Share This Page

'Choralpalooza' strikes a chord with West Jefferson Hills students

| Wednesday, April 10, 2013, 9:02 p.m.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Thomas Jefferson High School sophomores (from left) Glenna Chandler, Addison Lindberg and Ashley Adams squish together on the school stage as more than 360 students from all five West Jefferson Hills School District schools gather to sing the final song during last week’s first “Choralpalooza.”
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Thomas Jefferson High School and Pleasant Hills Middle School choir director Julie Lucci (left) ushers more than 360 students to their spots during the district’s first “Choralpalooza” last week.
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
More than 360 students from all five West Jefferson Hills schools — Gill Hall Elementary, Jefferson Elementary, McClellan Elementary, Pleasant Hills Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School — performed in unison on the Thomas Jefferson stage during the district's first 'Choralpalooza.'
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Julie Lucci, choir director at Pleasant Hills Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School, directed more than 360 students from the West Jefferson Hills School District's five schools in a mash-up of 'Blowin' in the Wind' and 'America,' during the district's first 'Choralpalooza.'
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
McClellan Elemetnary student Jacquelyn Burich (center) sings alongside the more than 360 students from all five West Jefferson Hills School District schools who gathered onstage at Thomas Jefferson High School to sing the final song during last week’s first “Choralpalooza.”
Stephanie Hacke | South Hills Record
Pleasant Hills Middle School sixth graders (from left to right) Anthony Lekse, Jacob Janosko and Gavin Williams sing the final song during last week’s first West Jefferson Hills School District “Choralpalooza.”

These diminutive dynamos bounced and hopped around the hallways, as they struggled to contain their excitement and nervous energy.

“I hope we don't forget,” said Eliana Morano, 11, a fifth-grader at Jefferson Elementary. “That always goes through my mind — just don't forget.”

Students in the West Jefferson Hills School District prepared for every scenario, such as: “What if I forget the words, then everyone else forgets, too?”

Getting every note just right and making sure they remembered their “arms in the air” and “hand shakes” was especially important for the fourth- and fifth-graders this time because they didn't want to let down the “big kids” that were performing alongside.

Standing several feet taller than the elementary tykes, students from Pleasant Hills Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School were just as nervous about their performances.

“It's a healthy nervous, though. If you're not scared to approach something, then why are you doing it?” asked Gill Hall Elementary choir teacher Megan Curley.

The backstage jitters quickly diminished at the stroke of a chord and the voices of more than 360 students from all five West Jefferson Hills schools came together in unison.

“When we're all singing, it's so powerful,” Eliana said.

The first West Jefferson Hills “Choralpalooza,” which integrated performances from choirs at all five district schools, was held at Thomas Jefferson High School last week.

The event was meant to show the importance of music in education, said middle and high school choir director Julie Lucci. The program also was strived to show younger generations of West Jefferson Hills performers the opportunities they have in music as they progress through the district.

Music teachers in the district got the idea for “Choralpalooza” at this year's Pennsylvania Music Educators Association conference, held at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh in November, Lucci said.

The district never had attempted to hold a concert of this magnitude before, Lucci said.

“People said, ‘You're crazy.' ‘What are you thinking?' ‘They're never going to fit.' I said, ‘I'll make them fit,'” Lucci said. “It was a good, healthy way for elementary, middle and high school students to interact.”

The more than 700 parents, family and friends who filled the 700-seat auditorium, cried, laughed and sang along as the students performed songs such as Simon and Garfunkel's “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” such as Maroon 5's “Payphone” and The Script's “Hall of Fame.”

Students called the final performance of the night — where more than 360 of them crowded on the Thomas Jefferson stage and surrounding bleachers to sing a rendition of Bob Dylan's “Blowin' in the Wind” and L. Thomas' “America” — “outrageous” and “exciting,” and a learning experience.

“You work as a team to make one voice,” said Morgan Yurkovich, 12, a seventh-grader at Pleasant Hills Middle School. “We work as one, but there's hundreds of us.”

Having students from grades four to 12 perform together united the district and provided younger students with a preview of what musical opportunities are in store for them in the future, said Thomas Jefferson High School senior Lauren Snyder, 18.

“They see older kids that have stuck with it. There's a mix of guys and girls and everyone is still having fun with this,” she said.

Fourth- and fifth-graders from all three elementary schools in West Jefferson Hills enjoyed working alongside one another for a common goal, said Connie Testa, music department chair in West Jefferson Hills and a music teacher at Jefferson Elementary for 23 years.

“For the high school kids, this was special. But they might forget about it after a few weeks. For the elementary kids, that's something they'll remember for the rest of their lives. They're so impressionable at this age,” Testa said.

At Thomas Jefferson, freshmen and seniors also learned to become one.

“If the seniors are nice to you and talk to you, it makes you feel more a part of the school,” said freshman Lucia Bonacchi, 15.

That sentiment was echoed at every grade level.

“It's the power of music,” Curley said. “It can bring a community together.”

Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or shacke@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.