Rockland Glee Club focuses on more than just music

Posted April 22, 2011, at 9:06 p.m.

ROCKLAND — “Glee” mania has taken over Rockland District Middle School.

“I love the show,” Student Zoe Goff said. “I wish I could watch it every minute of the day.”

The appeal of the TV show is widespread, and this year several students at the school wanted in on the “Glee” phenomenon. Enter the Rockland After-School Alliance, which tailored a musical program to the passionate requests of the enthusiastic group.

“There’s just something about the show,” participant Sydney Gustafson said. “It’s fun and special and kind of crazy, and we wanted to have that here.”

For several weeks now, 14 middle school students and two high school volunteers met with Youthlinks Program Manager Hilary Flagg to master song and dance routines from the show they love in preparation for their April 15 showcase performance.

While all involved would admit that preparing for a five-song performance is a lot of work, the fun seems to be what stands out most for the students. Each practice ended with a chance for students to check in about how the day went, usually by rating the day on a scale of 1-10. Inevitably, off-the-chart numbers were shouted out as students reflected on how much they accomplished and how much fun they had singing and dancing together.

“When we started the program, a top priority was making sure that ‘Glee’ was fun for everyone, regardless of vocal ability and past experience,” Flagg said. “It’s been incredible to see how much they have improved musically because of being in such a positive environment with their peers.”

The part of the TV show that students love most, in addition to the musical routines, is the camaraderie that develops between students from different social circles as they share a love of song. That team mentality is evident at the middle school, too. Students who have never hung out before “Glee” have become each other’s biggest supporters and mentors, working together to learn dance steps, sing with emotion and, perhaps most challenging, overcome stage fright.

“I originally joined because I love the show, I thought it would be really fun, and I had to get over my stage fright,” said Delia Sastaamoinen, one of the soloists. She, along with many of her fellow “Gleeks,” signed up for the program without feeling prepared to take the stage and sing for a crowd. After lots of practice and encouragement, the showcase performance featured 14 of its 16 members in solos, duets and small group numbers. Every student brave enough to ask for a feature got one.

The Glee Club’s recent performance capped off the program for the year, but it is likely that next fall will be the beginning of another Gleeful year.

For more information, visit www.youthlinksonline.org or call 594-2221.

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