The Exchange Concert occurs every two years. It began in 2010 when my best friend Lynn Sweet and I decided to combine our two music programs for a special fundraiser concert. Lynn Sweet teaches music at Mount Anthony Union High School in Bennington, VT and I teach music at Cedar Grove High School in Cedar Grove, NJ. Our first year of doing the Exchange Concert program we decided to do a “You’ve Got a Friend” theme and use the music of James Taylor and Carole King. We each prepared our choirs, bands and orchestras with the repertoire we decided on and then arranged two weekends; one in Vermont and one in New Jersey. The first day is used for bonding ice breaker activities, rehearsals, a dress rehearsal and then a concert. The second day is used for a fun activity for both schools such as attending a Broadway Show or going to an amusement park in Lake George, NY. The Exchange Concert Program has become an event that the students look forward to and has given both schools the opportunities to do some amazing music with combined groupings. The themes or concert programs have included the following:
- You’ve Got a Friend: The music of James Taylor and Carole King
- Les Miserables in Concert
- Hairspray in Concert
- The Beatles
- It Takes Two: Featuring the music of famous songwriting teams like Lieber & Stoller, Rodgers & Hammerstein, Benj & Pasek, Lerner & Loewe.
We have been lucky to have the opportunity to work with our Cedar Grove alumni who have been successful on Broadway such as Jelani Remy (Simba in Disney’s Lion King and now starring in Smokey Joe’s Cafe) He played Seaweed in our Hairspray in Concert and the students were so excited to work with him. In the Vermont Hairspray in Concert we were fortunate to connect with Steven Cutts who played Seaweed on the Broadway tour. Lynn Sweet and I brainstorm each year about our next collaboration, always searching for the best music combinations for our students.