Music resumes at alternative high school

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POUGHKEEPSIE – The halls of the BOCES Alternative High School (BETA) are again filled with the sound of music coming from a band of staff and students practicing together after quite some time apart.

The musicians got together into the music room on the first floor of the school last week to practice two songs – The Williams Brothers’ uplifting “Still Here” and The Temptations classic “My Girl.”

Teaching Assistant for Crisis Intervention, Maurice Hollis, sang lead vocals on “Still Here” which featured lyrics such as “I’ve seen my share of troubles, but I’m still here,” a nod to the pandemic environment.

Teaching assistants Kenneth Hallett and Vincent Giandalone played the drums and guitar respectively and fellow teaching assistant Phil Parquet assisted students who needed help playing their instruments. Students Dustin Harding, Leroy Manrique, and Tristan Levesque played guitar, keyboard, and bass. 

Coordinator of Alternative Education, Duane Sharrock, best known for his signature morning announcements, provided his vocals to belt out “My Girl,” which got everyone singing along.

At first, the band played the songs note for note, but Hollis later encouraged students and staff to improvise.“Let’s have some fun,” Hollis said to the band. The main goal of the activity is to build up the students’ confidence, Hollis noted. “It spills over into other areas,” he said. “We’ve seen some miracles happen.”

Music practice started up again now that the students and staff are in attendance on a more frequent schedule, four days per week. Hollis hopes that he and the band will do a performance by the end of the month on Google Classroom for the whole school to hear. Throughout the years, Hollis and the staff have put on 15 creative arts shows. It is not simply a hobby; some staff members are part of a band called The Underground.