VHS Choir Pays It Forward With Music

By on January 7, 2019

A week after the synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh last October, Montclair State University employee Ellie Esposito found a yellow polka-dotted bag on her front porch. Inside it was a mirror and a candle, and attached to the bag was a letter. The letter was from her neighbor, and it explained how the neighbor and her family were performing 11 acts of kindness in honor of the 11 victims of the synagogue shooting.

This act of kindness was a candle and mirror. The candle, to shed light on the darkest days, and the mirror to reflect that light into the places that need it the most. Esposito’s neighbor had put them together to honor Rose Mallinger, a 97-year old Holocaust survivor who had fallen victim to the synagogue tragedy.

Inspired by the act of kindness from her neighbor, Esposito set out to pay it forward. “We need to remember that with so much hate in the world today, good people still outnumber the evil – and little acts of kindness can make a BIG difference,” she wrote on Facebook after receiving the bag.

The Feliciano School of Business at Montclair State University, where Esposito is employed, has a beautiful staircase in the atrium, providing great acoustics throughout the hall. When she walked into work the next day, her pay-it-forward project idea sparked.

Esposito decided to put together a performance in the atrium of the business school to promote unity, inclusion, and harmony. She reached out to Claire Ma, the choir director at Verona High School, to see if her students would be interested in performing. Upon receiving the email, Ma was on board and enthusiastic about the idea, and the date of the concert was set for December 10.

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On the morning of December 10, the students in the Verona High School Chamber Choir were bussed over to Montclair State University and escorted by Esposito to the Feliciano School of Business. The students warmed up their voices in the Dean’s conference room, and at 10:30 a.m., they formed an arc on the staircase and began the concert.

The choir sang three songs, along with an encore performance of Pentatonix’s “Hark the Herald Angels Sing.” MSU faculty and students came down to watch the performance, and often, people passing through the atrium would stop to watch and listen to the songs of the high school choir. Liz Barile, a senior chamber choir member said, “It was a great experience because we got to perform in front of a new audience and in a different setting than normal.”

The concert was streamed live on the Feliciano School of Business Facebook page, and was recorded by the Business School’s IT Department, as well.

Following the performance, the Verona High School students were provided with a catered lunch and Allan Daleus, a student from the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State, talked to them about the music program at the university. The students got a kick out of Daleus as he explained to them a day in his life, the many concerts that he has performed, his workload at MSU, and his favorite memories from being in the program.

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After lunch and the discussion with the MSU music student, the Verona High School students were taken on a tour of the Feliciano School of Business led by MSU’s Director of Web Content and Communications Phil Mattia, where they were able to see innovative technology such as the 3D printers in the Feliciano Center of Entrepreneurship. Molly Ligon, another senior chamber choir member, enjoyed not only the concert, but the tour as well. “The staff at Montclair State University were extremely nice and gave us an overall great experience at the school,” she said.

“Bringing the MSU community together for this performance may seem like a small thing,” Esposito says, “but as Matt Bevin, Governor of Kentucky, said in his inaugural speech, ‘While it may seem small, the ripple effect of small things is extraordinary’.” Esposito would like to continue to host this concert annually, and hopes that her act of kindness will have a ripple effect on those who attended it.

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