Middle school takes show on the road
By MAUREEN BYRNE
© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001
SEMINOLE -- There is no denying that Seminole Middle School has an awesome music program.
The school's chorus and bands earn superior ratings at the county's annual performing arts showcase. And the school, like Seminole High, was named a "Music Demonstration School" by the Florida Music Educators Association and the Florida Department of Education.
So why not take it to the national level?
On Saturday, 80 Seminole Middle students will compete at the annual All American Music Festival in Orlando. The seventh- and eighth-grade students will join others from 14 other middle and high schools from across the country who will perform at the Hard Rock Live Orlando, a 140,000-square-foot concert hall at Universal Studios Citywalk.
Seminole Middle is the only Pinellas school participating in the non-profit educational organization's event, which will feature schools from North Dakota, New Jersey and Texas.
"We go to festivals where we get ratings, but we never compete," said choral director Joey Miazga, a 20-year veteran at the school and the 1999 Pinellas County Teacher of the Year. "They always get a superior; that's why we're going. We need to take another step."
Unlike the school district's annual showcase, the Orlando competition will award first, second and third place.
"We're going to rock," said Matt Boeggeman, 14, an eighth-grader at the school who plays an alto saxophone in the symphonic band and a baritone saxophone in the jazz band.
Under the guidance of choral director Miazga and band director Chad Guess, the 80 young musicians have rehearsed for Saturday's event since December. They have been practicing in class as well as rehearsing an hour before school starts three days a week.
The 35-member Music Makers chorus will perform a medley of songs from different countries, including Danny Boy from Ireland. The 40-member symphonic band's play list will include Cajun Folk Songs, Brighton Beach and As Summer Was Just Beginning -- A Song for James Dean. The 24-member jazz band will perform songs such as Hogs Squealin' Rip Snortin' Belly Achin' Blues and Birdland.
The students have been raising money, too. The individual cost for the weekend event, which includes lodging and visits at Epcot, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, is $400. With 80 students and 20 adults, that's $40,000.
The students sold discount cards, carnations and snacks. They also stood in their band uniforms outside grocery stores asking for donations. Beef O'Brady's restaurant on Park Boulevard even donated 25 percent of its proceeds from three days last month.
About $15,000 was collected through fundraising activities. The students' parents paid the rest of the money and the 20 adults attending paid $400 apiece.
"The community is extremely supportive of this music program," said Guess, who is wrapping up his first year as band director at the school.
The students work hard, Guess said. "These kids do so much extra in the evenings and early in the mornings," he said. "This is one of the reasons we did the trip -- to reward them for what they've done."
Brittany Cross, an eighth-grader and a member of Music Makers, plans on singing for a career: first as a pop star, then as a performer on Broadway.
"I think it's going to go well," the 14-year-old said of the competition. "I think we're going to go home with a gold."
Tad Pearson, also in the eighth grade, didn't sound quite as confident. He's sure the chorus will score in the Top 10, but he's hoping the group can grab a bronze.
"The key thing to getting gold is smiling and energy," said Tad, 14, who like Brittany plans on singing for a living.
Trumpet player Ryan Howard, 14, also an eighth-grader, is looking forward to hearing his competitors. "It's really fun to compete, and I like hearing other bands play," he said.
The weekly music festival began March 10 and runs through June 9, said Amy Tisue, an administrative assistant for the Orlando-based American Tours and Travel, the organizer. Overall winners are recognized at the end of the festival, Tisue said.
- Reach staff writer Maureen Byrne at 445-4163.
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