New York -
The Performing Arts Center at Meyer Levin's Junior High School I.S.
285 was transformed into a musical mecca for the educational institution's annual Winter
Concert. Located in Brooklyn, New York, Meyer Levin's student
body put on an event chock full of music and dance. A program
displaying the talents of the Mixed Chorus, Senior Concert Band,
Sixth Grade Chorus, dancers, and steelbands from the school's sixth,
seventh and eighth grades, along with the Higher Levin Steel
Orchestra - played to an auditorium with standing room only.
Proud mamas and papas, along with family, friends and well-wishers
had turned out in force for this particular calendar event.
The Master and Mistress of Ceremonies for the evening were principal
Edward Gentile and assistant principal Denise Holder
The former would return in the unadvertised role of surprise
vocalist later on in the program.
event began mere minutes after its
scheduled 7:00 PM start. Vocalists Ezra Davis, Brittany Morgan
and Johnathan Jones, along with rapper Ryan Toby took the spotlight
soon after with Meyer Levin's Mixed Chorus
(pictured, right). With a
repertoire of the Peace Canon, We Are Young and Joyful,
Joyful (from Sister Act 2), these youngsters reveled in the
spotlight as strong leads, with the enthusiastic and skilled backing
of their fellow chorus singers. Davis
(pictured, left) is obviously a rising
star, a fact acknowledged by the audience who roared in approval at
the mention of his name even before he sang a single note along with fellow
soloist Johnathan Jones.
There were just about two hours for the evening's activities, and
the show ran like well-oiled machinery. Both Meyer
Levin's Senior Concert Band and Sixth Grade Chorus followed on the
heels of the Mixed Chorus. The dancers who took the spotlight next
were experienced by everyone in the auditorium - literally.
They came down the side and center aisles, and, together with still
more on stage - went through their paces within the ambience of the
audience, who enjoyed their number immensely.
After a very short intermission, the second half of the concert got
underway with soloist Crystal Ally who delivered quite a competent
and enjoyable performance of the seasonal Who Would Imagine A
King, accompanied by instructor Tichard Chapman on steelpan.
Steelbands from Meyer Levin's sixth, seventh and eighth
grades were next. Classmates in the audience called out
to friends in the bands as they took the stage (as they had in the
choral performances). Grins were returned as the young
musicians took their place behind their steelpan instruments.
The rewards of the bands' practice sessions under the skilled
leadership of instructor Tichard Chapman were evident as they moved
through their seasonal and popular selections. Two surprise
vocalists lent their talents for the holiday classic Have
Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. The students, and
others in the auditorium cheered and hollered when one turned out to
be their very own principal, Edward Gentile.
Chapman's own senior orchestra dubbed Higher Levin took the stage
after the three 'younger' bands. How Chapman has brought out
the musical best in these youngsters can only be described as pure
genius, or - plain common sense - depending on how one looks at it.
Enjoyment is one adjective, but almost ecstatic may be more apt.
Because of time allocation - Higher Levin pannists
(pictured) dropped 'hooks' of one popular dancehall-style hit after another in a
medley. These young ladies and young men simply had a blast
while they performed. The same was true of their classmates in
the audience, along with other visitors. Higher Levin had the
auditorium rocking as the kids sang the hooks while the steel
orchestra played. They did not forget the season or the time
of the year, however, and served up some holiday fare within their
When Steel Talks
saw Higher Levin one year ago, they were a fledgling steelband.
At the Winter Concert, they have grown noticeably in membership. With
that type of repertoire and fervor, delivering not only conventional
and contemporary selections on pan, but also the youngsters' own
'happening' music - Tichard Chapman
(pictured, left) could find his Higher Levin
orchestra expanding much in size, with instrument
availability, perhaps, being the only limitation. Brilliant, Mr. Chapman
- well done. With the proven stats of the positive effects of
music involvement on students and their grades, it is going to be
an interesting academic year.
It is kudos also to the school's principal and assistant principal(s) for
having wholeheartedly embraced, encouraged and supported the
steelpan artform as a main part of their curriculum, and to parents
and others behind the scenes. The obvious rapport among the
students, their principal, assistant principal and others appears to have
contributed in no small way to making the 2006 Winter Concert at
Meyer Levin a resounding success!
Visit Higher Levin at
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Steelpan In New York
News Desk of When Steel Talks
-From The Opinion Desk of When Steel Talks
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