Jordan’s auditorium walls must still be echoing with the sounds of music following the Auditorium Renovation Tribute Show on Thursday night.
Phenomenal entertainment by the middle school’s students as well as Burroughs students and alumni combined with a silent auction for a gala evening coordinated by the JordanARTS team, whose leaders say about $80,000 was raised toward the $100,000 goal to upgrade the auditorium.
Helping to get to that goal, an anonymous donor whose child went through the program, gave $50,000. In addition, Warner Bros. is offering a matching grant for funds received through the online donation system up to $10,000. Donations can be made on the website JordanARTS.org.
“It was a real joy to be a part of and amazing to see how this community came together to make the vision of a ‘little tribute show for a good cause’ an impressive reality!” said Suzanne Weerts, who co-chaired the event with Gema Sanchez.
Funds will also come from sales of the DVD of the show, which can be purchased on the website. Additionally, funds will come from the song “Wondrous Charm” soon to be released on iTunes. It was written and performed by five Jordan students with creative guidance by Dave Christensen of Song Squared and support from Jordan Band Boosters President Daniel Semsen.
The party began in Tinseltown fashion. A search light signaled the way to the school courtyard that was decked out with a red carpet and photographers snapping pictures. A VIP reception, with food catered by California Pizza Kitchen, allowed guests time to bid on prizes and mingle.
Then it was curtain up as the choirs filled the aisles and stage for the opening number “Dynamite” followed by the song “Jordan’s Angels” performed by the groups Cantabile, Madrigals and Jordan alumni. Celebrity master of ceremonies Johnny Dowers lobbed quips between performances and teased his daughter, Caroline, a Jordan choir member. He also did a little pickin’ on the banjo.
Vocal performances and synchronized choreography were excellent throughout the student performances. Other highlights were segments with Jordan’s teachers. Instrumental music teacher John Whitener sang “And I Love You So” to his wife who he proposed to on the Jordan stage. Vocal music teacher Chris DeMore and the ensemble gave their all during the finale song “Good Lovin'”.
Those who know the students best came to support the event.
Brendan Jennings, Burroughs choral director, was beaming with pride watching his students, past and present.
“It’s so great to see the kids from the ones that just graduated from Jordan a couple years ago to the ones who are professional musicians now,” he said. “It’s that Burbank magic that exists only here. We feel blessed to have the Jordan music program as the feeder to Burroughs because it’s like none other in the country. It’s a phenomenal program.”
“Since he’s been in choir he’s gained more confidence,” she said. “Mrs. DeMore is such an amazing teacher and he loves this class and the experience. She has given these kids who are now adults and have come back — we have kids from New York — and she’s just given them experiences that they’ll take with them their entire lives. It’s exciting.”
Others we spoke to were impressed with the community support.
“I think it’s a wonderful turnout and a great demonstration of how the community, parents and neighbors are supportive of this school’s effort to rebuild its auditorium,” said Lisa Rawlins of Warner Bros.
School Board President Roberta Reynolds called the event an example of “Civic Learning” for students.
“Participation in a fundraising project of this multitude provides an opportunity for our students to learn about the importance and value of working together as a community to support that which we care about.”
Reynolds was impressed with the outpouring of support by the school, parents, individuals and businesses.
“Investing in the education of our children is investing in the future for all of us,” she said. “Once again, I am overwhelmed by the generosity of our community.”
Several back stories were discovered while milling through the crowd during the VIP reception and intermission.
Alumnae of Jordan and Burroughs, Nevada Brandt and Grace McCarney returned to perform in the show. They are roommates and are in their first year of classes at the Collaborative Arts Project 21, better know as CAP21, a musical theater conservatory in New York. The program offers the equivalent to a four-year bachelor’s degree in fine arts in two years.
The classes are challenging but rewarding, the Burroughs grads agreed. They are taking classes in acting, singing and dancing, vocal technique, vocal performance and history of musical theater and music theory.
On a typical day, they have two classes in the morning starting at 10 a.m., break for an hour lunch and take three classes in the afternoon. They return to their apartment by 6 p.m., eat dinner and study until around midnight. In a couple of weeks they will start rehearsals three days a week for an upcoming performance.
They credit DeMore and Jennings for preparing them well for the next level, and were looking forward to the JordanARTS show.
“The choir family is so tight-knit,” Brandt said.
“Alumni continue to come back for years and years to perform and we do it…” McCarney said.
“Any chance to perform,” Brandt chimed in.
“And give back for everything we were given,” McCarney said.
Jordan choir alum Michael Cusumano, of Cusumano Real Estate Group, provided tickets and bus transportation for 45 seniors who live in the company’s three senior apartments called Olive Plaza, Olive Court and Park Avenue, said manager Jessa Freemyer.
Two of the seniors attending were Sarah Hirschhorn and Betty Lush.
Lush had one word for the show “Awesome!” Her son is a Burroughs graduate and went through Stevenson Elementary and Jordan Middle School.
“Those kids have got talent,” she said. “They are really good.”
Lush’s favorite parts of the show were the opening number with all the performers and the band, Attic Empire, whose brass trio shook the loosened ceiling tiles.
“I was in doubt about going but I’m glad that I did,” she added. “I can’t wait to tell my son how good it was.”
Hirschhorn thought the performances were enjoyable but the show went on a little too long.
“But it was very delightful — wonderful to see these young people performing,” she said. “It brought back a lot of memories. That’s the way my school used to be. My brother was in the boys choral group. We also had a girls choral group and we had a wonderful instructor.”