All City Music Festival gives students chance to show creativity
By Anna Maria Della Costa firstname.lastname@example.org
NORWICH – Eileen Dusio Button came up with the idea for a city-wide school music festival 55 years ago as a platform for local students to learn and make new friends.
Button, the district's music supervisor at the time, aptly named that first celebration "Have Songs...Will Sing!"
"I just thought it was a wonderful thing to do," said the 87-year-old Button, who lives in Quaker Hill. "We all worked together to put it on. There's so much that happens when you get with others, and music ties it all together.
"It was a wonderful experience for everybody. We had 370 students that first concert from all of the schools: Bishop, Broad Street, W.A. Buckingham, Elizabeth Street, Falls, Greeneville, Huntington, Laurel Hill, Smith Avenue, Stanton and Wequonnoc."
The tradition Button began in Norwich Public Schools decades ago is scheduled to continue tonight at Kelly Middle School, as long as the weather cooperates. If not, the snow date is Thursday. However, if there is a delayed opening for school on Thursday, the festival will move to Monday.
The annual All City Music Festival will feature more than 120 fourth- through eighth-grade students from across the district performing together in the choir and band.
The large choir will feature students in grades 4 and 5, and the band will feature students from grades 5-8 from Wequonnoc Arts Magnet, Teachers' Memorial and Kelly Middle schools.
"I will be there," Button said. "I can't wait to attend."
Students, like Madison Oliver, have been rehearsing this week. The fifth-grader from Wequonnoc will pull double duty: she sings and plays the flute.
"I really like to explore the different harmonies and melodies," Madison, 10, said. "It's all so cool. I love to practice, too. I usually try to sneak in a half-hour on school days, but it's hard because I go to bed early."
Allison Beit, the band director at Kelly, said the festival has evolved over the years.
"It is amazing that the festival has gone on for all of these years," Beit said. "I, myself, am a product of the Norwich Public School system and participated in the All City Music Festival in the '90s, so it is very exciting to know that I took part in this festival that has so much history behind it and now I get to be one of the teachers."
For many students, music provides a much-needed break from academics.
"There's so much emphasis put on testing that kids don't get a lot of opportunity to be creative," said Amanda Gould, the music and instrumental teacher at John B. Stanton Network School. "Music provides those opportunities."
Added Cortlan Beetle, 10, a fifth-grader at Samuel Huntington School: "This event is good for the community, too, because all of the schools come together and have a big choir and have a good time."
Angeliz Garcia, a fourth-grader from Stanton, calls herself a "soul singer," and can't wait to perform for her family and friends.
"I've been singing since I was 2 years old and I see singing in my future," the 9-year-old said. "I think I sound nice and my family appreciates how I sing. I love it, and I hope I'm famous one day."