Since 1997, the Upper Darby School District Gala has showcased the incredible talent, dedication, and hard work of its music students and faculty. This year was no exception.
The 2013 concert began with an upbeat performance of “Dance to the Music” by the talented UDHS Encore Singers. Clad in brightly colored T-shirts and accompanied by the equally talented Faculty Jazz Band, this group got the entire Performing Arts Center clapping along and dancing to the music right from the start.
The newly added family performances by father-daughter duo Sophia and Ray Jiminez and the Jackson Family brought the audience to its feet with rousing, well-deserved standing ovations.
Senior, Camille Young’s amazing rendition of “The Greatest Love of All” was especially poignant. I hope the significance of the lyrics, at this particular time in our district, was not lost on members of the audience: “ I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way…let the children’s laughter remind us how we used to be.” Camille brought the audience the its feet again with a heartfelt standing ovation.
Eighth grade violinist Abigail Liu gave a beautiful solo performance of “The Boy Paganini.” Abby’s performance was followed by the talented Elementary Honors Chorus in their first Gala performance. High school violinist Sophie Fortunato brought the audience to its feet again with her amazing solo performance of “Polonaise Brillante.” Both the middle school Honors Orchestra and Honors Chorus did a fantastic job with “Viola Hero” and “Seize the Day.” As always, the High School Jazz Ensemble wowed the audience with the Stevie Wonder tune “Too High.” The District Honors Orchestra did a great job with much-loved music from “The Lion King.”
The talented Elementary Honors Band performed “I Feel Good” with an arrangement by Brad Schoener. His spirit remains alive in our school district, especially in the students and faculty.
The High School Wind Ensemble’s performance of “Go” came off beautifully without a hitch. Chad Hunter stepped in to conduct when Band Director Jason Majerczak became ill and was unable to attend the Gala. Barbara Benglian introduced Mr. Hunter and the Wind Ensemble by announcing that Chad Hunter had been at the PAC since 10:00am learning the piece so he could step in for Jason Majerczak. Ironically, Mr. Hunter, being one of the younger members of the UDSD Music Faculty, was slated to be let go, this past spring, as part of the budget cuts. I can’t imagine the high school without him.
The High School Concert Choir and Orchestra brought tears to my eyes with their rendition of “One Day More” from “Les Miserables.” The audience was again on its feet with a standing ovation.
The finale, “One Moment in Time,” brought all of the performers on to the stage, not to mention anywhere around the stage where they could fit. It is difficult to find words to describe the feelings in my heart at seeing my two children perform in the finale with so many students and teachers I have grown to know, love, and respect throughout our years in this district. Again, it brought tears to my eyes and the audience to its feet.
I did sense a bittersweet undertone to this year’s Gala. Perhaps it was the absence of the kindergarten students. The kindergartners have been without Specials Classes, including music, since 2006. Maybe it was the well-deserved plaque presented to Barbara Benglian on this, her fifteenth Gala. Or maybe it was the effects of all the turmoil and challenges we faced as a district this year and continue to face.
Joseph Batory, former superintendent, echoed the thoughts of so many with his words in the Gala Program: “advocating high quality and in-depth music and art instruction for all public school children…With Gratitude For the Wondrous Accomplishments Of Music and Art Teachers with Students Each and Every Day in the Upper Darby School District.” Thank you, Mr. Batory. We whole-heartedly agree.