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A Festival of ... Memories

December 11, 2008 - Phyllis Sigal
Today, Thursday, is the Wheeling Park High School's Festival of Sound at WesBanco Arena.

I didn't attend this year, but driving to work this morning I was flooded with memories of the days when I did go, when my children were performing.

My first year at Festival of Sound was when my daughter, Amanda, was a freshman at Park in the choir. I couldn't believe my ears; the concert was incredible. I remember going to the afternoon show, and had it not been snowing that night, I might have returned for the evening performance.

It was during her sophomore year that I got more involved with the music department. There was a group of moms — our daughters were all best friends throughout high school — who volunteered for the entire day. One of our main responsibilities was distributing the choir robes, which was quite a fiasco! With limited time, hundreds of students scrambled for the right robe. It was like a stampede. Then they had to put the robes away between shows and get them again before the evening show.

Our goal for the next three years was to perfect the process. It did get better year by year, thank goodness!

I was thinking of how much fun we moms had bonding all day ... and then I got an email from Debbie Kleiner, one of the moms. Our daughters both now live in Pittsburgh and remain friends. She, too, was remembering our days at the Capitol Music Hall, sorting robes, feeding the kids lunch, keeping track of them throughout the day. We'd always get great seats, because we were there since the crack of dawn.

Our daughters were members of the Young Patriots, the top singing ensemble. They auditioned for the coveted spots, and all had beautiful voices. They looked so elegant (and grown up!) in their formal black gowns.

We'd watch the morning rehearsals, with the stop and go and repeat this and that. Those kids worked so hard. The students had been practicing in class and after school for weeks and weeks. It's no wonder they sounded so good. Their instructors — Pat and Leslie Garrett, Gladys Mitch, Ben Podolski, Seth Bell and others — prepared them well. They worked tirelessly to get those kids in shape. More than 400 students — in the band, the jazz band, the orchestra and the choirs — performed.

Then, we'd watch the 2 p.m. show, which we always referred to as the "dress rehearsal." Then, when the 7 p.m. show started, we'd be so amazed at how it all had magically come together. And we'd always cry at the end, the music and the pride bringing on such emotion.

We especially cried the girls' senior year, when we knew it'd be the last time we moms would experience this day together. That was the last year the Festival of Sound was at the Capitol Music Hall.

I still volunteered the next two years, when my son Leland was a student. He scurried about the stage as a member of the Young Patriots, as a percussionist with the jazz band on assorted instruments and as a narrator his senior year.

But I always missed the beauty of the Capitol and camaraderie of the moms.


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