BETHLEHEM — A piano’s free-flowing melodies need to be heard and enjoyed. Whether it is at a performance hall or inside a meeting room, the performance stage can be anywhere.
Last week, the stage was set for a Bethlehem Central student to perform at Bethlehem Town Hall before the town board meeting on Wednesday, April 26.
Bethlehem Town Council Member Daniel Coffey said he was inspired to bring music to town hall based on what the Town of Colonie was doing at their board meetings. Coffey said he wanted to see if they could do the same in Bethlehem.
“We have so many talented musicians in Bethlehem,” Coffey said.
He reached out to Bethlehem High School musical director Dave Norman about the idea. Norman was interested and helped Coffey search for a student to come and perform prior to the town board meeting.
“Pianists, who spend much of their preparation and performance as solitary musicians, are always looking for opportunities to exhibit their talent.” Norman said. “Playing before board meetings offers a way to plan their own program for public performance, in a perhaps more relaxed setting than a formal recital.”
Not only does this give students a chance to play before a live audience and highlight their talent, but having live music is a nice soothing introduction to the meeting before the board conducts the town’s business, Coffey said.
Bethlehem faculty and students have long had a strong relationship with the town board. Board members often include in their announcements statements about students’ athletic and academic achievements during the public comment period prior to the town meeting.
“Having the school district work with the Town to offer to have students come and perform-free of charge- to create a pleasant atmosphere is just another example of how we have successfully partnered with the school district.” Coffey said.
Besides students, the Town Board is also interested in having members of the Delmar Community Orchestra come and perform in the future. Additional performances could possibly include the use of flute, trumpet, or violin and it doesn’t have to be limited to just piano, Coffey said.
After the first performance of Bethlehem high school freshman Samantha Buchanan on Wednesday, Coffey said he was thrilled with the outcome.
“It went great. Samantha played beautifully. We were delighted to partner up with Bethlehem High School and we are looking into partnering in the future with them and also the RCS and Guilderland School Districts for future performances.”
Residents from some parts of Bethlehem send their children to Ravena Coeymans Selkirk and Guilderland schools.
“The audience was very receptive and respectful. Everyone was amazed at how well-poised Samantha was on the piano.”
According to Coffey, this was the first time Buchanan played in front of a live audience and was a lower-pressure situation than a recital hall. Norman was also able to live stream the event to those not in attendance.
“Colonie started the trend and we’re following their lead,” Coffey said. It’s a very pleasant thing to enjoy before conducting the town’s business.”
How it started
Town Supervisor Peter Crummey reached out to North Colonie District Music Supervisor Deborah Keough about an upright piano he noticed sitting idle inside the Town Hall that was tuned but never played.
“Well it first dawned on me that there was a piano in the room and it was not utilized and I would say to people is there anybody that has heard this being played and how did it get here?” Crummey said “It was just in the corner collecting dust. So I wanted to make it come alive again.”
So Crummey contacted local schools and invited students from Shaker, Colonie Central High School, Catholic Central High School, and Christian Brothers Academy to perform before the Town Board meetings. Only Shaker accepted the invitation so far.
Keough said she contacted all of the district students who had performed at a high level of difficulty at the New York State School Music Association (NYSSMA) Piano Festival, and invited them to perform.
According to Keough, eleven North Colonie students have signed up to perform before the Colonie Town Board meetings – five from Shaker High School, four from Shaker Middle School, and two from Boght Hills Elementary School. They are now on the calendar to perform at every Town Board meeting through mid-September, with a break during the summer.
The recitals have helped bring students, Town Board and Colonie residents together under their bond of music while building community relationships.
Coffey spoke to the other board members about it and they want to see it continue. Bethlehem will have one more performance this spring and will be planning more for the fall.
“To give the gift of music to the Town is something that hopefully we can do in the future, even at a few times a year, perhaps during the winter,” Coffey said.