Will high school choirs and bands from around the U.S. some day make pilgrimages to Sonoma State’s Green Music Center, much as our local schools send students to Los Angeles, New York and Washington?
If that happens, the current choir members of Santa Rosa’s five public high schools still can look back fondly on being among the first young musicians to perform at the center’s new Weill Hall.
Sitting there Friday night listening to the choirs perform at the William Barclay Memorial Concert, it felt easy to believe that young musicians would relish the chance both to soak up some California sun and to hear their music resound in such an amazing venue.
The students on Friday certainly made the most of the opportunity, and the audience loved it. Each choir got to fill the hall with music they love – classical, pop and gospel styles, among others.
After intermission, all five choirs came together to perform three numbers. The mass ensemble provided a rare chance for every student to be part of something bigger than themselves, and to join with others in creating something beautiful.
Donations received at the concert provide college music scholarships for students from all five high schools. So by their performances, the students were working to help others.
That seemed a common theme Friday night. At the start of the concert, the Santa Rosa non-profit Schools Plus announced that this year it is providing $160,000 this year for Santa Rosa City Schools students. In its 20-plus years of fund-raising, Schools Plus is drawing close to donating $4 million for art, drama and sports programs to school districts around the city.
Another example of helping was the Green Center graciously providing the venue for a free concert (the suggested $10 donation went to scholarships). And I want to add that I do enjoy being helped by the center’s mostly college-age staff. From the road crossing guards to the ticket booth operators and the ushers inside, the staff has been consistently upbeat and courteous.
Finally, the audience on Friday honored the help and service of the five current high school choral instructors, and also of Dan Earl, the retired Santa Rosa High teacher who has done much to elevate choral singing for students and adults in Sonoma County.
My own daughters have long since graduated, but I’m grateful for the opportunities they had to sing in high school choirs. So for me it’s worth naming those who helped their students achieve so much Friday night: Mike Milbrath of Piner, Gail Bowers of Maria Carrillo, Kyle Thompson of Elsie Allen, Dana Alexander of Montgomery and Kira Bombace of Santa Rosa. Well done.
– Robert Digitale