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ETC to mark triumphant year at spring show

5/2/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Alumnus Lisa Howard taking part in gala

The ETC All Americans are shown after being named Grand Champions at a competition at Grove City High School Feb. 23. It was the group’s third win of the season.
Photo courtesy of ETC School of Musical Arts
MERRIMAN VALLEY — After a trying but triumphant year, students at ETC School of Musical Arts have some big things to celebrate at their annual Spring Gala May 5.

Executive Director and founder Robert Heid said the school’s All Americans ensemble singing group, made up of high school students from throughout the Akron area, garnered three grand championships in competition this year.

“It’s pretty rare,” he said of the feat, noting that the show choir competed in six contests.

The group earned the top spot at competitions Jan. 12 and Feb. 23 in Grove City and Feb. 9 in Cuyahoga Falls.

Heid was thrilled with the outcome, especially since this season the decision was made to completely scrap the group’s planned set and start over with another at the last minute.

“The kids put in really long hours,” he said. “They were spending a couple of extra hours Sunday nights and a couple of days here and there to learn it. It really helped, because they were really focused.”

The group also faced a challenge when one of its members, Copley High School student Abbey Calderone, was diagnosed with bone cancer in one of her knees. The youths responded by calling themselves Team Abbey in her honor.

“They dedicated the whole season to her, wearing yellow ribbons and yellow bracelets, and that really helped bring the kids together with a goal,” Heid said. “Instead of just competing for themselves, they were competing for Abbey.”

Abbey was still able to join the All Americans as they sang the ballad “The Distance You Have Come” in their competition set. Heid added that she recently finished her treatments and is in rehabilitation after knee replacement surgery.

“Now she can focus on getting strength and ability to sing and dance again,” he said.

The successful season and Abbey’s recovery aren’t the only reasons ETC officials plan to celebrate soon. This year also was the school’s 35th anniversary, Heid said.

That milestone will be celebrated at the gala, which is set for 3 p.m. at Cuyahoga Falls High School, 2300 Fourth St. ETC and Firestone High School alumnus Lisa Howard will be at the event to perform and help emcee, Heid said.

“We’ve been trying to get Lisa to come to the last couple of them and she’s not been available,” he said.

Howard has appeared on Broadway in “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert” and “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” for which she won a Drama Desk Award for Best Ensemble Performance. Last year, she appeared as vampire Siobhan in “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.”

At the gala, which is open to the public, ETC students from its three groups will perform. In addition to the All Americans, ETC works with students in the Main Street Singers (sixth through eighth grades) and the New Generation (third through fifth grades).

Heid and Associate Director Henry Zuchegno are already preparing for ETC’s next season. Auditions for the All Americans is May 10-11, with students needing to prepare a song. Parents of students interested in the Main Street Singers can call for an audition appointment for May, but the student does not need to have anything prepared. The youngest group, New Generation, does not require an audition, and those children can be signed up to begin the program with a summer day camp offered in August, Heid said.

Students come to the school from the West Akron area and other parts of Summit County, as well as Medina, Portage, Stark and Cuyahoga counties.

Working with the students at the nonprofit school are Musical Director Nick Campagna, Instrumental Director Brett Dawson and Choreographer Tara Tober, who is also an ETC alumnus and a Firestone graduate.

Zuchegno, whose own children participated in ETC, said students learn and grow, whether or not they end up pursuing music as a career.

“It gives them confidence in performing in front of people,” Zuchegno said. “And for my kids, it expanded their complete horizons and got the shyness out of them. It gives them that opportunity to do things they can’t do anywhere else.”

Tickets for the gala are $9.50 for students or senior citizens and $14.50 for adults and are available at the door or online at www.seatyourself.biz/etc.

For more information, call 330-923-2000 or go to www.etc-schoolofmusicalarts.org. The studio is located at 1932 Akron-Peninsula Road.

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