Union, NJ - It was a bittersweet day for the students of Burnet Middle School’s vocal and instrumental ensembles as they competed in “Music in the Parks” without the leadership of their teacher Michael Hamilton.

Hamilton, who is recovering from injuries he suffered from an accident on May 18, was unable to help the ensembles with their final preparations for the competition. With the assistance of the school’s administration, fellow music teachers, and Union High School instrumental music teacher Laura Muller, the 113 students were able to prepare and shine at the competition, taking home the top prize in numerous categories.

Burnet Middle School brought several ensembles including Jazz Band, Concert Band, String Orchestra, Full Orchestra and for the first time the BMS Show Choir. The show choir performed selections from The Little Mermaid, featuring solos by 7th grader Chloe Lee-Freeman and 6th grader Ellis Foreman.  The students in the full orchestra and jazz band meet before and after school to rehearse as an extra-curricular activity.

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Final results of the competition are:

• Jazz Band – First Place, Superior Rating

        o Soloist Award – Ivana Brito, 8th Grade, Baritone Saxophone

• Concert Band – First Place, Excellent Rating

• String Orchestra – First Place, Excellent Rating

• Best Overall Middle School/Junior High Symphonic Orchestra

• Show Choir – First Place, Excellent Rating

“Music in the Parks” provides a year-end assessment by an outside panel of judges that helps to reinforce the music skills that students have been learning throughout the course of the year. Ensembles from all over the country as well as Canada attend the event held at Dorney Park in Pennsylvania.

“I just wanted to assure that the Burnet Middle School instrumental music students had the chance to attend their festival and hold their spring concert,” said Muller.  “Not being able to work with Mr. Hamilton was very difficult for them, as they adore him, and I just wanted to make a smooth transition for them by keeping things as normal as possible so they could perform at their best. I know Mr. Hamilton is so proud of their professionalism in the face of adversity. Their performances at the festival showed it.”

Burnet 8th grader Alexis Orallo added, “We came in hoping for at least one trophy, yet we came out with six! Even without Mr. Hamilton we achieved our goal. This win was supposed to be dedicated to the school, but now we dedicate this win to not only BMS but also more importantly Mr. Hamilton. He cares so much and supports us for our beliefs throughout our musical experiences and all of life. He taught us how to make use of time and take advantage of it no matter what. We love you Mr. Hamilton!”

“It would be impossible for me to be any prouder of the Instrumental Music students from Burnet Middle School,” said Hamilton.  “The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for all of us but the students handled themselves as true professionals. They never lost sight of the end result . . . a great performance. It would have been very easy for them to give up but instead they continued to work toward the goal that we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.  To me, that shows how much they learned by being a part of the Instrumental Music Program.”

“Yes we teach music,” continued Hamilton, “but I feel the greatest lessons learned are dedication and persistence. These are the skills which will help them the most as they continue to grow into awesome young adults. Also, a very special thank you to Laura Muller. Ms. Muller stepped in to rehearse and conduct the groups during my absence. I am sure the students are as grateful as I am for what she did.”