by Douglas Neslund
"Pied Piper" does not adequately fit Mr. Rod Yonkers, Director of Music at La Crescenta's Rosemont Middle School. One may start with such an appelation, but where the original Pied Piper led a generation of children astray, Mr. Yonkers is leading that lucky school's students, challenging them and urging them to excellence. Music in this school is head and shoulders above the best of the rest, and incredibly superior to the image of "music in the public schools" as the woebegone, vanishing, underfunded and forgotten subject portrayed in the public press.
Indeed, Rosemont Middle School is a cornucopia of student talent, no doubt attracted by the personal talents of Mr. Yonkers that are so obviously supported by the school's principal, Dr. Cynthia Livingston. Naysayers may point to the school's mostly upper middle class clientele to inject a bit of class warfare in order to discount the achievements of these children; nevertheless, ethnic and social balance were absolutely in evidence.
On a chilly June night, friends and families gathered for "Rosemont Bowl XVII" at the school's amphitheater, treated first to a college-level drum line that was as crisp and thrilling as any. Smartly marching into and out of position, in perfect rhythm as well as stick management, the drum corp looked sharp and received well deserved applause.
What followed thrilled the patriotic: Mr. Yonkers, smartly dressed as George Washington and accompanied by Mr. Lynn McGinnis portraying Benjamin Franklin while reciting "America, the Beautiful" (but forgetting the final critical line: "Confirm thy soul in self control, Thy liberty in law!") The combined Advanced Strings and Concert Band then attacked John Philip Sousa's immortal "Stars and Stripes Forever" with piccolo solo by Amy Choi. At the repeat, audience members were invited to provide fireworks by shooting "poppers" into the air:
The program continued through "Hoe Down" by Aaron Copland, danced by the entire Advanced Chorus, to "Rolling In The Deep" arranged by schoolgirl Emily Hayhurst, to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" danced by schoolboy Isaac Sims-Foster, and much, much more, including an excellent Jazz Band of 18 members. Every item on the program was well prepared and performed.
In a world increasing in cynicism and doubtful leadership, Mr. Yonkers stands out and in his outgoing way, brings students, parents and visitors along with him, reminding us that music can heal and inspire. Proof is encapsulated in a box at the end of the evening's program entitled "Rosemont Musicians in Outside Music Groups." Typical are Ernie Carbajal, Principal Cellist, who has been taken under the wing of the San Fernando Valley Symphony Orchestra, and Trombonist Cole Davis, who is a member of the Colburn Wind Ensemble.
If you feel a need to rejuvenate your hope for the future, just take in a concert by the Rosemont Middle School, and after your spirits have been lifted, take a moment to thank Mr. Yonkers for his dedication to that future.