LIVINGSTON, NJ - Livingston High School hosted its 39th annual All Township Music Festival Tuesday, featuring the LHS Orchestra, Select Chorus and Wind Symphony, the Heritage Middle School seventh-grade Band, the All-Township Elementary School Chorus, the Mt. Pleasant Middle School Orchestra and the HMS eighth-grade Chorus. Friends, family and local music-lovers packed the LHS auditorium April 14 in support of the Livingston Public School District’s music program.
Dressed formally in black and white, students in grades K-12 from each Livingston Public School presented an altogether eclectic program of compositions. The choruses, orchestras and bands performed classics like “You Raise Me Up” and “The Chicken Dance.” From the All Township Elementary Chorus, a select group of only the best from each of the six schools, to Livingston High School’s “Notations,” the high school’s select chorus, each of the 12 grades had a moment to shine.
“I tried out for the group because I love chorus,” said senior Notations member Peri Margolies of her experience in the district’s music program. “I’ve been singing since I’ve been born and am actually going to college for music. I’ve enjoyed learning new repertoire throughout the years and expanding my knowledge of choral music.”
According to Livingston Supervisor of Visual and Performing Arts Robert Wirth, the music programs for these events are selected based on the students’ ability level with the expectation that they will reach a higher level each academic season. Music students like Margolies ultimately graduate with a vast knowledge of repertoire because the District Music Department strategically selects a wide variety of genres and styles that they believe will stretch students to a higher level than the previous semester.
“The Livingston curriculum is always a work in progress,” Wirth said. “It’s what happens after the concert that matters."
According to Wirth, the four key goals of the LPS music curriculum are that the students will be able to create music, learn about music in relation to culture and society, improve their performance levels and the significance of musical appreciation and critique. The All Township Music Festival is first and foremost meant to be fun and rewarding, and a celebration of all they’ve learned. But Wirth said the ultimate assumption is that the students’ critiques of their individual performances will push them in the future.
“[The students’] commitment in and outside school shows a real interest and dedication to the program,” Wirth said. “The best thing about Livingston’s music program is that it’s open to all students. There is an opportunity for any and all children to sing, play and get involved.”
Students like Margolies often walk away from their public school experience with certain adoration for their music teachers. Margolies specifically mentioned her admiration for Livingston High School Chorus Conductor and Music Theory teacher Joshua Salzman.
“I love the songs we sing and Mr. Salzman is a wonderful music director with his energy and continual knowledge of music,” Margolies said. “Salzman is the best and he has taught me so much.”
Not only did Salzman grow up in Livingston, but he has also proved his worth in the music world by co-writing the Off-Broadway musical I Love You Because and winning the Jonathan Larson Award before moving back to town. Like Salzman, equally experienced district music teachers Richard Battista, Nancy Ciminnisi, Michael Miskiv, Melissa Cohen, Michele Matten, Etleva Vatoci, Kristin Pelletier, Michael Jedwabnik, Stafford Horne and Dan Traglia have also made an impact on the students.
Since the expectation is that the students’ ability level will improve with each performance, future programs for each consecutive grade will likely be composed of an even more difficult repertoire and a wider variety of cultures.