Westbury students perform with a capella group
A group of Westbury School District singers recently got the chance of the lifetime, as they performed with five-piece a capella group Ball in the House during their recent concert at The Space at Westbury.
About 40 students joined the group on stage for their performance of “My Girl” by The Temptations and “Happy” by Pharrell. The students began working on the songs a few months ago in their choir classes, and got to rehearse with Ball In The House (BitH) the day of the show.
“This is really fun,” said eighth grader Asha Gunter. “This is like the real-life [version of the movie] Pitch Perfect. Seeing them use their voices in a different way sounds amazing. And it’s taught me how to sing freely.”
Westbury Middle School choral teacher Michael Baker said the experience was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the students.
“It’s a great opportunity to raise the kids’ confidence levels and act as musical leaders for the community,” Baker said. “The whole point of music is performance. To be able to perform in front of their parents and friends on stage with gentlemen who have gone to college to study music for a career is a great thing.”
About 15 students from the middle school’s select choir group performed. The students were chosen for their leadership skills, display of respect and confidence and sense of melody and rhythm. Through this experience, Baker said he hoped his students learned how music can be a unifying force.
“Music brings everyone together, everyone speaks the language of music,” said Baker. “To get that and understand that as a child and young adult and bring that through the rest of their life is amazing.”
The chance to give back through mentorship is a highlight for the group’s members. BitH founding member Jon Ryan says doing workshops and assemblies in schools is a huge part of what they do, and that they often work closely with students.
“I really enjoy it. When I was a kid people came to my school and inspired me to do this,” said vocalist Wallace Thomas. “I’m blessed to have the opportunity to do the same thing so their lives and days might be a bit brighter for it.”
Fellow BitH member James Jones agreed.
“One of the best things about the whole job is getting the opportunity to work with students and have that influence,” Jones said. “A lot of us started in music and a capella with people coming to our school and sharing that with us. Any opportunity we get to do that with someone else, especially students, we’re going to take it.”
Jones noted that Westbury students showed a lot of natural talent, adding their own unique personalities to the song.
“Some people are picking up notes out of nowhere and that kind of thing is always encouraged and fun. It’s great to see people expressing their creativity,” Jones said. “We come in here and teach them and to see them take those liberties makes it so much better.”
Bringing BitH to Westbury was a year-long process, as schedules and a venue had to be coordinated. Cyrus Hakkakian, owner of the Space, donated the use of the venue to the school and all the proceeds from the show went toward establishing scholarships for Westbury music students. Ryan said having the students perform makes the show more of a community event.
“We like to have the students perform with us, because it helps make it not just our show but a good community event,” Ryan said. “It’s good to have as much community involvement as we can. We’re not just supporting schools but helping the students in them.”
Family members, friends and local residents came out to The Space to support the students, as well as enjoy the instrument-less R&B and pop sounds of the BitH. The entertaining show featured a diverse array of songs from artists including Michael Jackson, the Bee Gees and Daft Punk. Find out more about BitH by visiting www.ballinthehouse.com