SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ - In a tradition dating back to 1969, the 5th through 12th grade music students of South Plainfield joined in a performance that drew thousands of parents, family and friends for the 48th Annual District Music Festival. The festival was meant to showcase the musical talents of the South Plainfield Band, Chorus and Orchestra students.
“The 48th district festival was spectacular,” said South Plainfield High School Chorus Director Dr. Donna Kregler. “The crowd at all three concerts was huge and all of the students were incredible. Music in South Plainfield is growing fast and the ensembles keep getting better and better. Bravo!”
“I think this is such a great event,” said Robert Richkus, Assistant Principal of Grant Elementary School. “The younger students of 5th, 6th and 7th grade get to see what they what they can aspire to. The high school puts on a professional performance that people would pay to see so it’s just incredible.”
“I am very proud of my students and all of the students in South Plainfield,” said Middle School Band Director Andrew Veiss. “The District Festival is such a large undertaking and there are so many moving parts. It takes a lot of focus and attention to detail by the staff and students for the evening to run smoothly.”
The festival is also a reminder of the importance of the South Plainfield Music Program and gives the community a chance to come together in support of a program that is shaping the lives of children throughout the district.
Parents Robin Persad and her husband Sam Persad are the Presidents of the South Plainfield Music Boosters, a South Plainfield School Organization that supports and raises funds to enable the music program to thrive. Known for his fun music facts, Sam Persad was the MC for the evening.
“It’s such a privilege to volunteer alongside the students and directors in the South Plainfield Music Department,” said Music Booster President Robin Persad. “Their dedication and perseverance is amazing and we love seeing them continue to increase their art and musicianship. They are very dedicated and it is great to see them pour themselves into music. They are exceptional in their loyalty to each other, as well.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Noreen Lishak opened the 48th Annual District Music Festival with words of welcome followed by the Choral portion of the evening. The Grant School Chorus was led by Grant School Music and Choral Director Joan Stasio opened the evening with a moving rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. The young singers’ voices then echoed through the Joseph A. Mondoro Auditorium of South Plainfield High School as they sang With A Song, a flowing melody with a theme of music bringing everyone together despite everyone’s differences.
“Throughout my career, I have seen music impact my students in many ways, and is been truly rewarding,” said Stasio “I think the most encouraging thing is to see students of all levels and abilities working together, and feeling good about themselves.”
The Middle School Chorus, led by Shannon Maddolin, followed. Among the songs they selected, the chorus sang Bridge Over Troubled Water. The fast-paced beat of the percussion drove the classic song with a unique twist.
“This performance was a pivotal moment for our choir, department, school, and community,” said Maddolin. “We connected as a group, supported one another, and shared the gift of a performance that met the audience's expectations. The students should be proud of all the work they put into making the evening a success.”
The High School Chorus then took to the bleachers before the audience to sing A Whole New World from Disney’s all-time favorite Aladdin as one of their song choices. The chorus was conducted by High School Chorus Director Dr. Donna Kregler with solos by Stephanie Heim and Chloe Wilson. The soaring voices of the high school students closed the choral portion of the evening.
“Music study not only builds better musicians, it builds better people,” said Kregler. “Music students learn self-discipline, dedication, commitment, teamwork, listening skills, and self- expression. I have been saying to my students, ‘if it ain't got heart, it ain't art.’ Sharing their message with audience members brings a sense of beauty to the curriculum unparalleled in most other classes.”
“At the District Festival, you can really see how much you’ve grown,” said Freshman Chorus student Colin Farrell. “When you first start at Grant, everyone is young and new to performing. By high school, the voices are stronger in chorus and the musicians have more technique. It’s cool to see how much progress you’ve made.”
“This concert was especially exciting to me as it's the first year that all three of my children performed together in the District festival,” said Parent Erin Farrell. “I love watching their excitement as they anticipate the concert, and witnessing the growth of each ensemble throughout the years. Music has enhanced the lives of my children tremendously.”
The South Plainfield Middle School GEMs including Autumn Barge, Jelinda Montes, Jack Anderson, Lauryn McMillan and Alexis Ratti, opened the Orchestra Portion of the evening with The Star Spangled Banner. Their voices escalated as one to honor our country.
The 5th and 6th graders of the Grant Orchestra led by Grant School Orchestra Director Diane Lee then began. With solos by Allison Buchanan and Sara McNelly, the pulsating beat of one of their selections called Time Machine gave the audience a taste of different eras of music through time.
The Middle School GEMs offered a vocal interlude led by Middle School Director of Chorus Shannon Maddolin with their rendition of Homeward Bound, a flowing piece about being set free to find your calling.
“Music students are able to explore our world through music as it is one language that all of the world speaks in some way shape size or form,” said Maddolin. “It provides them skills they can use in any field they decide to go into and develops a inner self worth and value throughout life.”
Sarah LiVecchi conducted the Middle School Orchestra in a collection of Beethoven’s familiar pieces. The students’ quick moving bows brought the song to a powerful ending. South Plainfield High School Chorus Director Dr. Donna Kregler then led the High School Chamber Choir as they sang Rejoice and Sing for another vocal interlude. The upbeat song of joy and happiness brought smiles to the audience’s faces.
South Plainfield High School Orchestra Director Bruce Mikolon conducted The High School Orchestra, ending the orchestra portion of the evening with a beautiful fast paced piece called Sabre Dance, which featured the percussion section on the marimba, snare drum, timpani, temple blocks, tambourine and xylophone.
The flawless intensity of the instruments working together to evoke a beautiful song, depicted the way South Plainfield views their music program. To the teachers and students, the music program is a family.
“Over the years I have been fortunate enough to see the effects of music first hand in and out of the classroom,” said High School Band Director Ryan Dore. “I always seek to stress to my students that Music is a family. We all come from different walks of life with different experiences and different skills to bring to the table, yet we all must come together to make beautiful music.”
“We have a diverse population of students in the music programs,” said Veiss. “Our programs are the ultimate melting pot of students from the top honors student, to students who might be struggling a little bit in school. For some students, the primary motivator might be coming to band, chorus, or orchestra. Also, we try to make our programs more than just about the class. We foster an environment of family and the thought that the music rooms are a second home.”
“The musical activities we have at school allow all students to participate, regardless of their academic level,” added Stasio. “I have had many students with special needs stay involved in music throughout their school career. It provides socialization, teamwork, self-esteem, and many other attributes to numerous to mention.”
“I consider myself lucky to be able to teach the future musicians of the world,” said Maddolin. “What is so special about it is that someone’s musical journey never has to end. You can always find a way even as an adult to learn, perform, and create. To this day I still find opportunities and ways to perform, learn, and grow not only as a teacher of music but a musician and performer because music is my passion.”
The final portion of the evening opened with student Stephanie Heim singing Star-Spangled Banner. Her powerful voice rang through the auditorium. Grant School’s All-District Band led by Joan Stasio and Mark Tweed prepared the students for their performance featuring the beautiful New World Symphony.
“I felt the students did a great job performing at the concert,” said Grant School Music Director Mark Tweed. “They acted professionally throughout the performance. They demonstrated their abilities to the audience and I feel it was well received. I was very proud of the grant school performances.”
The audience was also treated to the South Plainfield High School Jazz Band conducted by Band Director Ryan Dore as they played Strike Up the Band. The students’ fingers danced over their saxophones, trumpets, trombones and clarinets to energize the crowd.
“Student success is largely tied to their parents support,” added Dore. “The more parental support for the arts/music the more likely students are to stick with it and be successful. Parents can be supportive and make sure that students are putting in practice time during the day at home, thirty minutes a day will go a long way.”
The Middle School Concert Band with Band Director Andrew Veiss at the helm played the nostalgic The Legend of Danny Boy with student Daniel McLeod on trumpet for a solo. The Grant School Jazz Band followed, led by Mark Tweed, playing That’s Not My Dog. The young jazz musicians played the rhythmic song with enthusiasm.
Led by Ryan Dore, the High School band students took their places onstage for the final performance of the evening. The High School level performance is what all of the younger grades aspire to be a part of. As the young players from the Grant School and the Middle School watched from the audience, the older students closed the evening with the beautiful and flowing melody of Variations on a Korean Folk Song that transitioned into an explosive ending.
“The district festival was a great success!” said Dore. “As a music department we fully believe in the importance of the younger students seeing the high school's programs and to see where music can take them in hopes that they continue. It was truly wonderful to see so many students that participate in the arts at all levels to come together for a night of celebrating music.”
“All of the students from all of the schools had excellent performances,” said Veiss. “I am particularly proud of my band as they have been working diligently since our last concert and they have taken great strides to start to develop a mature sound. I am truly looking forward to the spring concert as we have some great challenges in our program ahead.”
“I can't imagine my life with out music, and especially without teaching music,” added Stasio. “I love my students, and I love seeing them progress in their music studies. Each and every group and their director were excellent for the performance.”
“I have been in South Plainfield schools for fourteen years and this year was the best District Festival I have witnessed,” added Kregler. “Not only am I super proud of the students, I must also thank the parents, Board of Education Members, and community members that continue to provide superior programs and support to the music program.”
The District is looking to start a summer music program for all students in Choir, Orchestra and Band. For more information and for details about upcoming music events, go to www.spboe.org. If you are interested in becoming a part of the South Plainfield Music Boosters and supporting the South Plainfield Music Boosters any way, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.