Hitting the high note: North Bergen's 'Vocal Showcase' gives students chance to shine
For the last decade, the North Bergen High School music department has sponsored a Vocal Showcase each year. It gives students the opportunity to perform musical numbers in front of an audience. It's always been one of the more popular events that the school holds. But no one could have ever imagined the demand the show would have this year. Dr. Myron Leshowitz, the director of the school's music department, was shocked when he had to simply turn hundreds of people away at the door of the school's auditorium for the presentation last week. "I had to turn away nearly 200 hundred people," Leshowitz said. "And every seat of the 750 available in the auditorium was filled. I had no idea it was going to sell out. But there were just no other seats. A lot of parents and family members were upset and I understand how they feel. But I never expected this." Leshowitz also never expected another item - that this year's Vocal Showcase would turn out to be the best the school has ever produced. Led by the direction of Eloise Stampoulos and the musical orchestration by George Haviland, the production of 29 numbers, involving close to 70 students, stretched over a two-and-a-half hour presentation, was a sight - and sound, for that matter - to behold. "The students never cease to amaze me," Leshowitz said. "They perform and sing like true professionals. It's almost like listening to professional recordings." "And this is not a talent show," Leshowitz said. "This is a well directed show, a high quality show. And we've been able to obtain an audience over the years, but this was definitely the best one we've ever done." The show was a tribute to some of the most popular songs of the last four decades of the millennium, namely the '60s, '70s, '80s and '90s. Stampoulos helped the students pick out the musical pieces ranging from Broadway show tunes from Phantom of the Opera and Grease, to pop tunes like disco and adult contemporary. "A lot of it was open to choice, but I had to make the final decision," Stampoulos said. "The students auditioned for me and there were some selections that I chose with the students in mind." Stampoulos had a feeling that the show would turn out to be spectacular. "I knew that it was coming, with all the talented students we have," Stampoulos said. "But you never know until the night of the show. But this is our students at their best. I told them that they would never experience anything like the thrill of appearing on stage, with the applause, that they're able to command the stage and the audience. It's the thrill of a lifetime." Stampolous said that some of the students never appeared on stage before, but you would never know it by their performances. "This was their debut and they were incredible," Stampoulos said. "They even shocked themselves that they were that capable. It truly was a wonderful night." Leshowitz said that the showcase serves other purposes as well, other than just a chance to perform in front of family and friends. "So many of our students want to branch out into the music world," Leshowitz said. "This helps them to get rid of the nervousness and the anxiety and encourages them to want to perform, which they do so well." The Vocal Showcase has proven to be a breeding ground for aspiring talent. Leshowitz said that one former performer, Rob Steiner, is currently in Hollywood, acting, singing and producing. "Many others are in the music business, but perhaps a little more behind the scenes," Leshowitz said. "But we encourage our students to perform." And Leshowitz has already made one adjustment for next year's showcase. "Because of the turnout, we're going to look at the possibility of having it for two nights, so that everyone could get a chance to see it," Leshowitz said. "It was a double-edged sword this year that it got so popular, but we're making sure it never happens again." Er, the lack of accommodation, that is. Not the popularity. The school will hold a similar concert this Sunday, April 16, at 2 p.m. at the school's auditorium, featuring Classics and Jazz. All are encouraged to attend. No one is expected to be turned away. "We love to be able to perform as much as possible for the community," Leshowitz said.