Rowdy Pine Strawberry School students crowded into the school’s band room recently to practice for their upcoming winter concert with raucous, but melodic abandon.
Band teacher John Carpino was charged with quickly auditioning students for a singer to perform the “and a partridge in a pear tree,” line during their upcoming performance of the Twelve Days of Christmas.
“I know who the best singers are,” Carpino told the kids as he shouted out names one by one for kids to take the microphone and sing in front of 100 of their fellow students.
Auditioning is a bit like tough love. School can offer a somewhat insulated experience from the rest of the world, and Carpino said that auditioning gives kids a bit of real life experience.
“It takes guts — let’s face it — to stand up with a microphone in front of a 100 kids,” Carpino said. “They love to sing and they love music so they just do it.”
The Pine Strawberry School’s holiday program begins at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 17 and entry is free. The evening includes the Twelve Days of Christmas in addition to grade-level choral performances.
The acting out of the Twelve Days of Christmas predates Carpino’s two-year tenure. “I’m really proud to keep the tradition going,” he said.
Each grade level is assigned to act out a specific component of the 12 days — which includes pre-schoolers carrying small drums to act as the drummers drumming and Old McDonald playing to the eight maids a milking.
“They dress up,” Carpino added. “The costumes are so cute.”
Herding an entire school, many of the students under 10 years old, into a cohesive performance unit, where each kid knows his or her part, perhaps demonstrates Carpino’s energy and patience.
“It’s a wonderful challenge,” he said. Grade levels have been practicing individually since before Thanksgiving, but Thursday marked the first time the entire school had gathered for rehearsal.
“They love music,” Carpino said. “These kids have to start memorizing their songs weeks in advance.”
Wednesday’s program will also feature two songs performed by each grade level.
level. “Everybody is in the program, that’s what’s neat about it,” Carpino said.
He has creatively tweaked some of the songs. Mary had a Little Lamb, for instance, becomes, “Mary had a Christmas tree, the finest one in Pine.”
“I try and keep it creative while at the same time structured,” Carpino said. “Music is critical,” he added. “Kids really need music.”
Playing instruments helps students develop academically, emotionally and socially, he said.
The finale features a surprise visit from a Christmastime celebrity. Carpino declined to say publicly just who that celebrity is, but assured the Roundup that the person looks the part.