LOUDONVILLE — Joyful sound is now emanating through town hall.
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 stage can be anywhere.
That stage has been set for North Colonie District students to perform at Colonie Town Hall prior to board meetings each month.
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.”
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 has 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, 11 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.
“The piano is often a solitary instrument – too large to include in a band or orchestra, too unwieldy to bring along to perform in many spaces.” Keough said. “This has been a wonderful opportunity for our students to share music with others, and to feel celebrated and included in the larger community of Colonie.”
The students and the community both benefit from this musical experience.
“It is a wonderful opportunity for the Town Board and community to experience beautiful music on these evenings.” Keough added. “It’s an honor for these students to have this opportunity to perform at this civic event and be recognized.”
Crummey may extend the musical offering to other students or adults in the area. If it is extended, Keough would be happy to encourage North Colonie students to continue participating.
The program started in March and will continue throughout the year.
“This fellow last Thursday, he nailed it. It was really good, it’s like…Yes,” Crummey said. “We will continue this year and expand this.”
The Colonie schedule for student performances will be on the following dates from 6:30-7 p.m. at Town Hall: Thursday, May 11, Haein Park from Shaker High School, grade 9; Thursday, May 25, George Mao from Boght Hills Elementary School, grade 5; Thursday, June 8, Louis Jin from Boght Hills Elementary School, grade 5; Thursday, June 22, Priyanka Sethi from Shaker High School, grade 9; Thursday, June 13, Jerry Fan from Shaker High School, grade 9; Thursday, Aug. 24, Naisha Majmudar from Shaker High School, grade 9; and Thursday, Sept. 14, Sooneon Hong from Shaker Middle School, grade 6.
The idea catches on
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 town board meetings. Coffey wanted to try the same initiative out in Bethlehem.
“We have so many talented musicians in Bethlehem,” Coffey said.
Coffey reached out to Bethlehem High School musical director Dave Norman about the idea. Norman was interested and assisted Coffey in putting out the 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.”
Students not only have the chance to play before a live audience and highlight their talent, having live music is a nice soothing introduction to the meeting before the Town Board conducts its business, Coffey said.
Bethlehem faculty and students have a strong relationship with the Town Board. Town 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.
In addition to 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, April 26, 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.”