SUMMIT, NJ - Music is alive and well in Summit. Thanks to high schoolers, middle schoolers, and dedicated music teachers, students were able to give members of the Summit community, a taste of jazz, upbeat Brazilian music and classic favorites like Peter Gunn at this year’s Music Marathon.
Summit High School’s Music Marathon is a tradition that has been running for a very long time. According to Thomas Maliszewski, Supervisor of Fine Performing, Performing, and Practical Arts K-12 at Summit High School, “Around the 1970s, the school began the Pledge tradition. Pledge Day meant that students would play for a certain amount of time and would raise money for music scholarships. This event continues to this day, except that both the hours and date for the marathon is not the same,” Maliszewski said.
Originally, the Music Marathon took place in November. “Thanks to Hurricane Sandy and those storms we had in October, we had to move the date for the concert. Also students play for 8 hours, not until midnight like they used to,” he said.
The Music Marathon this year began at 3:15 p.m. and went until 11 p.m. The Summit High School Wind Ensemble opened up the show with "Bugler’s Holiday" by Leroy Anderson and also played "A Tone Poem to New York" by Norman Joio and "Wild Nights" by Frank Ticheli.
The 8th grade band and Summit Concert Band followed with a mixture of different songs like the theme song from "Pirates of the Caribbean," arranged by Michael Sweeney; "Stars and Stripes" by Robert Foster Jr. and "You Can’t Stop the Beat" from "Hairspray."
At 4:45 p.m., singers hit the stage and sung classic and some devotional songs to an audience of parents. The 8th grade chorus sang "Riversong" by Andy Beck, the Summit Middle School Bel Canto group sang "Saints Bound for Heaven" by Alice Parker and Robert Shaw. The High School choir sang "Walk in Jerusalem" by Dilworth. The last group to sing was a combination of the Women’s Chorus, the 8th grade chorus and Bel Canto and they sang "River in Judea" by John Leavitt.
After a 15-minute intermission, four male students from the High School Percussion Ensemble took over and played "Tarzan" by Chris Crockarell using only their hands and their bodies and Brazilian Street Dance with African drums and amazed the audience with their skill. The Summit Middle School Jazz Lab, a special entry level group that does not require auditions to join, played classics like the Peter Gunn and James Bond themes, in which the young musicians had solos, to demonstrate their musical talents.
The last portion of the marathon was conducted by Barbara Virschilling, one of the music teachers who helped organize the event who directed the Chamber Orchestra, Middle School quartet, and Full Orchestra. Most of the songs played by these last groups were classical songs such as the "Brandenburg Concerto Number 6" by Bach and "Sleeping Beauty" by Tchaikovsky.
Both Maliszewski and Virschilling discussed the purpose of the event and how significant it was to Summit High School students. “People pledge money and this usually goes towards music scholarships and the trip that students can go on every other year. Some students don’t have the money to go and this is the fundraiser that gets them there. The trip actually takes place this Sunday and both the Middle School and High School Jazz Bands and Orchestras will be attending,” Virschilling said.
“This event here is our own time to give back to the community. Our schools don’t hold fundraisers where students go from door to door and sell candy or other products,” Maliszewski said. “This is what we do - hold the marathon - and the money goes toward music scholarships, the big trip that takes place every other year, and sometimes for equipment,” he said. “We’ve refurbished old pianos, bought new tympanis, put Yamaha pianos in every elementary school classroom and brought in music artists to enrich all kids. And we are happy that the community has been so supportive towards our program.”