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Greater Atlanta Christian School Concert Choir to Debut at Carnegie Hall



GAC Choir
This GAC Choir image was taken before the final line-up for the New York concert was determined. Photo by Raven Wilson

The Concert Choir at Greater Atlantic Christian (GAC) School has performed in many places beyond its campus borders, but soon it will travel more than 850 miles to make its first-ever appearance on New York’s legendary concert stage, Carnegie Hall. On Saturday, March 23, 2019 at 7 pm, as part of MidAmerica Productions’ 36th annual concert season, GAC School Concert Choir will be an integral part of a larger group performing Morten Lauridsen’s contemporary classic, Lux Aeterna, under the baton of conductor John Ratledge, with the New England Symphonic Ensemble.

“This is something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” comments Dr. Marcus Miller, Director of the Concert Choir. “Students can thrive in the arts at GAC, but it’s important we show them that their artistic aspirations can take them anywhere, including to the greatest concert stage in America.”

The peaceful and uplifting Lux Aeterna has proven to be one of the most enduring choral works of the last quarter century. While it does not follow a specific form, it is a kind of Requiem. “Every one of the five movements relates to light, a universal symbol in so many ways,” comments the composer. “I wrote it as my mother was in the process of dying, so it was a way of, as so many artists do…dealing with that kind of a situation in an artistic way.”

The choir going to Carnegie includes four Peachtree Corners members:

  • Julian Fernandez
  • Autumn Clark
  • Katherine Kenworthy
  • Bronwyn Bailey

Greater Atlanta Christian School Concert Choir will share the stage, as part of a chorus of more than 135, with the following participating choirs:

  • Middletown Concert Chorale, Middletown, NY (Danielle Cornacchio, Director)
  • Hillcrest High School Ensemble, Tuscaloosa, AL (Khristina Motley, Director)
  • Chancel Choir of First United Methodist Church, Tuscaloosa, AL (John Ratledge, Director)
  • Wagner College Choir, Staten Island, NY (Roger Wesby, Director)

Sharing the Playbill

The March 23 concert at Carnegie Hall will also feature MidAmerica resident conductor David R. Thye, who will lead Dan Forrest’s LUX: The Dawn From On High with a choir of more than 160 voices drawn from four participating choruses:

  • Mosinee High School Concert Choir, Mosinee, WI (Carla Dul, Director)
  • St. Andrew’s Episcopal School Choir, Austin, TX (Cate Gasco, Director)
  • Central Regional High School Choir, Bayville, NJ (Beth Moore, Director)
  • Marist College Chamber Choir, Poughkeepsie, NY (Sarah Williams, Director)

The concert will close with a performance of Beethoven’s rarely heard Triple Concerto, featuring the international soloists Gianmaria Melis (violin), Francesco Mariozzi (cello) and Giuseppe Gullotta (piano), under the baton of conductor Corrado Valvo.

Purchase Tickets

Concerts in the Isaac Stern Auditorium/Ronald O. Perelman Stage are $150, $100, and $50. Tickets may be obtained by contacting CarnegieCharge at 212-247-7800, visiting the Carnegie Hall Box Office at 57th Street and 7th Avenue in New York, NY, or by going online to www.carnegiehall.org). For more information, contact molly.waymire@piptix.com

Feature image shown is courtesy of GAC’s website.

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The Sky Is the Limit for Five Norcross High School Grads



How Five Former Students Found Inspiration and Memories From the School’s Band Program

Dawn Andrews

Dawn Andrews, class of 2014

Drum Major at Georgia Tech

Norcross’s Band program was a huge part of her high school experience, according to Dawn Andrews. “From marching band to jazz band to symphonic band to pit orchestra, I wanted to do it all. And I’m so glad I did!,” she said. “It gave me lifelong friends, unique experiences, and it kept me busy doing something that I love.”

Dawn’s played piano, flute and piccolo, and she was a drum major at NHS. Her favorite memory is “conducting “We Are the Champions” in the Georgia Dome after our football team won the State Championships in 2012 — and we did it again in 2013!”

She noted that band also gave her opportunities for leadership and taught her how to be a good representative; she believes that has carried forward into all the communities that she is a part of now.

After graduating from Norcross in 2014, Dawn went on to major in Aerospace Engineering at Georgia Tech. “During my undergraduate years, I joined the band and was drum major from 2015 through 2018. Just like in high school, band became one of the most special parts of my life,” she said, “and I’m so grateful to the Georgia Tech Marching Band for all the friends, memories and opportunities that it gave me — more than I ever thought possible.”

Dawn is currently working on her master’s degree in Aerospace Engineering from Georgia Tech. She’s planning to graduate in December and move to Los Angeles in 2020 to start a career with SpaceX as a Design Engineer. “Instead of conducting bands, I build rockets now,” Dawn said. “But most importantly, I’m still keeping myself busy doing something that I love!” ■

Parker Buntin

Parker Buntin, class of 2012

Drum Major at Georgia Tech

Parker Buntin just completed his Masters in Materials Science and Engineering at Massachusetts Institute of Technology following an undergraduate degree in the same field at Georgia Tech. During his college and post-graduate career, Parker worked in Texas, England and California and is about to move back to California to work at Virgin Orbit.

Parker was actively involved in band throughout his time at both NHS and Georgia Tech. At Norcross, he played trumpet in the marching band, wind symphony, jazz band and brass ensemble. He continued playing trumpet at Georgia Tech in the orchestra, symphonic band, jazz band, new music ensemble and marching band. Parker was also drum major in 2011 at Norcross and from 2013 to 2016 at Georgia Tech.

He said his favorite memories from the band were traveling, whether for district and all-state bands at Norcross, for football games at Georgia Tech or for any other opportunity to get out into the world with the band. Two particularly memorable trips were the Orange Bowl trip in December, 2014 and the Dublin, Ireland trip in 2016.

According to Parker, his experiences in band at NHS and Georgia Tech left him with strong friendships and lasting memories, and he’s thankful for them. He hopes the students in the band community continue to work hard and enjoy their time in band, because the excellence of the program is something special that they will remember long after graduation. ■

Taylor Kay

Taylor Kay, class of 2012

During Taylor Kay’s time at Norcross High School, he participated in the NHS Wind Symphony, marching band, jazz band and the Gwinnett County Youth Symphony. After graduating from NHS, Taylor attended Georgia State where music earned him scholarships from the School of Music. He earned a spot in the GSU Marching Band where he performed in the 2012 Presidential Inaugural Parade in Washington, D.C. and the 2014 88th Annual Thanksgiving Day Parade. Taylor also played in the GSU Wind Orchestra for two years.

In 2016, Taylor transferred to the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, N.D. where he now majors in Aeronautical Sciences — Commercial Aviation. He is currently a commercial pilot working on his Airline Transport Pilot ratings, and he’ll flight instruct for the University before moving on as a first officer for SkyWest Airlines. Ultimately, Taylor hopes to return home to Atlanta and fly for Delta Airlines. ■

Kate Tabeling

Kate Tabeling, class of 2016

Drum Major at UGA

Throughout her years in band, Kate Tabeling has gone from a drum major in high school, a section leader in college to a drum major in college. Due to UGA’s football achievements, she has been able to travel cross country to march at the Rosebowl and play at the National Championship.

“My past seven years in marching band have shaped who I am as a person and a leader,” Kate said. “I had to lead groups both large and small in rehearsals, teach students how to march, plan rehearsals, communicate with directors and students and so much more.”

She added that each of the tasks taught her different ways to organize, communicate and inspire. “When leading the Redcoat Band next season, I’ll apply all that I’ve learned from my freshman year of high school and continue to grow during my final season. ■

Beavan Zulu

Beavan Zulu, class of 2017

Drum Major at Georgia State, Conductor with Phantom Regiment

“I wouldn’t be the person I am today if it weren’t for band,” Beavan Zulu said. “Through band, I learned many lessons on patience, team work and perseverance.” He said that band also helped to make him a leader. Without it, “I wouldn’t know how to manage my time or efficiently maximize the time I have to reap the greatest benefits. I wouldn’t know that for a group to follow a leader, the leader first has to make personal connections with those he’s leading. I wouldn’t know that leadership carries on even when off duty.”

Beaven sums it up with, “I wouldn’t be half the leader or the person that I am today without the invaluable experiences I’ve acquired through band.” ■

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Gwinnett County Health and Human Services Offers Family Fun and Low-Cost Immunizations



Gwinnett County Health and Human Services is helping families get ready for the back-to-school season with Health Hero Day at OneStop Norcross Saturday, July 20 from 8 a.m. until noon.

The Gwinnett Health Department will offer low-cost immunizations and health screenings, and Gwinnett County Public Schools will provide early learning and education tools. Free activities include a kid zone play area, family resources and giveaways. A WIC farmers market will be onsite for those looking for healthy options.

“We are pleased to host Health Hero Day just in time for school registration,” said Health and Human Services Division Director Regina Miller. “We are thankful for our many partners who are dedicated to the health and well-being of our community.”

The Gwinnett County Health Department will be providing immunizations and health screenings as required by Gwinnett County Public Schools. “It can be difficult for parents and children to fulfill this requirement during the weekday so we are excited to provide this opportunity on a day that may be more convenient for them,” said Miller. “We are expecting a good turnout at the Health Hero Day event and encourage people to come early to ensure they receive their immunizations and screenings.”

OneStop Norcross is located at 5030 Georgia Belle Court, Norcross. You can find more information at www.GwinnettHumanServices.com.

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World-Class Education



When a first grade class at Peachtree Elementary School noticed that a storm drain at their school was covered with debris, they took action and cleared it to protect the environment. (Courtesy of Peachtree Elementary School.)

IB Programme takes local schools to an international level

Several Gwinnett Public Schools in Peachtree Corners offer an innovative, challenging program to eligible students — the prestigious International Baccalaureate® (IB) Programme. The Programme is respected world-wide and has become a factor in drawing corporate interest and talent to the area.

Developed in 1968, the IB Programme was designed to establish preparatory school standards recognized by European universities and to prepare students for higher-level studies. The program has been in authorized American schools since 1980.

What’s different about the program is that it promotes inquiry and encourages students to think critically and challenge assumptions. And it’s cohesive. Courses in the IB Programme don’t stand alone; critical thinking builds between subjects and looks at the whole curriculum. This approach encourages students to consider subjects in local, national and global contexts.

Peachtree Elementary School was authorized as an IB Primary Years Programme (PYP) school in May 2010. It was one of the first public elementary schools to achieve authorization in Georgia.

Brian Ginley, IB Coordinator at Peachtree Elementary, explained that the IB Programme is a framework for organizing curriculum and instructional practices. Designed for students aged 3-12, the PYP challenges students to think for themselves and take responsibility for their learning as they investigate local and global issues.

“It’s not a specific curriculum,” he said. “Peachtree Elementary organizes the Gwinnett County Academic Knowledge and Skills in transdisciplinary units that are conceptually based. The PYP promotes the use of inquiry as an instructional tool to foster student questioning and taking ownership of their learning.”

Earning the authorization created a continuum from Peachtree Elementary to the Middle Years Programme at Pinckneyville Middle School and Norcross High School, and the Diploma Programme at Norcross High School. That means students can attend classes in the IB Programme from Kindergarten through 12th grade to earn an IB diploma, which is recognized and respected by the world’s leading universities.

IB students at Norcross High School (Math Class) Courtesy of Gwinnett County Public Schools

Sloan Roach, Gwinnett County Public Schools Executive Director of Communication and Media Relations, said that Norcross High School began offering the IB Programme in 1999 as a means of providing additional rigor to its students.

“As a leading International Baccalaureate school, Norcross High offers the Diploma Programme and Middle Years Programme,” Roach explained. “Both Pinckneyville and Summerour middle schools participate in the Middle Years Programme and Peachtree Elementary offers the Primary Years Programme, providing a K-12 IB opportunity for students in the Norcross Cluster.” The school system also offers IB opportunities in the Shiloh Cluster, she added.

Students at Norcross High School who participate in the IB Programme throughout their school experience have an extremely high success rate when compared to the state, national and world passage rates, according to Roach. “At Norcross in May 2018, 95% of our students received a passing score on IB exams compared to 61% in Georgia, 69% in the U.S. and 78% in the world,” she said.

Norcross High Principal Will Bishop and his IB team shared their insights. They said that students who have been through the IB Programme, when they return from college, report how well prepared they are compared to their classmates, even those who are going to elite colleges.

“They believe they’re getting a top-notch education at Norcross High School,” they said. “Like the students, parents feel that their children are well prepared to perform at top-level colleges. They believe critical thinking applies to life beyond school.”

And what do the teachers think about the IB program? Teachers enjoy the inquiry approach to learning. “I make the doing easy, but the thinking hard,” said teacher Natalie Dixon.

The community at large benefits, too. As sophomores, Norcross High students have the opportunity to complete a personal project. In fact, several projects have turned into events that improve local communities, such as the Blue Devil Run.

The IB Programme PYP also encourages elementary school students to take action and make positive differences. Ginley gave an example from one of Peachtree Elementary’s first-grade classes.

“This spring, during a recess, the students observed that the storm drain was covered by debris from a recent rain. They wondered if this might have a negative effect on animals,” he said. “The students took action by clearing the debris from the storm drain. This is just one example of our students looking to make Peachtree Elementary and our world a better place for all.” ■

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