MONTCLAIR, NJ - Friday evening Mount Hebron School auditorium was filled to capacity as their chorus students did much more than simply put on a show.
This was Mary Ann Cool’s last performance at the school. Music teacher at Mt. Hebron for the last 22 year, Cool was recognized for being an exceptional community leader in Montclair and surrounding towns. Her alumni honored her legacy as an educator, musician, and mentor.
Dr. Jill Sack, Principal of Mt. Hebron introduced Cool saying, “There are great teachers---and then there are great teachers who become legends; teachers whose students come back to visit year after year”.
Ms. Joanne Ashe, chorus parent, poet and substitute teacher Montclair Schools opened with a moving poem about the beloved teacher. Ronella Walker, speaker, radio host, and author as well as former chorus member gave a rousing speech on how Cool was a role model and force in the lives of so many children over the span of her career.
A litany of performers, who had been at some point students of Cool, such as Shayna Francois (stage name Kennedy Gray), a vocalist who made two rounds in American Idol, addressed the students and her former teacher. Gray said that even during American Idol she was thankful for Cool’s influence. Gray said “I thank you for taking interest in kids who do original music. You live what you love and you were one of my first lessons in that.”
Amidst tears, the filled to capacity auditorium enjoyed the chorus performance of Cool’s “We are the Mt. Hebron Chorus”, as well as “Jazz is”, “That’s What the Music Can Do”, “Change”, “Be Free”, “Brave”, and “Sing With Jubilation” which all met with echoing applause.
Sack said about Cool, “She left her mark on Mt. Hebron and we are lucky to call her a colleague and a friend.”
When asked how she felt about the event Cool said, “The evening was musically magical for me. It provided memories to last a lifetime. My career has been an awesome one. Last night I was truly humbled by the show of love.”
Additional performers who came out to honor:
- Tim Murphy, saxophonist, Lincoln Center Youth Jazz Orchestra, currently with Jazz House Kids was also one of Cool’s former chorus students.
- Eli Zeger, bass player, Music Critic, former chorus member
- Shane Fuller, Vocalist, Head of non-profit organization, just returned from Africa built homes, installed solar panels
- David Cleare, Vocalist, vocal contest winner, recording artist, former chorus member
- Devon Dunmore
- Tashawna Dunmore-Devon, choir director
- Kean University Gospel Choir: Tashawna (Soloist), Austin (Whitney Houston's cousin, singer and drummer) and former chorus member