District teachers take to the stage in yearly faculty concert

WEST ORANGE, NJ — The West Orange School District’s arts department will once again put its talent on display for a good cause during the 15th annual Music Faculty Scholarship Concert at the Liberty Middle School Auditorium on Tuesday, Feb. 9.

Photo Courtesy of Louis Quagliato West Orange School District faculty members perform in last year’s concert. This year’s faculty concert will be Feb. 9.
Photo Courtesy of Louis Quagliato
West Orange School District faculty members perform in last year’s concert. This year’s faculty concert will be Feb. 9.

Approximately 20 district music educators will perform selections from a variety of genres ranging from jazz to classical to show tunes. Additionally, cast members from West Orange High School’s upcoming production of “Aida” will give the audience a sampling of their own musical before its premiere this spring.

To top it off, the show is absolutely free, though all donations will go to the West Orange Music Faculty Scholarship benefiting high school seniors who intend to pursue a music career after graduation, as well as the Music for Nikhil program, which provides free music lessons to underserved children. Louis Quagliato, the district’s director of visual and performing arts, urged community members to attend, pointing out that it is an affordable way to see professional-caliber performances for people who might not usually have the chance to experience live music.

“What a wonderful opportunity to listen to jazz or classical music or the great repertoires that are coming from our Broadway musicals,” Quagliato told the West Orange Chronicle in a Jan. 29 phone interview. “It’s the best ticket in town.”

The show is also an opportunity for Quagliato himself to take the stage again. The department director, who will take part in the jazz ensemble at this year’s concert, admitted that he has not had the chance to play much in recent years. So for him, performing with the faculty is more than a chance to raise money for two special causes — it’s simply a good time.

“It’s always great to dust off the saxophone and to take to the stage and perform,” Quagliato said. “It does feel great. It gives me an opportunity to take the instrument out, practice a little bit and just have some fun. I think that’s one of the key aspects of the evening — it’s just a great time to play, especially with your teachers and colleagues.”

Andrea Rommel, the fourth- and fifth-grade band teacher at Washington and Redwood elementary schools, said she appreciates the chance to perform with her “very talented” fellow music staff members, too. Though residents might be used to seeing their children’s teachers conducting school concerts, Rommel pointed out that the district is home to some amazing musicians. This show is the perfect opportunity to showcase their talent, she said.

In addition, Rommel said she is especially excited for her students see her perform. While she and the other faculty members teach them the fundamentals of musicianship during school hours, the band teacher said there is also a lot to be learned from just watching someone perform, so it is important that students are being given such an opportunity.

“I think it’s great to put in performance what we’ve been teaching them and for them to see how they can benefit from hard work and from practicing,” Rommel told the Chronicle in a Jan. 29 phone interview. “They can see that we all started as beginners just like they do. And then we show the progress and where they can all be someday.”

For the concert, Rommel will playing the flute for Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Four Waltzes for Flute, Clarinet and Piano” along with WOHS band director Erin Lagatic on clarinet and a friend accompanying them on piano. Though they have only rehearsed the piece once so far, Lagatic told the Chronicle that everything is going very well and that she looks forward to performing it for the West Orange community.

And Lagatic knows that their performance will be appreciated by those in attendance. Having performed in the faculty concert almost every year since joining the district, she said she knows from experience that West Orange is a community that truly respects the arts. As a result, she said playing music for such a receptive audience is a treat.

“It’s a very welcoming community,” Lagatic said in a Jan. 29 phone interview. “West Orange is always very supportive of the arts — and music in particular. It’s really well-supported.”

Quagliato agreed that the concert always attracts a lot of people, enough to raise between $1,000 and $1,500 each year. And he said it gets excellent feedback, too. In fact, the department director said the show has even taken on a small but devoted following.

“You see a lot of the same people coming back,” Quagliato said. “I do get emails and phone calls from people when I start doing the promotions for it, letting me know that they’re excited about this year’s performance and they enjoy coming every year. It’s something that they truly look forward to. So it’s great that there is a following, and I hope that they continue to come out.”