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Highlands concert benefits community

| Sunday, Jan. 20, 2013, 9:01 p.m.

Giving hits a high note with the annual “Highlands Gives Back” concert.

Sponsored by Highlands School District Music Department, the show offers a night of jazz music from Highlands alumni, with some funk and big band thrown in for good measure. The “price” of admission is donations of nonperishable food items and children's clothing that will go to local charities. Monetary donations are accepted, as well.

“It's wonderful to host an event and, on top of it, be able to help groups that help our community and our families,” says Misty Chybrzynski, Highlands public-relations manager.

“Highlands Gives Back” will be at 7 p.m. Friday at Highlands Middle School auditorium in Harrison. The charities that the concert benefits include the Allegheny Valley Association of Churches Food Bank, Highlands Area Meals on Wheels and the Alle-Kiski Hope Center.

“HGB has become a chance to shine a light on the impact our music program has had on the community over the years and, more importantly, the caring and compassion the people of Highlands have for one another,” says Matthew Beresik, Highlands School District band director and chair of instrumental music.

The show will feature the talents of the Highlands Gives Back Big Band — a group of more than 25 musicians who hail from Highlands. They will perform jazz standards and favorites from the likes of Harry Connick Jr., Bob Mintzer and Maynard Ferguson, according to Lee Lynn, Highlands Middle School band director. Lynn is directing and coordinating the event along with Beresik.

“There will definitely be a little bit of everything,” Beresik says. “Familiar classics, vocal standards, energetic tunes and smooth ballas. Something for everyone.”

Lynn says his favorite part of the show is the chance to meet up with old friends and make music together. “There's a deep connection in every note we play together,” he says.

“I think most of the performers feel the same. In addition, it's awesome to see the huge turnout of friends, family and Highlands graduates from over the years come out for a worthy cause. It's like a Highlands family reunion every year.”

In previous years, the performance has attracted an audience of 700.

He and other music colleagues wanted to showcase the musicians who have come out of Highlands School District, while “giving back to the community that helped me through tough times growing up.” Lynn says he and Beresik “have worked tirelessly to make this a very anticipated yearly event.”

Their efforts have added up. “In the past years, we have raised over $1,500 in cash, truckloads of canned goods and dry goods, and the same with children's clothing for several local charities,” Lynn says. “We hope to grow bigger and support more each year.”

Julie Martin is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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