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“A Far Off Place” Benefit Concert Slated To Raise Funds For Burbank Music Programs

Burbank and John Burroughs High School instrumental and vocal music students join professional studio musicians from the Musicians At Play Foundation for the annual benefit concert to raise funds for their music programs on Saturday, January 11. The 2020 concert is called A Far Off Place and features music by John Williams and James Horner.

Proceeds from donations, the silent auction and ticket sales will support the Music Is Instrumental campaign that seeks to raise more than $100,000 annually to support vocal and instrumental programs at Burbank and Burroughs High Schools.

The Musicians At Play Foundation has provided music mentorship to the young instrumentalists for the past several years. The 2020 concert marks the third annual fundraising concert and the culmination of weeks of preparation and mentorship.

“Don and April Williams have created an invaluable organization that brings critically needed support to music education in the Burbank School District,” commented internationally-recognized Maestro Anthony Parnther, who will conduct the concluding collaborative performance of the show.

“Musicians At Play also seeks to preserve the tradition and integrity of cinematic music through the teaching and performance of John Williams’, Michael Giacchino’s and other leading composers’ most iconic scores.”

“The chosen students in the Burbank Unified School District are the only in the world to have the opportunity to perform these world-famous scores alongside some of the very musicians who have recorded them in the Hollywood studios over the last thirty-five years,” Parnther added. “Each participating young musician is taken through eight weeks of workshops preparing for this concert and then mentors with L.A.’s finest in this inspiring week-long masterclass on musicianship, leadership and citizenship.”

Conductor Anthony Parnther leads the BUSD All District Orchestra in a rousing performance of music from film and television. (Photo By Ross Benson, May 2018)

“The goal of the MAP Mentor program is to give students the opportunity to sit, learn and perform next to a true professional,” explained program director Don Williams. “Students learn all the disciplines of how to become a professional musician.”

“To have a chance to play the original music from these iconic scores is inspirational and vital in their development as well rounded people as well as musicians,” Williams also said. “This experience will stay with them for the rest of their lives.”

What began as a campaign to raise more than one million dollars over ten years to fix and replace instruments three years ago has morphed into an ongoing mentorship program and awareness campaign to support the high school instrumental and vocal music programs.

“Music is one of the most empowering things you can give a young person,” commented John Pedersen, a supporter of the Music Is Instrumental campaign who describes himself as “simply a wind instrument repairman with over 55 years experience, currently working in a school music focused retail store – Bertrand’s Music – in Burbank.”

“Middle school is the time in a young person’s life when they figure out they are capable of doing something for themselves,” Pedersen also said. “The disciplines learned give them a feeling of ownership over what they have done. Mom and Dad cannot practice for them. They must do it and when they do… they get the prize.”

“They will realize the work they did gives them something no one can take away from them.”

music is instrumental

Burbank Unified All District Symphonic Orchestra and Choir and professional mentors from Musicians At Play Foundation amazed the audience at Burbank’s Wolfson Auditorium for the Music Is Instrumental fund-raising concert. (Photo By Ross Benson, May 2018)

“Once they taste this empowerment, we have just started being good teachers,” Pedersen continued. “After that, we continue to guide them with our experience.”

“It’s a beautiful thing… whether or not all students become professional musicians is not important. The EMPOWERMENT is important.”

A Far Off Place will feature programs from the advanced instrumental and vocal groups from Burbank and Burroughs High Schools – John Burroughs HS Powerhouse and Vocal Ensemble, Burbank HS InSync, John Burroughs HS Wind Ensemble and Burbank HS String Orchestra – in the first half.

After intermission, students from both high schools comprising the Burbank Unified School District Symphonic Orchestra and Choir will join their mentors from the Musicians At Play Foundation to perform selections from Avatar, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Home Alone.

Tom Kenny, the voice of Spongebob, will emcee the show.

The VIP reception and silent auction begins at 5:30 p.m. and the concert at 7:00 p.m. VIP tickets are $40. General admission adults are $20 and students/seniors are $10. Tickets are available in advance online or at the box office ahead of the show.

A Far Off Place will be performed at John Burroughs High School auditorium located at 1920 W. Clark Avenue in Burbank. Plenty of free parking is available in adjacent lots.

For more information on the Musicians At Play Foundation, visit their website.

(Image Courtesy Burbank Unified School District)

Burroughs High Readies “Once Upon A Holiday Spectacular”

The John Burroughs High School Performing Arts Department presents the annual Vocal Music, Instrumental Music and Dance combined performance Holiday Spectacular on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, December 13, 14 and 15.

This year, the mega-show is called Once Upon A Holiday Spectacular, but like every year, it showcases stellar performances from hundreds of high school students.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

“Our theme this year is ‘Storytelling’ and there are so many great holiday characters and stories to explore,” explained choir director Brendan Jennings. “Some of them will be super familiar, like Rudolph… and others may be new for some folks, like the story of the Candy Bomber, a World War 2 pilot.”

“With the combined forces of the music and dance program at Burroughs, it promises to be a ‘Spectacular’ show,” he added.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Selected dancers from the Dance Department will showcase tap, contemporary, hip hop and ballet styles. The Instrumental Music Department’s wind ensemble,  and symphonic and concert bands will perform, along with the JBHS jazz ensemble.

All four choirs of the Vocal Music Department will perform, including the award-winning Powerhouse (advanced mixed choir), Sound Sensations (advanced women’s choir), Sound Waves (intermediate mixed choir) and Decibelles (intermediate women’s choir.)

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Shows begin at 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, December 13 and 14, and at 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, December 15. Tickets are $15 general admission, $25 reserved orchestra and balcony and $10 for students and seniors.

As of publication time, there are very low numbers of reserved seats available for all three shows. General admission seating, in the side sections of the orchestra and balcony, still have some tickets available for advance purchase.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Tickets can be purchased online here to support JBHS VMA or online here to support JBHS IMA or at the box office ahead of the show.

More information on Burroughs High’s Vocal Music Association can be found online here, on the Instrumental Music Association here and on the Dance Department here.

(Image Courtesy John Burroughs High School Performing Arts Department)

Burroughs High Choirs Present “Burroughs On Broadway”

The John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association presents its annual Burroughs On Broadway show Friday through Sunday, October 11 – 13, in the school auditorium.

“Audiences should expect a mixture of old favorites like “Singing in the Rain,” “Guys and Dolls,” and “Camelot” as well as songs from the recent shows like Hamilton, Waitress, and Anastasia,” said JBHS VMA Choir Director Brendan Jennings. “The audience will laugh, cry and go on a journey through the music and dance of Broadway.”

Image Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association.

The cabaret fundraiser has become a favorite show for the VMA to put on. For those who select the reserved cabaret seats, that ticket includes a reception buffet prior to the show, lounge style seating and dessert/drink service at the table during the intermission.

Tickets are $52 for premium reserved cabaret seats, $26 for reserved side orchestra seats and $20 general admission/$15 for students and seniors. Tickets can be purchased in advance online here or at the box office in advance of the show.

Showtimes are 7:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, October 11 and 12, and 2:00 p.m. on Sunday, October 13. Those purchasing cabaret seats arrive for the cabaret reception at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday.

The John Burroughs High School auditorium is located at 1920 W. Clark Street in Burbank. More information about the JBHS VMA can be found on their website.

Burroughs’ Pop Show 40 Aims High With “Change The World”

For the past 40 years, the annual Pop Show presented by John Burroughs High School choir students has been one of the most popular performances for the students and the Burbank community. Pop Show 40: Change The World is no different, showcasing some of the school’s best talent from solo and small groups to big performances by the several show choirs.

A cappella groups and the choir’s Dance Ensemble also perform. Students in Tech Crew class manage the stage and run the lights and sound for the shows.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

The JBHS VMA presents four shows in total from Friday, February 22, through Sunday, February 24, in the school auditorium.

“It’s amazing that the Pop Show tradition has not only lasted, but grown and grown over the past 40 years,” commented Burroughs choir director Brendan Jennings.

“We are so grateful to all of the alumni, parents and community members that have built the legacy which my students now strive to build upon. The talent is jaw-dropping… I’m so excited for everyone to see the show!”

(Photo By Ross Benson)

Tickets prices vary: $30 for orchestra level assigned seating, and general admission for the balcony is $20 for adults and $15 for students and seniors.

Tickets are available for the three remaining shows – Saturday, February 23, at 2:00 and 7:00 p.m. and Sunday, February 24 at 2:00 p.m. They can be purchased in advance here or at the box office ahead of the opening curtain.

(Photo By Ross Benson)

John Burroughs High School is located at 1920 W. Clark Avenue in Burbank. More information on the JBHS VMA can be found here.

 

JBHS VMA “Project Listen” Benefits Teen Line

John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association presents “Project Listen,” a concert to benefit Teen Line on Wednesday evening, May 23.

teen line

Image Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association.

Teen Line is a nonprofit community-based organization that helps teenagers address their problems.

“It is our mission to provide personal teen-to-teen education and support before problems become a crisis, using a national hotline, current technologies and community outreach,” states the organization.

The concert begins at 8:00 p.m. Admission is free, but the JBHS VMA will be accepting donations for Teen Line’s work in the community.

John Burroughs High School Auditorium is located at 1920 W. Clark Avenue in Burbank.

JBHS VMA Performs Pop Show Unplugged

John Burroughs High School choir members held their annual Pop Show Unplugged on Saturday, January 20, at The Colony Theatre.

The program of more than 20 songs ran for about 80 minutes. Students performed two sets that evening, featuring popular songs such as “Lemonade,” “Landslide,” “Misbehavin'” and “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay.”

pop show unplugged

Photo By Ross A. Benson

 

“Pop Show Unplugged is one of my favorite shows of the year because it allows the students to experience a more intimate venue and casual vibe,” commented JBHS Vocal Music Director Brendan Jennings. “This type of acoustic setting is how many artists get started, so its good practice for these future professionals.”

Upcoming performances for the JBHS VMA are Pop Show #39 Can’t Stop The Feeling on March 1 -4 and the Spring Concert on May 18. More information on the Burroughs High School choir program can be found here.

Photo By Ross A. Benson

Choir members will also perform alongside Drama, Play Production and Instrumental Music Program students for the annual all-school musical. This year, the production is Grease, which will run February 9-11 in the JBHS auditorium.

 

 

JBHS VMA Releases “Silent Night” Single As Fundraiser

John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association recently released “Silent Night” on the digital music platform Bandcamp as a fundraiser for the school’s choir program. About 20 students from JBHS Powerhouse and Vocal Ensemble recorded the track, featuring Concrete Blonde vocalist Johnette Napolitano, on December 4.

Produced by Rocco Guarino, “Silent Night” also highlights the vocals of JBHS senior Aubrianna Rohan, who performed the song at the school’s annual Holiday Spectacular, the combined Instrumental and Vocal Music Programs’ winter concert.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The JBHS choir students “were very, very talented,” commented Guarino. “I was really surprised. We only needed one or maybe two takes and we were done. And, Johnette was great; she was amazing.”

The “Silent Night” release is part of a larger recording project headed by Todd Jensen, who’s son participates in the JBHS VMA program. Several songs have been recorded to date and are available on the JBHS VMA page on Bandcamp. They are part of a planned 14-song compilation called “Raise Your Voice” that began taking shape in 2015 and features mostly original material penned by the students.

The songs are available exclusively on Bandcamp, which pays the highest percentage of sales to the artist compared to other digital music services. Out of every dollar spent on musical downloads, 85 cents is paid to JBHS VMA, explained Jensen.

“It’s been a pleasure helping them out,” said Guarino, who donated his time to produce two tracks so far. “I had a lot of people helping me out in my career and it’s important to send the elevator back down and help others.”

The “Silent Night” recording session came together quickly in early December, with North Hollywood’s ReadyMix Music donating recording space, equipment and engineer time. Owned and operated by Paul Horabin and Sarah Taylor, the studio first connected with members of JBHS VMA who went in to record a track as the group LA Noize in August.

Photo Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association

Photo Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association

“I owe my musical foundation to the public schools I attended,” commented Taylor. “Aside from session work and running the studio,  I have also done several fundraisers with kids [for the] National Arthritis Foundation, The Help Group, Friends of the Family and volunteer every year to produce Madison Middle School’s talent show.”

“What a beautiful arrangement of ‘Silent Night,'” added Taylor. “Johnette killed it. I think this is one of the best performances of ‘Silent Night’ I’ve heard.”

“Johnette was so professional to work with,” commented Rohan. “She knew exactly how to get things done and it was so amazing to be able to watch a real-life recording artist work their magic in a studio!”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“During this experience, I learned how incredibly quiet you have to be in the studio at all times, whether it’s just you singing or an entire group of people,” added Rohan, who has been in a recording studio for voice-over work when younger. “That’s how you get the best results for a track.”

“This experience is one I will never forget. ‘Silent Night’ is such a beautiful song and is definitely one of my favorites during the holiday season,” she continued. “Getting to sing this song with Johnette Napolitano and a bunch of my friends in choir was a once in a lifetime experience!”

“The VMA is a wonderful program that changes people’s lives through the appreciation of music. It incorporates many different styles from classical to pop and it has been a marvelous way to share my love of music with people who feel the same way!”

JBHS VMA accompanist Dan Scoville performed the backing piano track on the “Silent Night” recording. The Burroughs choirs are directed by Brendan Jennings.

“Silent Night” is available here for $1. A six song package, including a 2015 live version of “Anything Anything (I’ll Give You)” by Dramarama’s John Easdale and the JBHS VMA, is available for $5.95 on the site.

Photo Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association

Photo Courtesy John Burroughs High School Vocal Music Association

Burbank Student Named Great American Songbook Foundation Youth Ambassador

John Burroughs High School senior Brighton Thomas was named 2016 Youth Ambassador for the Great American Songbook Foundation on Saturday, July 23. Thomas was selected from a field of 40 high school vocalists at the annual Songbook Academy held July 16-23 on the campus of the Center for Performing Arts in Carmel, Indiana.

Thomas sang the American standards “It Had to be You” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” for the finals. She was selected for the Songbook Academy competition with two video submissions of “Someone To Watch Over Me” and “Don’t Rain On My Parade.”

John Burroughs High School senior Brighton Thomas (center) won the 2016 Great American Songbook Foundation's Youth Ambassador award. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

John Burroughs High School senior Brighton Thomas (center) won the 2016 Great American Songbook Foundation’s Youth Ambassador award. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

During the week of the Songbook Academy, the forty finalists participated in small workshops and private masterclasses with musicians and educators such as Janis Siegel, Sylvia McNair, Catherine Walker and Michael Feinstein.

Thomas has had a whirlwind experience at the Songbook Academy competition, she related in a recent interview. She was randomly selected to participate in a public masterclass with Michael Feinstein and Marc Cherry, broadcast live on Facebook the afternoon of Wednesday, July 20.

She then performed her two selections in a live showcase with the rest of the competitors on Thursday, July 21, and found out later that night she was chosen as a soloist for the culminating performance and one of the Top 10 finalists.

Brighton Thomas, a senior at John Burroughs High School, competes in the 2016 Great American Songbook Foundation finals. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

Brighton Thomas, a senior at John Burroughs High School, competes in the 2016 Great American Songbook Foundation finals. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

On Friday, the finalists received a makeover at the neighboring Salon 01 and sat in on masterclasses with Marc Cherry and Jarrod Spector. On Saturday, the Top 10 soloists got hair and makeup done and then relaxed before their final performances.

“This was my first time entering the competition, which I heard about first from my grandfather, who is a huge fan of and advocate for the American Songbook,” commented Thomas. “I’m most excited to share this iconic music with my peers and I can’t wait to live my dream of performing in legendary venues across the United States for the next year.”

The JBHS senior was introduced to the music of the American Songbook – a term for the most important American popular songs and jazz standards of the 20th Century – by her grandfather who produced an American Songbook-themed show on the radio.

Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland are two of her musical inspirations. Thomas is currently President of the 2016-17 JBHS VMA Choir and has been a member of the top Powerhouse choir, under the direction of Brendan Jennings, for a few years. She plans to study musical theater in college.

Songbook Inspiration Award winner Sam Mulligan of Mount Zion, IL; Songbook Youth Ambassador Brighton Thomas of Burbank, CA; and Songbook Celebration Award winner Matt Hoffman of Stony Brook, NY. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

Songbook Inspiration Award winner Sam Mulligan of Mount Zion, IL; Songbook Youth Ambassador
Brighton Thomas of Burbank, CA; and Songbook Celebration Award winner Matt Hoffman of Stony Brook, NY. (Photo Courtesy Great American Songbook Foundation)

As the Great American Songbook Youth Ambassador, Thomas serves for one year and will have several opportunities to perform with two-time Emmy and five-time Grammy Award nominated entertainer and founder of The Great American Songbook Foundation, Michael Feinstein.

Past Youth Ambassador performance opportunities have included multiple appearances with Feinstein, including Jazz at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall, along with performances at the Kennedy Center, the Great American Songbook Hall of Fame Gala with Barry Manilow, Liza Minnelli, Johnny Mathis and Jimmy Webb, singing the National Anthem at NFL games and an appearance with Pasadena Pops.

 

JBHS Students Entertain With “Hairspray”

Students in the drama, musical theater, vocal and instrumental music and dance programs at John Burroughs High School entertained nearly two thousand attendees over three shows this past weekend, February 5-7, with the musical Hairspray.

Directed by JBHS Drama Director Guy Myers, the student stage production of the musical adaptation of John Waters’ movie Hairspray, took audiences back to the early 1960s Baltimore, complete with overt racism and strict gender roles.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Junior Aubrianna Rohan, in the role of protagonist Tracy Turnblad, impressed with her vocal skills and acting chops.

Students from JBHS’ world-renowned vocal music program, directed by Brendan Jennings who also provided vocal direction for Hairspray, wowed the crowd with their singing and harmonizing.

Many of the students gave stand-out performances, including junior Zach Guerrero in the role of Tracy’s mother Edna Turnblad, made famous on the screen and stage by Divine and John Travolta.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

As Edna’s husband Wilbur, junior Sully Zack provided spot-on comic moments and an eye-popping array of colorful garb from the 1960s.

Senior Madison Mayer, as the antagonist Velma Von Tussle, was in excellent form as well.

A live orchestra conducted by JBHS Instrumental Music head Taylor Arakelian included many students from the high school instrumental music program.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Tech, lighting and stage support, under the direction of Jon King, was carried out by JBHS students in the Tech Crew program. Tech Crew put together the actual sets from the Las Vegas production of Hairspray, complete with lights, doors, engines and mechanical parts.

Burroughs High School’s Drama and Musical Theater program puts on two plays and one musical every year. Next up for the thespians will be George Washington Slept Here on May 6, 7 and 8.

Burroughs Music And Comedy Night Entertains Full House At The Colony

Students, friends and family all turned out to support the Burroughs Music And Comedy Night fundraiser with a full house at The Colony Theatre Tuesday evening, November 10.

A collaboration between students in the John Burroughs High School Drama and Vocal Music programs, the evening raised money towards offsetting the cost of the annual mainstage musical at the school.

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(Photo By Lisa Paredes)

The 2015-16 season mainstage musical is Hairspray which runs February 5-7, 2016, on the Burroughs High School stage.

Many of the cast members of Hairspray performed songs, selected with the guidance of Drama Director Guy Myers and Vocal Music Director Brendan Jennings. Students from the Improv Club and Drama classes also presented comedic skits and improv games, drawing laughter from the audience.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

JBHS Drama next production is Inherit The Wind, on November 20, 21 and 22. The Burroughs Vocal Music Association’s next choir performance is the annual Holiday Spectacular on December 11, 12 and 13.