Playing the piano, singing, drawing, making sculptures—these are not competitive sports. There are no relay teams in choir, no last-minute instructions in the team huddle in art class. Yet just as in sports, students who participate in the arts benefit from opportunities to measure their own work against others and receive critical feedback.
Grace School artists and musicians find these kinds of experiences at the annual Fine Arts Festival hosted each spring by Trinity Lutheran School in Roselle.
Students participating as soloists and in ensembles and small choirs spend the day at Trinity, rehearsing with a mass choir or band and performing for judges. The day culminates in an evening concert featuring the “best of the best.” Nine schools participated in this year’s Fine Arts Festival, on April 13.
Grace School’s music teacher Janel Dennen spends weeks preparing stu- dents for these performances, assisted by Grace Cantor Michael Costello. The process begins with determining who will sing in which groups and what music they will perform. The 5-8 grade students meet with Ms. Dennen during lunch periods. They have ideas, favor- ite songs, aspirations. She provides the experience that helps students choose music that is both fun to sing and appropriate for their skills.
Getting ready for the festival is fun. “You get to practice while you eat lunch with your friends,” says fifth grader Sophie Lange. “And you listen to what others are singing.”
Sophie participated in vocal ensembles that sang “Do, Re, Mi,” the perennial favorite from “The Sound of Music,” and “I Feel Pretty” from “West Side Story.” Her friend, Olivia Kibler, noticed that “singing with your friends makes you less nervous.” Julia Weaver, another ensemble member, agreed, adding that “if you did terribly, at least you did terribly together.”
(For the record, the girls’ performance received a Superior rating and a blue ribbon, with 67 out of 70 possible points. They also reported that the judge was surprised to learn that they were only in fifth grade!)
A group of eighth grade girls from Grace entered the Small Choir category sing- ing “Oye,” a lively contemporary song accompanied by piano and percussion. They were invited to perform on the evening “Best of the Best” concert, where the audience joined in clapping along to the lively South American rhythms. Eighth graders Sebastian Lira, piano, and Isabella Rossi, violin, were also invited to play on the evening concert program.
The fifth through eighth graders also sang for judges as a full choir. “It’s great for them to get feedback from professionals,” said Ms. Dennen.
“You learn how you can improve,” said Sophie. And judges “teach you things,” according to Julia, who was excited to learn how to play an accent on her violin from her judge at the festival.
Grace students also entered art work in the Fine Arts Festival. Seventh grader Madelyn Virzi received a Best of the Best award.