SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – KC’s Korner hosted a fundraiser featuring Joe DiVita’s Steel Drum Duo on Jan. 18 to benefit the South Plainfield High School (SPHS) Music Boosters. As snow covered streets turned slick and icy Saturday night, the mellow rhythm of the steel drum warmed up the packed house at KC’s Korner. 16% of all sales from 5p.m. to 10p.m. went to benefit the South Plainfield High School Music Program.
“This event was absolutely fabulous,” said Dr. Donna Kregler, SPHS Choral Director. “The turnout was amazing. There were so many people there. It’s so great to see everyone come out and support the music department.”
As temperatures continued to drop outside, the sounds of the steel drum brought the nostalgia of a lazy, warm evening to South Plainfield.
“It’s a bit of a summer vibe,” said DiVita, Steel Pannist, Musician. “This kind of music makes people happy no matter what. The instrument has a happy, uplifting sound. You can’t really make it sound sad, so it works really nice in the winter for people who are trying to have a little but of a summer oasis vibe.”
The steel drum is actually an instrument that originated in Trinidad, where it is called a “steel pan.” In the 20th Century, locals used oil barrels to play music.
“The steel pan came out of a really ugly story where music was outlawed in Trinidad because they were oppressed by the British who took all their instruments away,” DiVita said. “They had to make all of their instruments on trash.”
DiVita began playing music at the age of four years old and understands the importance of a strong, well-supported music program.
“I studied music theory when I was in high school, so I had a really good high school program,” DiVita said. “I went to the University of the Arts for a performance degree in percussion and then I joined a steel drum band.”
The evening was a success with music, family and fun.
“I was so surprised to see the place packed when I walked in,” said William Co, SPHS Music Booster President. “It was a huge turnout in spite of the winter weather. I felt moved by the outpouring of support for the Music Boosters from families and friends of the SPHS Music Department.”
“I’m so grateful that everyone was able to come out and that we all made it safely,” said Taylor Kurilew, KC’s Korner Owner Walter Kurilew’s daughter. “Ten years after graduating from South Plainfield High School, it’s amazing to be able to give back to the program that impacted my life and career.”
Taylor Kurilew went to school in South Plainfield and had Kregler as a teacher. Kurilew's love for music nurtured by the SPHS music program prompted her to pursue a career as a music teacher in Basking Ridge at Cedar Hill Elementary School.
“Taylor Kurilew was my student at the Middle School in 2003, and her family owns the restaurant, so her father was very welcoming to the fact that we wanted to do this event for the music department,” said Kergler. “So it’s a big family event!”
“The South Plainfield Music program truly inspired me to be a music teacher and the teacher’s who are here, I had too,” Kurilew said. “So here we are years later. I’m really glad that I could help out.”
SPHS has a strong, award-winning music program. Students often travel and compete against their peers throughout the Northeast and beyond. Supporters say its crucial to continue to encourage students to play instruments and develop their choral skills. Fundraising is one way to obtain the resources needed to sustain the music program.
“I think that the Arts is one thing that people sometimes forget about,” said Kurilew. “We have the sports in the town, but there are so many programs that I think need to be supported too. It’s great that we all can come together. I was so excited that we could host this event.”
“Performing here means giving back to the community,” DiVita said. “A lot of the music programs are getting cut, so there’s a lot of money that’s coming out of the music programs, not just here, but everywhere. I enjoy keeping up the lineage of live music and people actually playing instruments live. It’s nice to see it continue.”
Every table was filled with band parents, students, neighbors and friends.
“It was unfortunate that some guests had to walk away because there were no more seats, while some had to wait for hours to get the food they ordered,” said Co. “Thankfully, Joe DiVita and guitarist Jay Buchanan gave an awesome performance that all enjoyed while waiting.”
Everyone shared stories and laughed together. Originally, KC’s Korner agreed to donate 10% to the cause, however, in the end, decided to donate even more.
“I would like to commend the staff of KC's Korner for all their hard work in accommodating all their guests that night,” said Co. “The Music Boosters are truly grateful to KC's Korner for hosting this event and helping us raise funds. The owner was very gracious to donate 16% of total sales from 5p.m. to 10p.m. that night.”
“I think the turnout was amazing despite the inclement weather and the snow, ” Director of Bands, William Haughwout said. “I think it’s amazing that our community came out and supported a great cause. It was great to see everyone at KC’s. It felt like a great big family meal.”