescendo Studios. One of their missions is to provide affordable tuition to all students who want to grow more in music. 

Mariela wishes to go to a music conservatory for college and major in opera. From there she hopes to become a pop star and make her own music. “Everyone’s voice is different,” said Mariela. “It’s really your voice versus a piano, guitar, or any other instrument.”