The Payson community has a blessing in the dynamic and talented music couple, Daria Mason and Mike Buskirk.
On Wednesday, Dec. 19, their talent shone through the students who performed during the Payson High School (PHS) holiday concert.
“The townspeople should each donate a dollar to send those two on an incredible vacation,” said Sylvia, a recent resident to Payson from Albuquerque, N.M.
She used to direct an award-winning swing choir and has come to PHS concerts since she moved to the Rim Country two years ago.
“For a small town to have such talented people that help these kids put on such great shows — it’s incredible,” she said. “But I know it take hours …”
And she’s right.
Mason said the Show Choir spent 18 weeks learning the music and dance steps that went with a rousing ’80s flashback performance.
“I loved the sparkly bling,” said Mason of the costumes the singers wore.
The mixed choir dressed the girls in sequined jackets over a tiered silver top and black pants. The guys wore shiny silver dress shirts and ties with suspenders holding up their pants.
The lights bounced off the sparkles, which mimicked the sparkly smiles of the performers.
The same singers switched into the concert attire of the Voci Choir to Christmas songs.
“Most schools have a madrigal and jazz group, but these talented kids do both!” Mason told the audience.
The Voci Choir will compete next year in a state competition.
The Mixed Choir is the other singing group Mason teaches at the high school.
“This is the largest Mixed Choir I have ever taught,” she said to the audience.
The girls wore long black dresses made colorful by sparkly tulle scarves. The three boys dressed in shirts and ties.
After the concert, Mason said she felt this group had improved the most. The class has 28 students, three of whom come from the Community Based Instruction program.
“I was really proud of all of the them,” she said.
Not only did students sing, they played instruments.
Buskirk teaches the guitar class. Many of the students in his class are beginning both on the guitar and reading music.
“This is the first year playing guitar for a lot of these students,” Buskirk said to the audience. “Many have never read notes before.”
Starting and ending the concert, the band played, starting with the haunting and rousing music of “Apocalyptica,” complete with flag twirlers.
It was the only time during the concert when Mason could step back and watch. Drum majors John Buskirk, Sierra McMartin, Brett Royer and Molly Beier led the band through the movements — one of which was written by alumnus Michael Armstrong.
“I hid behind the props and watched how they did,” said Mason. “I was impressed.”
The band has spent hours practicing and preparing.
To end the concert, the musicians gave the audience a taste of a couple of the songs they will play at the Fiesta Bowl parade, “In Defense of Liberty” and “Beneath the Rim (Burnished Brass)”.
Mason decided to open the concert band portion of the performance with the whimsical “The 13 Days of Christmas.”
She closed the concert with a heart-rending version of “Amazing Grace.”
“This song was my mother’s favorite song,” she said before explaining that the man who wrote the piece had worked as a slaver for many years until he saw the error in his ways.
The emotion of the piece inspired the audience to give the performance a standing ovation.
“They deserve everyone’s accolades,” said Sylvia as she exited.