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Friendship JH Students Bring Song to Students and Seniors

March 1, 2017

Of the many ways it is possible to reach out to others, one of the easiest, and perhaps most effective, is through music and song. Happiness can follow simply hearing a favorite song, or remembering the memories associated with it.

Friendship Junior High School students brought this idea to life by developing a choir called “The Voices of Change (TVOC)”, an after-school group that all students can join which focuses on bringing music to the CCSD59 community. Thus far, TVOC have performed at a few sporting games at FJHS, several staff birthdays at the school, and at a Chicago Wolves game.

On Friday, February 24, TVOC and a small group of a FJHS daytime school choir brought their talents outside the school. During a time frame of approximately 6 hours, they performed at Devonshire, Brentwood, and Robert Frost Elementary Schools, and two assisted living communities, the Asbury Court in Des Plaines and Sunrise of Schaumburg.

Jessica Zolmierski, who teaches music and chorus at Friendship JHS, said the group looks to benefit both the schools in CCSD59 and the community as a whole, and always has a purpose in mind for their visits. The three elementary schools visited on Friday have students who will eventually attend FJHS, and the goal is to help them feel a better connection to their future school and get excited about upcoming opportunities there. During a brainstorming session, the students came up with the idea of visiting senior living facilities. Zolmierski was delighted by the idea, as her own grandmother lives at one of the facilities where TVOC performed.

The students and staff worked hard to keep to a tight schedule for the performances, packing up and carrying all the equipment, including guitars, ukuleles, music sheets, mics, and stands, to and from each location. All performances were emceed by student volunteers from TVOC who introduced all the songs and the groups performing them.

A wide variety of songs were performed, from classics such as “the Star Spangled Banner” and “Stand by Me” (Prince Royce version) to more modern songs such as “House of Gold” (21 Pilots), “Riptide” (Vance Joy), and “When I was your Man” (Bruno Mars). Some smaller performances, which were auditioned for this show, were mixed in with songs performed by the bigger groups.

Each time they sing for a new audience, Zolmierski says the students get excited, and each performance gives them different rewards. Visiting their prior schools gave students the opportunity to see their former classmates and teachers and to show how much they have learned and grown. Performing at the assisted living facilities made the students proud to bring joy to the residents, particularly those who may not be able to get out often. “We sang for hundreds of people by the time the day was done, most of whom we do not know personally but are connected to somehow,” Zolmierski said.

By all accounts, the event was a major success. The excitement and energy the students had throughout the day was contagious, and both their student and senior audiences were spotted tapping feet, clapping hands, and singing along with smiles.

Zolmierski said she was particularly impressed by how the students interacted with the seniors they visited at the assisted living facilities. After the performances, the students walked around to greet and speak with the residents. “I was bombarded with stories from the students about what they heard from the residents and what they observed and felt,” Zolmierski said. “They were so polite, respectful, and outgoing, and I couldn’t be prouder.”

The students in TVOC also felt it was a very positive experience. Lexie M. said, “When I wasn’t singing, I could look around and see how happy everybody looked, how much fun people were having, and how much the audience enjoyed the performances.” Another student, Brayden B., commented, “My favorite moments were when we had the chance to talk to our audiences. It was amazing to hear about them and their experiences, and they made me smile and laugh with their stories and jokes.”

Perhaps TVOC singer Ambiya S summed it up best: “I feel really lucky to have been part of such a breathtaking experience, and I would love to do it all over again. Overall, I’m just glad I got to be a part of this.”

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