In spring 2017, Newark Middle School instrumental music teacher Rebekah Valerio asked her seventh-grade band members to think about how they could combine their musical talents with some type of community service.
The students came up with several suggestions, but one really stood out: the band could play with individuals with disabilities.
Valerio reminded the band that students from Newark Education Center — one of five Wayne-Finger Lakes BOCES special education sites — receive instruction in various classrooms it leases from the school district in the NMS building. She got permission from NEC Principal Elise Comella to have students attend a seventh-grade band rehearsal at the end of the school year.
Band members showed NEC students how to use various auxiliary percussion instruments such as shakers, maracas, rhythm sticks and jingle bells. Together, the students made music during the band rehearsal.
Valerio said the band members and NEC students loved the experience. In their excitement, one of her students suggested they do an actual concert together at some point.
The suggestion was presented in October 2017 to NMS Principal Teresa Prinzi by the now eighth-grade band members, who asked that the scheduled holiday concert be changed to earlier in the school day to accommodate the NEC students’ schedule. Prinzi agreed to the adjustment.
The eighth-grade band and NEC students, playing auxiliary percussion instruments, performed two selections together from the “Polar Express Medley” under Valerio’s direction during the concert.
“I am really proud of the fact that the eighth-grade band students took the initiative to make this wonderful opportunity for themselves and the NEC students happen,” Prinzi said. “I was more than happy to rearrange the schedule so all of our students could benefit from this experience. They put on a great performance. I am so proud of our students and the pride that they are showing in our middle school community.”
Comella said the NEC students “enjoyed themselves and had a great time performing for the whole school.”
“This concert just made my holiday brighter,” Comella said. “The eighth-grade band students truly showed what being part of community is all about.”
The concert included performances by NMS Jazz Band as well as the sixth- and seventh-grade bands. All were directed by Valerio.
The sixth-, seventh- and eighth-grade choruses individually performed holiday selections. All were directed by Brooke Hartpence, vocal music teacher at NMS.