Baldwin performing arts center dedication to honor longtime music director
Each time Jonny Priano plants his feet on the Baldwin High School stage, it feels like home.
An orchestra pit and new seats have been added, and the space has been remodeled since Priano graduated in 2003. None of that matters.
“Even though it looks different, it feels the same,” said Priano, now 29, of New Wilmington, who performed in the Baldwin choir, Baldwinaires and school musicals and spent much of his high school career in the room now deemed a performing-arts center.
“The feeling that you get standing on that stage — you've returned.”
As many as 75 Baldwin High School students and alumni, representing the “past, present and future,” will perform in unison on the Baldwin High School stage on Saturday at 7 p.m. That night, the Baldwin High School performing-arts center will be renamed and dedicated in honor of longtime Baldwin teacher and director Regis V. Shalley, who is credited with bringing life to the school's music program and assisting students in their music careers and lives before he retired in 1981 after a 28-year career. He died in March 2013.
An alumni concert will follow, with graduates dating to 1962, said Kris Tranter, director of Baldwin's choirs.
They'll perform music that was a staple for years at the spring and Christmas concerts Shalley conducted, along with songs written by Baldwin graduates and the school's alma mater.
“I love the alma mater. I love when we sing it,” said Grant Weaver, 18, a music-education major at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh who will conduct the piece during the alumni concert.
The event will help to kick off the 75th anniversary of the Baldwin-Whitehall School District.
“What better way to celebrate the district's longevity as a historical entity than to celebrate a teacher's long-term impact on his students,” said Whitehall Mayor James Nowalk, who also serves as president of the Baldwin-Whitehall Friends of the Theater Arts, a nonprofit working to bolster theater and musical performances in the district.
The organization was instrumental in getting the center named after Shalley, who, Nowalk, said “had a high standard of excellence.”
Baldwin-Whitehall leaders in 2009 initially agreed to build an orchestra pit in the performing-arts center during high school remodeling if the Friends of the Theater Arts raised $175,000 to help finance it. District leaders granted the Friends group naming rights for the center for the money.
So far, $40,000, plus an organ valued between $5,000 and $6,000 has been donated, Nowalk said.
District leaders in Nov. 2013 agreed to cut the donation agreement in half, to $87,500 and move forward with the naming.
Tranter, who began teaching in the district 15 years ago, said he continued to hear stories years after Shalley retired about the man students admired.
He found pictures of the large choirs at Baldwin during Shalley's day and even was invited to the former teacher's home when he died to collect old albums and notes.
“He must have really made a difference, not only through music,” Tranter said.
Priano will perform alongside his parents, siblings and aunt.
“For us, it becomes a whole family affair,” Priano said.
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or email@example.com.