At LR Rocks: Live experience cultures young performers

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April Streeter shows off the electric guitar she played live for the first time.  Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph
April Streeter shows off the electric guitar she played live for the first time. Photos by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

copyright the Chronicle February 25, 2015

by Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph

COVENTRY — April Streeter, 15, is no stranger to singing in public, but Saturday night’s LR Rocks showcase at Parker Pie Wings did include a first for her — a whirl on the electric guitar in front of a live audience.

“It’s kind of a rush,” she said. “It’s really fun to get up there. The energy is really great, especially in places like this.”

Parker Pie Wings had set up the concert venue on one side of its bar. The smaller space created a packed atmosphere for the 100 people in attendance.

Since she stepped in three years ago at Lake Region Union High School, Sara Doncaster has expanded the music program. The Parker Pie project is an extension of her work in the high school.

“It’s a great teaching tool,” she said. “Practicing and preparing is important but live experience is essential.”

Seventeen-year-old Caleb Sweeney of Albany, who sang and played several solos throughout the night, would agree.

“Live performance is very helpful because you know how everything works in the real world,” he said. “Being able to do this in front of other people is definitely a confidence booster.” While he doesn’t want to be a professional musician, he plans on becoming a sports broadcaster and thinks these live performances will help get him there.

With only three or four mandatory music program concerts a year, the project gives students the opportunity to perform live more regularly.

Tenor Nathaniel Chambers takes his turn as a soloist for the Funk Out ensemble’s version of “Brick House.”
Tenor Nathaniel Chambers takes his turn as a soloist for the Funk Out ensemble’s version of “Brick House.”

Saturday’s show included three separate music groups. LR Jazz Band, Power Rangers, and Funk Out presented popular funk, jazz, and soul tunes.

The crowd was very happy to see the students perform and clapped enthusiastically after each number. Julie Lavine of Albany came to see her son Joshua on stage.

“For them to be able to experience this at this age, who knows what they’ll do in the future. But it gives them the opportunity to explore other things,” she said. “It’s incredible.”

Each LR Rocks show is a fund-raiser, so student performers earn community service credits for participating. The music program focuses on musicianship and theory, as well as some composition. While the show did not feature original compositions by the students, Ms. Doncaster suggested that a spring concert that does might be in the works.

Besides her work for the Lake Region music program, Ms. Doncaster was in charge of the Warebrooke Contemporary Music Festival.

“It was a labor of love and was well attended, but we had a sustainability problem,” she explained.

She will know in March if a revival of the festival will be possible. It would feature one concert as well as a workshop for students to learn more about composition, and choral singing, among other things.

Sara Doncaster jumps on stage with her students to perform a comical version of “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.
Sara Doncaster jumps on stage with her students to perform a comical version of “Please Mr. Postman” by the Marvelettes.

“Live performance teaches them that they have the power to change someone’s mood, to connect and make musical performances that touch people’s hearts and make the world better,” said Ms. Doncaster. “That’s the whole point of music education.”

According to Ms. Doncaster, Vermont is a hidden gem when it comes to high quality musical teaching. “We train to develop better citizens,” she said. “It’s a great thing and it’s important culturally.”

An encore of Saturday night’s show will take place at the Irasburg Town Hall on March 1 at 1 p.m. The LR Rocks students will perform once more at Parker Pie’s Village Hall in West Glover on March 14. The spring band concert will take place on March 31, at 7 p.m. at Lake Region, and the spring chorus concert will take place a month later on April 30, at 7 p.m. at Barton United Church. The pops concert is happening May 19, at 7 p.m. at Lake Region and will feature the jazz band, the concert band, and the mixed vocal ensembles.

contact Nathalie Gagnon-Joseph at [email protected]

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