Musicians take the stage

Published 9:26 pm Monday, March 21, 2011

Some of Suffolk Public Schools’ most talented musicians will take the stage this week during citywide middle and high school choir, strings and band performances.

“It’s a good opportunity to share our talented kids with the public,” said Bethanne Bradshaw, spokeswoman for Suffolk Public Schools.

Music teachers from each Suffolk middle and high school selected students to perform with their peers under the direction of guest directors from other school districts.

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“It’s a great experience for students,” said Jason Taylor, band director at King’s Fork High School. “It’s always nice to have rival schools work together.”

The experience helps students practice performing with other students and under the direction of musicians from other areas, said Sara Jordan, orchestra teacher at King’s Fork Middle School.

Guest directors are coming from near and far to work with the Suffolk students.

Paul Putnam, music teacher at Newcastle Elementary School in Virginia Beach, will be directing the middle school choir group, while Dr. Toney McNair, choir teacher at Indian River High School in Chesapeake, will be directing the high school choir.

Amy Coxwell, orchestra teacher from Churchland High School in Portsmouth will be directing the middle school strings group, while Laura Parker, orchestra teacher from Salem Middle School in Virginia Beach, will be directing the high school group.

William Prentiss, from the Richmond area, will be directing the middle school band group, while Crystal Cox from the Chesapeake school district will be directing the high school group, Taylor said.

The teachers may have used slightly different means for selecting students to participate in the performances, but generally speaking students learned the material in class and auditioned for a place in the all-city groups. Students have to have a clean discipline record and demonstrate academic excellence to participate.

“It’s a very high honor for any student to be selected and a great learning experience,” said Joleen Neighbours, choir and drama teacher at Nansemond River High School.

Students have been learning the music both in class and after school to prepare them for their first rehearsal with the guest director and the upcoming performance.

“It’s a good evening of entertainment,” Jordan said.

It’s also a good way to support the arts in public schools, she added.

“It’s definitely a great experience to see these kids come together for one night,” Taylor said.

The citywide choir groups will perform Thursday at King’s Fork High School starting at 7 p.m.

The strings groups will perform on Friday at King’s Fork Middle School starting at 7 p.m. Band groups will perform on Saturday beginning at 2 p.m. at King’s Fork High School. The performances are free and open to the public.