The sweet sound of success

June 9 – 15, 2005
VOL 124 NO. 22
The sweet sound of success
By Claudia Mathis/ SUN staff writer
SUN photo(s) Paul Finch
There was an air of excitement in the Our Lady of Pompei School gymnasium on Tuesday, May 24. Parents, grandparents and children alike all enjoyed performances by choral groups from Pre-K, Kindergarten, and grades one through six. Also performing was the First Year Band, Advanced Band and the Our Lady of Pompei School Chorus.

Then, principal Barbara Jacques took the stage. She acknowledged James Stanley for teaching and directing the school chorus. She said, “For 25 years, he’s made parents burst with pride at concerts. He opened the eyes of children to theater. In addition to forming the Disney Chorus in 2000, he formed the All-American Chorus, which performed in Washington, D.C. and in Orlando, Fla.”

A slide show of Stanley and his students, highlighting his 25 years of teaching was shown, accompanied by music.

In an attempt to honor and surprise music director James Stanley, 19 members of the former Disney Chorus performed to the delight of those in attendance. They sang and danced to a medley of Disney songs (the same routine they performed at Disney World in 2000).

Parent Patricia Dalfo was impressed by the way the chorus surprised Stanley. “I loved it,” said Dalfo. “They honored him in a perfect way with the songs that he loved.”

In preparation for the surprise performance by the Disney Chorus, Our Lady of Pompei School choreographer Maryann Iannettone met secretly with the former chorus members to rehearse their routine six times before the staging of the spring concert.

Stanley was extremely surprised when the Disney Chorus took the stage. “I was speechless,” said Stanley. “I was completely overwhelmed. It brought back a lot of memories, watching them perform the same routine we did years ago. I’ve never been more entertained in my entire life.”

The Disney Chorus got its start in 1999, when Stanley learned about a special program on the internet celebrating the millennium. It was designed for student performers. “It was a year that I recognized the chorus was quite talented,” said Stanley. Applying for a chance for his chorus to perform, he sent an audition tape created by the chorus. Stanley was notified in November that the group had been accepted into the program. “We were thrilled,” said Stanley.

The Disney Chorus worked at learning their routine for a period of one year before departing for Disney World. Accompanied by their families, faculty and staff, the chorus gave a stellar performance at Disney World in July 2000.

The members of the former Disney Chorus were glad that Stanley had been honored at the concert. Tom Kraus, a junior at Christian Brothers Academy, said, “He’s been teaching for a long time and he’s done a lot of great things for the school. When I was asked to come back and perform tonight, I said I would be happy to. I loved the idea of coming back.”

Former Disney Chorus member Megan Harper is a 10th grader at Bishop Grimes High School. “He was the best teacher I ever had,” said Megan. “He taught me how to sing.”

After the Disney Chorus’ performance, Stanley was presented with a bouquet of flowers and a certificate expressing the school’s gratitude and thanks for 25 years of service. The principal announced that a brick would be installed in the school’s walkway in honor of him.

Two of his former students, who are now adults, took the stage. Former student Sam Barker spoke very highly of Stanley. “We are lucky to have had him for the first 25 years,” said Barker. “I hope we will have him for the next 25 years.”

Former student Darren Petragnani also thought highly of Stanley. “He served as godfather at my baptism,” said Petragnani.

After the concert, Stanley discovered that one of his former students had placed a letter for him on top of his piano. In the letter, the student outlined why she thought music is important. “It’s gratifying to see the students grow in their love of music,” remarked Stanley.

Stanley has been involved with music from an early age. He sang in the children’s choir when he attended Blessed Sacrament Church in Syracuse. He played the clarinet when he attended Bishop Ludden High School. He has a love of organ music, which he majored in when he attended the Crane School of Music.

Stanley said the 25 years he has spent teaching children has been a rewarding and challenging experience. “I love working with children, teaching them the discipline that accompanies the study of music,” explained Stanley. “I enjoy watching them showcasing their talents and giving back to the community.” Stanley feels that the faculty, pastor and parents have been the key to his success. “They’ve been very supportive,” said Stanley. “I’ve been allowed to hold chorus rehearsal during the school day.”

Reflecting on the way Stanley was honored during the spring concert, Barbara Jacques felt satisfied. “It was outstanding,” she said. “I’m concerned about the way we need to reward our teachers. When children get together to honor their former teachers, it means a lot.”

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