After a host of heart-felt introductions and ceremony, the Secaucus High School Chorus sang a medley from the Broadway hit and movie, "Phantom of the Opera" and the middle school chorus sang, "With One Voice," both directed by Lyle Leeson.
The newly unveiled 1,000-seat state-of-the art performance center is located on school grounds.The high school concert band performed "Sedona," under the direction of Robert Fournier. High school freshman Ugne Kallis played an impromptu by Frederick Chopin that was accomplished and mature beyond her years. The effectiveness of the theater's acoustics rendered optimum intelligibility and sound quality. The audience went wild after every number with standing ovations for all. High school chorus member Christopher Bennett, 16, sings base and also plays trombone in the school band. "This is really exciting. This is a nice building - much better than using the cafeteria," said Bennett.
From makeshift to high-tech
Leeson said students had always practiced in the school cafeteria during his 37-year career in the Secaucus school system. It was commonly known as the "cafetorium." The rough texture of the cement block and low-ceiled cafeteria is a music teacher's nightmare. The poor sound reverberation time because of the structural conditions of the room could diminish the voice of Pavarotti.
But the students persevered. Over the years, many would start in the middle school chorus and move up to the next level. Bennett said band members practice three to four days a week after school. Chorus members practice every day at lunchtime.
"I love working with the kids - that's why I'm still here," said Leeson. "The music brings them out and this new building gives them their wings."
The heavy obstacles of practice space did not stop students and school administration's thirst and love for music and personal challenge. While students worked in the unrewarding makeshift auditorium, school and town administrators were combining community support and dedication to create the dazzling new facility.
More than an auditorium
"About a year ago, this building was nothing more than a small plot of land and a good idea on a piece of paper," said SHS principal Pat Impreveduto. "Today, we are witness to a good idea pressed into reality by hard work, perseverance and dedication."
The new facility began as a wishful concept by its namesake more than 30 years ago. The late school superintendent Arthur Couch, an avid fan of music and Secaucus school children, had a vision of a building that would be more than its structure and architectural appearance.
When Gus Scerbo became superintendent in 1984, he brought the idea into his own administration. He said he "never gave up through all the trails and tribulations" to bring the Performing Arts Center from concept to reality.
Scerbo's zeal was commented on by a number of the event's speakers. Impreveduto, and Buildings and Grounds Committee Chairman Angelo Andriani, both talked about the increasing gleam in the 23-year school administration veteran's eye and his obvious excitement as the long-awaited facility came close to completion - on time and within budget.
The Center, designed by John Veisz of Faridy Veisz Fraytak in Trenton, cost $4,590,552 and took 15 months to complete from groundbreaking to dedication on June 12.
"We're standing in Lincoln Center West," Scerbo said. "This great feat proves what can be done when we all work together. Without the strong and continuing support of the Secaucus Board of Education, Mayor Elwell, the Town Council, the community and many, many others, this auditorium would not have become a reality."