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Exchange Concert Program

Cedar Grove High School, NJ
90 Rugby Road, Cedar Grove, NJ, USA

Project Description

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.

Target Audience

The target audience is both high school programs, the school district and the communities of Bennington, VT and Cedar Grove, NJ. We have used the event to raise money for our music departments.

Overall budget

$500

Specific Budget Breakdown

We purchase the sheet music or the rights and royalties for the musicals in concert so the amounts vary. The students also individually fundraise in order to go on the trip to Vermont. We take a charter bus for the three and a half hour drive, stay overnight in a hotel and then have an activity the following day. The trip per person ranges from $350-435. The music pricing varies from a bulk of sheet music $500 which we also incorporate into our spring music concert budgets to $1500 for a musical in concert with scripts, rights, rentals, and royalty fees.

New or recurring project?

Recurring

How did you update/change this project from its previous occurrence?

Each year, Lynn Sweet and I take notes on the things that worked and the things we need to improve upon. We always change the first day activities so that the students get to know each other with fun icebreakers. Lynn and I also exchange warm-up ideas for our choirs and add new things each year. We have realized that we need to start rehearsing right after the ice breaker activities and we also need our fellow music teachers to be with the groups that are not on stage rehearsing. For example, my colleague Bob who teaches orchestra can take the band and orchestra while Lynn and I rehearse the choirs. The students also brought up the idea to have the Exchange Concert also be their Spring Concert.

Measurement of the success/effectiveness of this project?

The Exchange Concerts have filled every seat in our auditoriums. The program has been an amazing fundraiser for our departments. The students walk away from the program having met 100 new people, and making friends that they have stayed in contact with. Our Board of Education and our Cedar Grove Community recognize this bi-annual event and we have their support in this joint project.

Advice for someone looking to replicate this project in their own community?

Choose a theme or choose a musical to do in concert. Start preparing the music early, do not wait until the first joint rehearsal. Lynn and I decided that when we are in Cedar Grove, Cedar Grove students will have the solos or the leads in the performances and when we are in Bennington, Mount Anthony Union High School students will have the solos or leads. This has worked out very well and the students learn a lot from each other and this creates some wonderful friendships through music.

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