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BSE’s Sandy carter on ‘Kids in Concert’ at 10

Areia-logoThe Flow catches up with BSE music teacher Sandy Carter on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Kids In Concert, set for Thursday, April 30, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Mohawk’s auditorium. Music students from all our elementary schools will join in for an evening of great performances…

THE BSE FLOW: What’s it like preparing for the 10-year anniversary of Kids in Concert?

SANDY CARTER: First of all, I’m very excited it’s the 10th. Because when we first started we had no idea that we would do this every year for 10 years. So it’s kind of cool that we have this consistent, ongoing thing.

The other neat thing about it is we have some things that are exactly the same from the first and some things that have changed, and this particular concert some things that I’m excited about is that we’re bringing back a couple of the pieces we originally played in the first one, for example, the “Ode to Joy,” which is one of my all-time favorite pieces of music, written by Beethoven, and to do that again like we did 10 years ago, it’s very exciting.

Concert-CarterThe other thing I’m really excited about is that we have a piece of music that we did in the very first concert, and we gave it to Alice Parker, who is a very well-known composer who happens to live right near here, and that she has written a new arrangement of the song that we did the first time. So we’re doing the same song but with a new arrangement. And she will be there to hear it.

The third thing is that we haven’t kept track of how many students I’ve had participating but I am really excited about BSE participating because I was just counting and getting everybody’s permission slip, and there’s just about 50 kids from BSE participating, and that seems to me like a really good anniversary number.

BSE FLOW: How do you feel? A little nervous, or…

SANDY CARTER: You always get nervous when you perform no matter how many times you’ve done it, whether you’re a fifth-grade flute player or a piano player or a conductor who’s been playing for many, many, many years. You always have that little bit of nervousness.

But I always like to think that’s important because it makes you stay focused: That keeps you in the game and not treat the concert like it’s just something else. It gives it that special feeling. Even though I’ve conducted “Ode to Joy” before it’s with a whole new group of people, so it could be completely different than how we’ve done it before. So that part makes me nervous and excited.

Amar Abbatiello: ‘Singing and dancing is always good for any kid…’

Amar Abbatiello is the Cat in the Hat and Laura Purington is Gertrude McFuzz in Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s “Seussical the Musical.”

MOHAWK—Junior Amar Abbatiello is one hard-working cat. Coming off his amazing performance as the Scarecrow in Mohawk’s 2014 “Wizard of Oz,” he was a natural under the hat in this month’s “Seussical,” which sold out its three consecutive-days’ performances.
He also maintains very good grades, competes in track and field, and works at South Face Farm Sugarhouse in Ashfield.

Performing wasn’t always on his mind. He wasn’t an artsy kid, he said. When he was in elementary school, at Sanderson Academy, he was a tinkerer.

“I liked building things with wood. I did that at home; I didn’t do much in school,” he said.

Even music seems to have been thrust upon him: “In seventh grade band I took saxophone because my brother had, and my mom was like, “I’m not wasting money on this saxophone; you’re going to learn saxophone.’ ” So he did.

Next came chorus. “I got into eighth grade and they were like, ‘You can take chorus or you can take gym.’ I was like, ‘Sign me up, I’ll sing my heart out!’ And now I’m the Cat in the Hat.”

Asked a couple of hours before his March 7 performance what it’s like working with so many kids from all over the school district, Amar immediately said he enjoys it.

“It’s a very good learning experience for both groups. All the elementary school kids get to see how all us slightly more mature kids kind of act about theatre. They can kind of get an experience of theatre and see that singing and dancing — that’s always good for any kid, whether he wants to go into dancing or not.”

He added: “I think it’s just a healthy experience for kids of wider age groups to communicate with each other, because it creates more understanding between both of them and leaves less of a gap between social groups. So you can communicate as a whole better later on.”

RELATED: All-School ‘Seussical’ a District Who’s Who.

All-school ‘Seussical’ a District Who’s Who

Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.
Adam Hallenbeck as a beleaguered, true-blue Horton the Elephant. He’s got his hands full with bird girls, the Jungle of Nool citizens, cadets, and Circus McGurkus, and of course the spirited Wickersham Brothers.

MOHAWK—Amar Abbatiello is the Cat in the Hat and Laura Purington is Gertrude McFuzz in Mohawk Trail Regional High School’s “Seussical the Musical,” the dazzling show by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty based on several of the books of Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss.

More than 85 students from grades 5 through 12 joined in the fun on stage March 6-8, and members of the Mohawk Concert Band performed alongside professional musicians.

Even the set was an all-school production, with digital, Seuss-like dreamscapes projected behind the players. Costuming, lighting, sound, choreography, and makeup and hair shone as stars in their own right.

Concessions were staffed by the Mohawk Music Association and parents. David Fried’s photographs of dress rehearsals are for sale as an MMA fundraiser.

Each performance sold out. This was a a smash hit.

Director was Shelley Roberts. Assistant director was Eva Otten. Music director was Scott Halligan.

And the elementary school liaison, who shuttled hither and yon and made Whoville happen with grace and cheer? That was Gina Glover.

Gina Glover Seussical
Elementary School Liaison Gina Glover corrals dozens of kids from across the district March 6 during the all-school production of ‘Seussical.’

“It gets them excited.
‘This is what I can do…’ ”

WE CAUGHT UP with middle school music teacher Gina Glover on opening night of “Seussical,” just after her charges — the Whos of Whoville (upper grades from the district’s elementary schools) had finished their first number to tremendous applause and swirled into the school cafeteria.

Glover — elementary school liaison for the Mohawk Music Association — managed the sea of energetic performers with a cheerful, crackling efficiency.

The next day we asked Glover to tell us what she and the kids are tackling next and what’s valuable to the community in seeing greater collaboration in the arts among the elementary schools and Mohawk…

GLOVER: We try to make a lot of connections with all of our schools in the district. April 30 we have our annual Kids in Concert event. This is a culmination of the year’s work — all our kids’ work. I collaborate with Joan Fitzgerald, who is another elementary music teacher, and Sandy Carter. We each teach general music, chorus, and elementary band in our own schools. We combine chorus students and band students in grades 4-6, and have two rehearsals and a concert. We pull it all together with 125-plus band students on stage and 80 to 100 chorus students.

We also have our Heath string program, led by David Haskell. They perform as well. In the elementary school world, that concert is the next big thing coming up. It’s huge.

FLOW: What’s the benefit to these younger kids in working on these larger, all-school productions?

GLOVER: It’s a huge benefit. They get an immediate connection to the school. The majority of them will be coming to this school. The connection that these guys have with me being the middle school music teacher, they know me coming in. I’m a known quantity. It’s welcoming. It helps with the transition.

And it helps with retention, definitely. I have about 40 kids in my chorus between seventh and eighth grade, and about 30 in the band. There were some years in my band I only had, like, 15 kids, and even 20-25 kids in the chorus. This works.

And it gets them excited. They say, “This is what I can do when I get to Mohawk…” In [2014’s] “The Wizard of Oz” they were in two scenes. They get to see, “Well, there are seventh-graders on stage, so when I’m in seventh grade I can have maybe a larger role, and then when I get to high school I can have this really big role.” They can see this natural progression.

FLOW: And the benefit to the older students?

GLOVER: I think the older kids take the younger kids under their wing. I think they like to be an inspiration for them as well.

FLOW: Is this a formal plan? Are we going to have a K-12 music department?

GLOVER: That’s our goal: to have it streamlined K-12, and I think we have a fabulous group of teachers who really want to work together to see this come to fruition. And Mr. [Scott] Halligan at the high school is doing his thing — we’re banding together and seeing what we can do to help each other out and make the department even stronger than it’s become.

Another outreach we do, Scott Halligan and I, at the end of the year we team up and take both of our ensembles and tour the elementary schools and have performances. It’s a great way for the kids to see what we do and to see what their next step is as musicians.

For more information, visit mohawkmusicassociation.org.

RELATED: Amar Abbatiello: ‘Singing and dancing is always good for any kid’