Coginchaug Regional High School valedictorian Emily Dell’Orfano has been in love with performing and music since childhood.
“I grew up doing dance, so I always loved performing. And then I did my first musical when I was like 8 … I really just fell in love with it,” she said.
Dell’Orfano has been dancing, singing, playing piano and the clarinet for years. She said she loves that music can be interpreted differently by different people, something she learned from transitioning piano teachers.
“It just fascinated me how you can play one piece and every single person will preserve it differently or perform it differently just to express themselves,” she said.
Dell’Orfano will continue to pursue her passion for music with a full tuition scholarship to the University of Connecticut. Studying music education in a five-year program, she will graduate with both a bachelors and masters degree.
Music education seemed like a “no-brainer” for Dell’Orfano, as it combines her love of music and school. She hopes to be a music teacher for high school or college students, or a conductor for large ensembles.
Erin Schilling said Dell’Orfano will make a “phenomenal music teacher.” Schilling teaches middle and high school choir, directs the high school musical, teaches show choir, and has known Dell’Orfano for three years.
“I think she has that natural repertoire with kids. And then she obviously has the talent, musically. So I think she's going to do phenomenal,” Schilling said.
While challenging herself academically, Dell’Orfano also found time to take part in many music-related extracurricular activities.
She had the opportunity to sing, dance and play both the piano and clarinet in Disneyland, which was especially exciting for her as a lover of all things Disney.
Also, she’s been involved in many school musicals – starring as Belle in Beauty in the Beast most recently – and choirs in and out of school.
For two years in a row she qualified for the All-State Honors Choir and National Honor Choir.
“I'm really grateful for that … it ended up being the best part of my high school experience,” Dell’Ofrano said, noting how special it was to get to work with different conductors and meet others with her same passions.
Dell’Orfano credits Schilling for helping her audition for the esteemed honors choirs, and said the district’s music program has been very supportive and encouraging.
Schilling said Dell’Orfano was the first student from Coginchaug to qualify for the groups.
A Durham resident, Dell’Orfano grew up mostly in Middlefield and attended the Independent Day School from pre-school to eighth grade. She said the small class size and competitive atmosphere pushed her to work hard.
“I think we kind of just fed off each other and everyone really cared about school, so I kind of came into high school with that mindset,” Dell’Orfano said.
She realized around sophomore year that the title of valedictorian was within reach and went for it. She describes finding out she earned the distinction as one of the best moments of her life.
To younger students, Dell’Orfano says, “take every opportunity that comes your way” even if it’s intimidating at first.
“I think that working really hard for something you like and for something that's good is one of the most beneficial things you can do,” she said.
Dell’Orfano will address Coginchaug’s Class of 2019 during graduation ceremonies on Friday, June 14, 6 p.m. This year’s salutatorian is Margaret Fiondella.