Two benefit concerts for the Every Child Counts School were held on March 5 and 6, the first in Hope Town and the second in the Pavilion at the Abaco Beach Resort. Both musical evenings which featured the voices of ECC students and friends were held under the theme ‘Raise the Roof ‘ and were very well attended. This was certainly a very apt name because the students really did raise the proverbial roof with their exuberant performance and overall great show of enthusiasm.
Many of the students of ECC are very musically talented and participate regularly in choir, drum and guitar groups. Several of the students have received top awards in the Bahamas National Arts Festival. During the Raise the Roof concerts both the junior and senior choirs performed and several soloists from the school were featured. The primary school choir and senior school choir combined for their performances in these concerts and their joy was infectious.
The concert got off to a spirited start with the lively opening number ‘You Can’t Stop the Beat’ by the combined choirs and concert Director David LaDuca. Later in the programme the choir combined with the signing team of Eric Sawyer, Myron Sawyer and Emily Deveaux who translated the words of ‘Dreamer You Become’ into American sign giving, in the words of Director David LaDuca, “a whole new dimension of expression to the music.”
Treneil Brice, the school’s talented rapper was featured in the song ’Where is the Love?’
Ronel Escarment and Everose Laurand, two ECC students gifted with exceptionally beautiful voices were featured in a very moving rendition of the song ’Lead With Your Heart’. Ronel has won first place in the National Arts Festival in his division for two consecutive years and Everose has a voice which fully complements Ronel’s.
Following intermission the ECC Junkanoo drum circle and dancers assisted by trumpeter Charles Carey Jr, got the show swinging again with a lively medley ’When the Saints/Rara/Brown Girl in the Ring’. They were having so much fun it seems they would like to have gone on all night. They had, however, to leave the stage and make way for the primary choir and David LaDuca in a charming, humorous and inspirational song medley ‘Grow for Me and the High Hopes’. The singers were very ably accompanied in this and several other the pieces by pianist Anne Marie ‘Koops’ Moss.
Special guests performing in the program included singers Akeem Adderley, Chad Taylor and the Kumanta Quartet, saxophonist Rashad Reckley, known in Abaco as ‘The Sax Man’, and pianist Michael Franks, a regular 10 year visitor from England. Mr. Franks is a professional jazz musician and he certainly ‘tickled those ivories.’
It is almost impossible to put into words the tremendous part David LaDuca played in all this. He was not only the director and producer but it is true to say he is the man who made it all happen. In 2011 the ‘Music Doing Good’ group out of Houston Texas began coming annually to perform benefit concerts for ECC. This year, however, the group was unable to come but David LaDuca, who had been its executive producer and creative director and has now moved on from the group had a yearning in his heart to return to ECC and help them put on a concert. He volunteered at the school for six weeks working with the students to produce this year’s ‘Raise the Roof’ concert.
“I love working with kids and I have found a new experience working with this special group of kids. It has been incredible working with kids with challenges. A lot of these children have no reason to be happy but they find it and this resonates with me as I have had times like that in my life,” he stated.
When David LaDuca began working with these children at ECC he found that many of them had never been on stage and were very reticent even to open their mouths to sing.
“I let them know that it was okay to stick their neck out and told them the story of the Turtle who would never get anywhere unless he stuck his neck out. I expected only the best from these children and they surpassed any expectations I may have had.”
Mr. LaDuca is a professional singer and actor who has worked on and off Broadway in New York and even had a lead role in a television sitcom.
“Working with these children has taken all I learned and put it through a different lens, they have taught me so much,” he stated. He had a very spontaneous, easy going way with the children and brought in humour to make them laugh. “This is something quite new for me and a complete contrast to how I used to be in my roles on stage. I have become quite different now,” he said. He confessed that it would be very painful for him to leave and expressed his gratitude to the school for what it had done in his life in the song ‘Thankful’ which he sang backed by the Junior Choir.
He left a few days after the concert to return to Houston where he is furthering his professional studies and pursuing a Masters Degree in Performing Arts. He says that he is glad he will be busy with his studies and also producing and set design to help ease the sadness he will feel at leaving all the people at ECC. Mr LaDuca was generously hosted for the six weeks by Jimmy and Penny Vaughan for which he and the school are very grateful.
School Principal Lyn Major gave brief remarks at the close of the concert thanking Mr. LaDuca for coming and spending time at the school and giving them such a wonderful time.
“He has raised the children to new heights they had never reached before,” she stated. She said she was delighted to see children on stage some of whom had never even been to school before and were used to being called dumb, and stupid and not even speaking. Now they performed with such joy and abandon.
“Music opens lots of doors and has enabled the students to show their talents, it is wonderful what they have achieved. This has raised us all to a different level of humanity,” she stated. Following her remarks all of the performers ended the evening with a joyful and heartfelt rendition of ‘Reach Out and Touch.’
During the intermission concertgoers were able to browse and purchase an excellent array of items made by the students and which are on sale every school day in the gift shop at the front of the school. These include paintings, fabric coasters, totes, wine sleeves and make up bags, ceramic items and very unusual knitted netting scarves.
Four large bronzes cast by Randolph Johnston, father of Pete Johnston, were donated for auction by Fred Gottlieb and Chad Sawyer. Two of these were sold raising more very welcome funds for this very worthy cause.