SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ -  - The Music Department of South Plainfield School District held their Annual District Music Festival on March 1st.  A South Plainfield tradition for 49 years, students from 5th through 12th grades showcased their musical talents with a night of performances featuring the school district’s Chorus, Band and Orchestra.

“The District Festival is great for our community because the young students have the opportunity to see the older students perform,”  said Middle School Band Director Andrew Veiss.  “This is a great opportunity for all students, parents and community members see the progression of our students in all of the stages of their musical development.”

The youngest performers of the evening opened the Festival under the direction of Grant Chorus Director Shannon Maddolin.  The students sang with poise before the largest audience many have never performed in front of before.  The chorus concluded with “Kusimama,” an African song that describes standing tall on the earth with hope, strength, and acceptance of others, rather then with aggression and hatred.  

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As the Grant students finished and took their seats, the combined chorus of the Middle School and High School performed their selections.  Voices rising as one, the students sang familiar songs with a moving message.

“My favorite song of the night was ‘We are the World,’ written by Lionel Richie and Michael Jackson,”  said Dr. Donna Kegler Choral Director of Middle School and High School.  “The lyrics really are powerful and share a great message.  In a choir setting, I like to talk a lot about expression and singing with emotion and for this song it shined through.”

“This District Festival was a great experience for me, being that my brother and I got to perform on the same stage, but this was my last performance in the District Festival,” said Senior MaKayla Sosa.  “I enjoyed the performance of ‘We Are The World’ this year because it felt as if we were giving a strong message through our music.”

The final song of the Choral portion was performed by the High School Concert Choir with a nostalgic return to the 1970s and Freddy Mercury’s classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” 

“The high school students loved singing ‘Bohemian Rhapsody,’” added Kregler.  The entire concert was a fabulous showcase of the students’ talent!”

The second segment of the evening featured the Jazz and Concert Bands.  The Grant School Band, under the direction of Grant School Band Director Mark Tweed, was the first to perform, playing two dynamic selections, including “High Falls Overture.”

Band Director William Haughwout then led the High School Jazz Band, who impressed the audience with their performance of “The Incredibles.”  With the professional poise of seasoned musicians, the Jazz Band played their selection with ease.

“Music helps students excel in school and in life,”  said Veiss.  “They learn responsibility, teamwork, and many traits that gives them an edge in the workplace as well as in life.”

Master of Ceremonies and Co-President of the South Plainfield Music Boosters Samuel Persad, offered his infamous “Fun Facts” throughout the evening, emphasizing the benefits of studying music.

“If you ask any student ‘why music?’ you may get many different answers,”  said Middle School Orchestra Director Sarah LiVecchi.  “But what I have observed throughout the years is that it provides a sense of belonging, accomplishment, teamwork and so much more.”

“Music helps students excel in other subjects,” added Veiss.  “Everyone in our department plans cross-curricular lessons in their programs.  Students learn physics by understanding how acoustics work.  Music students can better understand math and spacial relations by understanding rhythm.  Many of our musical terms are in foreign languages fostering a foundation in the understanding of European languages.  Music is all around us every day.”

The Band segment continued as the Middle School Concert Band, under the direction of Veiss, took their seats on stage.  The young musicians treated the audience to “The Best of Journey,” a beautiful collection of popular Journey songs. 

“I am very proud of the performance of the Middle School Band,” said Veiss.  “They worked hard for the last two months to prepare this program and played very well.  We are looking forward to the Spring Concert as both the 7th and 8th grade bands progress toward excellence.”

The Grant School Jazz Band had their turn with a song called “Minne Mooch,” featuring several solos as each student took their turn at the microphone. 

The High School Concert Band then took their places on stage as the younger students sat in the audience to watch what their coming years would bring them.  Conducted by Haughwout, the band brought the audience to the Big City with their rendition of “Opening Night on Broadway.”  The auditorium erupted with applause as the song concluded. 

The orchestra students then took their places to begin the final segment of the Festival.

“The District Festival gives the students a unique opportunity to show off their talent to an audience that would not normally come to see them as well as seeing what is ahead for them in the Music Department,” said Sarah LiVecchi, Orchestra Director.

Grant School Music Director Joan Stasio led the young musicians of Grant School as they performed  “The Syncopated Clock,” written in 1945 by American composer Leroy Anderson while in the Army.  With varying rhythms and tempo changes, the students showed their versatile skills. 

The Middle School Gems Chorus then performed “Kenya Melodies.” Voices soaring in harmony, they swept away the audience.  Then the Middle School Orchestra took their places and lifted their bows to play their selections,“Over the Rainbow” and “Dark Adventure.”  Two very different songs with their own beauty, the students showed the versatility of their skills.

 “The Middle School Orchestra did a phenomenal job!” added LiVecchi.  “I am so proud of how they performed on both of our pieces.”

The High School Chamber Choir then sang “Lullabye,” a ballad with a flowing melody that swept over the audience.

“With this being my seventh year participating in the District Festival, performing at this year’s event was a symbol of me coming full circle as a musician,”  said Junior Lynda Farinella.  “Having participated as one of the Grant school students and now being one of the high school performers that I had long looked up to.”  

The final performance of the night was the High School Orchestra, led by Director of the Orchestra Diane Lee.  The students demonstrated what the younger musicians aspire to become concluding with the popular classic “Hoe Down from Rodeo.”

“This District Festival was a great opportunity to show what all musicians are made of,”  said Theresa Lanzetta, 10th grade student.  “Personally, throughout the years, the District Festival has always been one of my favorites - all schools coming together as one.  Every year that I have performed, I have at least one memory.”

Months of dedication and practice came together for the success of the 49th District Music Festival leaving all who attended with songs in their hearts and memories