SOUTH PLAINFIELD - The halls of South Plainfield High School were filled with music on the evening of Tuesday, April 30th for the Annual Spring Concert. Featuring the Jazz Band, Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Orchestra, Chamber Orchestra and Concert Band, the performance highlighted the talented SPHS Music Department while bidding an emotional farewell to the music students in the Class of 2019.
“The Spring Concert was just amazing!” said Dr. Donna Kregler, South Plainfield High School Director of Choral Activities. “The students did a great job and worked very hard all year long.”
“Ending our year with the Spring Concert is absolutely perfect because we play our hardest and most beautiful songs and it’s a good bye to the seniors,” said Freshman Marylee O’Dell. “The fact that we get to end the year like this and for all the parents to hear all our hard work over the course of the year, makes me feel really grateful.”
Many seniors performed beside their South Plainfield classmates for the last time.
“I was extremely proud of the performance we all put on for the concert,” said Cassidy Leonardis, senior. “It is amazing how much we all grew, as music students, from third grade to now. I am so happy with the turn out of it, especially because it is the last time I am performing with all of the friends I have had since elementary school.”
“I thought our performance was great!” said Jake Rivera, Senior. “I’m super glad to have been a part of this program for so long (eight years!). It shaped me and inspired me to pursue my dream of writing music of my own.”
“I had a wonderful time here and wished that the time didn’t go by so fast,” said David Gross, Senior. “We have so much talent here. I hope we keep getting recognized and invited to Disney and perform at the Rockefeller Center. This program has helped me grow as a person and as a singer. This will be something I shall never forget.”
The South Plainfield Music Program has had a profound impact on many students as they advance in their education through the study of music and experience of performing. They have also made lifelong friendships along the way.
“The performance was memorable!” said Jullianne Chavez, Senior. “I loved every minute of it. My time with the South Plainfield Music Program is something I will never forget and I’m happy to have done it for all four years. Everything I’ve learned throughout, will benefit me in the future. I would like to thank all the music teachers for being there with us on this journey!”
“Throughout high school, music has been a staple for me,” said Ashley Olson, Senior. “Music is one of the things that kept me sane when dealing with school. The last concert was a big milestone for me as it signifies the end of an era, the end of my high school music career.”
The experiences students have in the SPHS Music Department often take their place in the fond memories of their high school careers.
“Although every performance throughout my high school career was special, this final concert felt truly incredible,” said Lynda Farinella, Senior. “I was performing next to the people, who had become my best friends, for the last time, and I will never forget all that the music department has given me through the years.”
The SPHS music directors found the evening bittersweet. With the prospect of their students moving on to futures with endless possibilities, comes having to say good bye.
“Most seniors started their string instruments with me at Grant School,” said Diane Lee, South Plainfield High School Orchestra Director. “Saying farewell is always hard, but I am excited for them for their new adventures that they will encounter in life.”
“The last concert of the year is always sad because it is the seniors’ last concert,” said Kregler. “Many of them have been in choir all four years! They are all amazing students. Each gave a piece of themselves during performances.”
“I’m so proud of the seniors,” said Director of Bands William Haughwout. “I’m proud that they were able to be confident in what they played and I hope that they enjoyed it along the way. It’s always tough saying good bye. There’s always a couple of tears that are shed. This is our last performance and the last time they’ll be on the stage, so there’s a little bit of feeling that goes into that.”
Directors often work with students each year to select music pieces that have meaning for the students.
“My favorite song was ‘In the Lord’ from my freshman year,” said Olson. “I really felt that the song brought the choir together and united us with one sound. The song was very exciting and made us feel excited to sing. The South Plainfield Music Program has been good for mental health and has given me valuable skills in communicating with others. As a senior, I will miss all of the people in the music program that has become my second family.”
“Each High School Performance has always made me feel very special,” said Jeff Heine, Senior. “Over the years, we sang many songs, each holding a special place in our hearts. One such song was ‘For Good.’ This song spoke of parting ways and always moving forward.”
The Jazz Band opened the evening, each instrument complementing the other as their rhythmic melodies swept over the audience. One of their selections included, “If I Could,” by Pat Metheny, a song with a profound impact.
“This piece has a special place in my heart,” said Haughwaut to the audience. “Back when I was their age I played this song with my jazz band. It’s one of my favorites and features John Mohan on alto saxophone.”
“Mr. Haughwout and I have been talking about playing that song for like a really long time,” said Mohan. “I’m not going to take all of the credit for it. The people behind me deserved most of the applause. Everyone worked very hard for that song.”
“The Jazz Band performed a Pat Metheny piece called ‘If I Could,’ which stuck with me for the entirety of our time with it,” said Senior Jake Rivera, who plays the trombone in Jazz Band. “It’s a beautiful ballad that shows how an ensemble can flip a switch from high to low--loud to soft--in a matter of seconds. Overall, I believe the department has changed me for the better, and I wish everyone who is a part of it the best of luck in the future, as I know they wish me luck in mine.”
“It was a great performance,” said Senior Scott Cardona, who plays the trombone in Jazz Band. “I loved every minute I was up on that stage. If I had to choose a favorite song out of the entire concert, it was ‘If I Could.’ I felt the song connect with me on both a musical level and on an emotional level. That was by far my favorite piece in probably my entire high school career. It had a very special place in my heart with the way it sounded.”
Almost one hundred students are in the SPHS Concert Choir. Accompanied by Julliard alumni and piano teacher Paul DiDario, the students performed a variety of songs showcasing the wide range of their vocal skills. Among the selections was “The Lion King” medley, featuring soloists Marylee O’Dell and Amanda Bermo.
“I love being a part of the chorus,” said Amy Swartz, Freshman. “I like the ‘Lion King’ medley that they did because I recognize all the songs and it was really good!”
The songs selected often express the heartfelt sentiments of the students and directors.
“My favorite song for this spring concert was ‘You Will Be Found’ because I loved the harmonies and was able to make a connection with it,” said Leonardis. “Even when life brings you down and you feel alone, you will always have someone that will be there for you and lift your spirits up. I was on the verge of tears in the middle of singing that song.”
“‘You Will Be Found,’ from Dear Evan Hansen, was definitely my favorite song,” said Chavez. “This song was about always having someone and never being alone. There are times when we feel alone, however, there is always a point where someone such as our family or anyone close to us will be there.”
“My personal favorite song this concert was ‘You Will Be Found’ due to the emotional sentiment behind it, and the beautiful harmonies that carry the music into the hearts of the audience members,” said Lippel. “As a senior, I would to thank the staff and students for helping to improve this department and open up the underclassmen to how amazing music can be.”
The SPHS Music Department believes in giving students diverse music experiences, allowing them to perform in different venues when possible.
“I will miss performing with the high school concert choir, especially all the opportunities Dr. Kregler gave us along the way,” said Heine. “From performing in Disney with the candlelight processional in 2016, to opening on stage for the Radio City Rockettes last year, to again performing with the candlelight processional in Disney World this year. All of these wonderful opportunities have left a lasting impact on my life and I will remember them forever.”
The Chamber Choir, a select group of singers, also performed several selections.
“My favorite song of the night was ‘Lean On Me/We Shall Overcome,’” said Farinella. “Before we started the song, Dr. Kregler told us that we, as seniors, would always be able to lean on our family in the music department no matter where we are, and that will stay with me forever. The South Plainfield Music Program, to me, has been a second family, who has helped me pursue my passions, and I know that my journey through music will not end here. I will take all that I have learned into the future as a college student, and I am so thankful to the directors for all that they have taught me.”
The Chamber Orchestra began the strings segment with the Rembrandt’s “I’ll Be There For You” and Bach’s “Concerto in D Minor,” each bow gliding across their instruments to create the harmonies of their selections.
The Concert Orchestra followed, featuring several songs including, the movie soundtrack of Justin Hurwitz’s “La La Land,” with soloists Sarah Bhagwandat and Jessenia Moreno. The Orchestra's performance also had a unique solo performance by Senior Robert Lenau performing on the marimba, a large, deep-toned xylophone.
“I always try to cover a wide range of repertoire,” said Lee. “The ‘Concertino for Marimba and Orchestra’ was one of the hardest pieces that we have worked on so far. I am so glad and feel honored that Robert had an opportunity to perform a solo piece with an orchestra before he leaves us.”
The Concert Band concluded the evening vibrant songs including, “Toccata Marziale” and “Pilatus: Mountain of Dragons,” each instrumental section contributing to create the beautiful melodies.
“This is my last concert, so it’s my last impression on the high school,” said Nithya Goel. “I am very excited about the future, but I’m going to miss everyone.”
“Being a part of the music program was a blast, with its ups and downs, but I really couldn’t have spent the time anywhere else,” said Cardona. “This is my home, music is my home, and I’m glad I had the chance to be in this music department. If I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t have been the me I am now.”
As the last concert of the school year came to a close, seniors were honored for their dedication.
“Thanks to all seniors for many years of their dedication, hard work, and most importantly, their love for music,” said Lee. “I hope that they come back and play with us in near future.”
“I couldn’t have asked for a better music program or directors,” said Gross. “Thank you for having me and helping me in bettering myself as a singer and as well as a person.”
“The performance was amazing!” said Gabriella Lippel, Senior. “I feel especially honored to have worked with such a talented ensemble and create music with some of the most welcoming people in South Plainfield.”
“It has been an amazing and memorable nine years of being in the SP Music Department,” said Leonardis. “I am going to miss all the performances, trips, and the inside jokes. Music will forever be a highlight of my life thanks to everyone who supported me over the years. I want to thank all my music directors I’ve had and all my friends I met along the way! I will remember and treasure every moment performing with this program for the rest of my life.”
Upcoming events for the SPHS Music Department include: Zumbathon on Friday, May 17th from 6:30p.m. to 8p.m. at Roosevelt Elementary School Gym and a Coffeehouse performance featuring ensemble, duet and solo performances on Wednesday, June 5th at 6pm in the High School Library. Marching Band is currently signing up members to begin practice and attend band camp the week of August 25th at Camp Cayuga in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. The SPHS Marching Band will also host a Home Show on Sunday, Ocober 6th at Frank Jost Field.
The SPHS Music Department asks that anyone interested in finding out more about marching band, upcoming events, or to become a Music Booster, go to the SPHS Music Boosters Facebook page.