By Loretta Gillespie
The Cullman Times
Cullman Middle School piano students held their very first recital recently in the Burrow Center at Wallace State Community College.
For many of the students this was their first year in piano as well as their first recital.
Wallace State was recently awarded the status of an “All Steinway” school, so the students performed their recital pieces on a new Steinway Grand piano.
“Our piano lab at CMS started with 15 students four years ago and we have grown to 42 students,” said CMS band director and piano teacher, Linda Bean, proudly. “Twenty-two of those students performed at the recital.”
The Cullman Middle School Piano Keyboard Lab was established in the 2009-10 school year. Later, Cullman City Schools Board President Suzanne Harbin initiated a fund that was set up to provide music enhancement, including the provision of keyboards to participating students.
According to Bean, the recital, which was a great success, was held in honor of CHS and WSCC graduate, Tony Brock, a local musician who also composed his own music.
Harbin, a classmate of Tony Brock, established the fund in memory of her friend, a talented musician who loved all music. “The fine and performing arts opportunities for our students are essential to the overall educational offerings in Cullman City Schools,” said Harbin. “The concert showcasing our piano students was an exceptional event and my sincere gratitude goes to Linda Bean, the Cullman City Schools Foundation Board, and Wallace State's Ricky Burks for their support.”
“The proceeds from this event raised funds for the Tony Brock Music Enhancement Fund established by the CHS Class of ’84 in his memory and to honor his great love and passion for music. Tony would be thrilled with the attendance and with the use of these funds to support young musicians in the Cullman schools,” said Harbin.
“Tony’s love of music was evident to all who knew him and the abundance of his kindness radiated through his music,” said Bean. “He would be so proud of the students who participated in the recital.”
Tony Brock's mother, Charlene, echos Bean's sentiments. "It was such a great night and a great benefit recital," she said. "Words can not express my love and appreciation to Suzanne Harbin and Linda Bean for their gracious acts of kindness.
"What a great honor to have such a wonderful foundation and teachers that give many students a chance to develop their talents," she continued. "It is such a blessing for me to know that my son is loved and respected and that his memory is honored in such a way."
The Cullman City Schools Foundation, along with Wallace State College and Cullman City Schools, collaborated to present the recital.
The program was put in place at CMS through the support of superintendent, Dr. Jan Harris, the Cullman City School Board, and CMS principal, Lane Hill. Senator Zeb Little assisted in securing a portion of the necessary funding.
“Alan Pass was the technology director for our school system when the lab was put into place and played a major role in putting the lab in place,” Bean explained. “However, our current technology director, Nathan Anderson, and his staff do an amazing job keeping our technology functioning at an optimal level and up to date. The Cullman City Schools Foundation’s tireless efforts have provided our students with the opportunity to excel using the tools of the future,” said Bean.
For 14-year-old Caroline Holland, her first time on stage was a little nerve wracking, although she has been playing for two years now. Caroline, who chose “L’Arabesque” by Burgmuller as her solo performance, got lost in the music and didn’t really pay much attention to the crowd after she got started. “I really couldn’t see anyone through all the lights,” laughed Caroline. “I’ve always wanted to play the piano. I think this will last my whole life, and I find it relaxing — a great way to relieve stress.”
For her classmate, Alyssa Pylant, also 14, it was also stressful waiting to go on stage. “I was excited,” said Alyssa. “Time seemed to go by really fast once I started playing, I just wanted to do it again and again.”
Alyssa’s performance piece was titled, “Some Days Get Away” by Regan Starr.
Zoe Arnold played the famous Beethoven sonata, “Ode to Joy.” The 13-year-old says she recalls hearing her grandmother play the piano and always loved the sound. Zoe would like to attain a college scholarship for music and maybe play professionally someday.
Eighth-grader Collin Bentley livened things up with “Oats, Peas, Beans and Barley” by an anonymous composer. “I was looking through the music and I just liked the sound of it,” he laughed. “My mom and brother, Michael, play piano and I wanted to learn to play like them.” Collin says that he is already looking forward to next year’s recital.
Special guest Debbie Johnston performed Beethoven’s “Für Elise.” Johnston has a Bachelor of Music Education Degree from Samford University. Her principal instrument is the piano. She has been teaching piano for 36 years and has been playing for 44 years. She started when she was in the fourth grade. This is her sixth year teaching music in the Cullman City School System.
“We wish to express our appreciation to music department chairman, Ricky Burks, and the Wallace State Music Department for their support of this event,” said Cullman City Schools Foundation Executive Director Dawn Klinger.
All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Tony Brock Fund.
If you would like to make a contribution to the fund, you may make your tax deductible donation through the PayPal page listed below. Please designate “Tony Brock Fund” with your contribution.