“You can’t go home again”…or “CAN you”?? (A Visit to ‘Normandy High School’)

On this 23rd of March, I sit in the living room of my corner-unit residence in Chicago.  With over-sized windows that feature Gotham City views, I watch the rain come down, as well as witness the fog engulf the downtown skyline in which my own building is nestled.  I think about my other home in NYC where a Metropolitan Opera colleague is currently staying, eager to go back next season to participate in the new Ring Cycle.  But these are fleeting thoughts of the current, and the future; when in actuality I am being constantly drawn back to the events of the last 22 days, which include the now mad dash to sign my tax forms, pay next month’s bills, and get packed to head to Dallas for my next work assignment.

The beginning of the month was marked by the biggest, busiest, and most successful Vann Vocal Institute (Montgomery, Alabama) that we have ever had.  As the program director, I am charged with a myriad of duties and responsibilities (see previous post), but nothing could have prepared us for the line of tornadoes that caused us to evacuate to a storm/bomb shelter where guest speaker/instructor Teresa Eickel continued her lecture to the eager student body one evening!!  Having to turn away participants this year, you can only imagine our surprise when a student from the ‘alternate list’ took to the stage and won two of our top prizes!!  The excitement created by our outstanding faculty (Mo. Steven Crawford, Patricia Risley, Dr. Caren Levine, and the aforementioned Ms. Eickel) set off a fundraising frenzy at our opening night kick-off party that put most of us into a catatonic state (thank you Mr. Mayor!).  ‘Yours truly’ even sat at the piano to play and sing a few tunes that night (something I have not done in 25 years)!!  Exhausted, I decided to fly to Shanghai, China with my lovely girlfriend (those of you who know me, understand that I love long airplane rides) to experience the energy and forward trajectory that ‘Big-City China’ seems to offer at every turn these days…I was NOT disappointed.

Re-energized, I returned to the States to go where…???  To Parma, Ohio; of course!!

The Parma City School district in the 1970′s/1980′s was virtually second-to-none in the state of Ohio–if not the nation–when it came to providing a quality education on a par with private/classical institutions.  Academics, Theatrical and Musical Arts, Vocational Training, Sports, and a whole host of other avenues provided students with something that met their particular talent/skill set.  But neighborhoods and their residents grow old, matriculation occurs, stagnation sets in, and the once thriving campuses of school districts grow slim…in other words, the natural affects of attrition take hold.  The net result is usually less money for school systems, as an aging population in any given area does not wish to vote for higher taxes once their children have been educated.  This is not unusual in “Anytown, USA”, and not the only reason that school systems suffer; but suffer mightily many of them do.

The first things to go…???…the arts, sports, and extracurricular faire.  Unless, of course, students and parent “booster committees” raise the money separately.  It’s all a part of that terrible descriptive, “The New Normal”.  So what does one do when their Alma Mater suffers from these ailments??  The one thing we all should do when we realize that we had been given so much from those educators we made fun of, and may have even despised at the time, is…go back home and give something back to your school, school district, and community.  You give the gift of experience:  Good or bad, timely or antiquated; experience is always relevant!!

I took to the stage of the large auditorium of Normandy High School, where I was infected with the ‘virus of enthusiasm’ over 30 years ago, to work with 9 students, from a thinned-out music program, in a masterclass format.  Vocalists from all three high schools in the district participated, while a few hundred(?) other interested students watched respectfully, attentively, and with the utmost support for their on-stage colleagues (especially when they came from their specific high school).  The result was nothing short of magical for the entire 3-4 hours of admittedly hard and intense work.

Tears and cheers prevailed, as football-player sized young men stood to sing songs entitled Loveliest of Trees, The Roadside Fire, and The Prayer.  Eager and talented young ladies sang Broadway and Opera classics such as Stranger to the Rain, and O mio babbino caro.  Others stood to sing Italian art songs such as Nina (fantastic, mature rendition), O del mio dolce ardor, and Caro mio ben; and new American Classics such as Into the Night.  The song choice was broad, and the desire to learn was even more profound.  You see; kids (actually, young ladies and gentlemen) really do want to learnThey sop up the offerings, renderings, and remains, like a piece of soft Italian bread into my mother’s pasta sauce…then (just like my mother’s pasta sauce) they always want seconds and thirds if the supply holds out.  The only way to give it to them, is for more of us to take the time to go back and offer it; especially if we have done well and have been given many gifts along the way.  Not trying to moralize here, but I do think there is a moral imperative that should be implied.  I ask for no money, and would take none…this is one time when it really is “just about the kids”!

The real reward was having my parents in attendance, as well as many a former teacher (including Michael Seredick, my Elementary AND High School music instructor)…many of whom I have finally been able to thank personally for all they had given me so long ago.  I try to tell the students that the learning never ends; and that “As there is dignity to be found in all forms of employment, there is a profound dignity to be discovered in all forms of learning

So I guess you CAN go home again…; in fact, I think they are waiting for you!!!!!

djc

P.s. I wish to thank Jared Plasterer for all of his hard work with setting up this event, and Fox 8 News of Cleveland for coming out to cover this story so completely.  You can see the news report via the following link:

http://fox8.com/2012/03/20/opera-star-returns-home-to-teach-ne-ohio-students/

The other good news here is that the Parma City Schools are enjoying a resurgence these days!  Much to look forward to, thanks to a dedicated Administrative Staff in the schools themselves, as well as at the District head offices.

26 Comments so far

  1. Annette L. March 23rd, 2012 5:52 pm

    It was a pleasure to meet you, David. I wish I could’ve stayed for the rest of the workshop. Such great talent!

  2. PCSD March 23rd, 2012 5:56 pm

    On Tuesday March 20, Normandy High School welcomed back an alumnus who has achieved great acclaim as a professional singer. Mr. David Cangelosi has sung with major opera companies all over the world and specifically has sung numerous times with the Metropolitan Opera in NYC. Mr. Cangelosi came back to Normandy to hold a master class to work with our singers and give them a professional coaching experience which would cost hundreds of dollars were it being done for them in a professional setting. Thanks to Mr. Cangelosi for providing students from all of our high schools with this amazing and unique opportunity!

  3. Marsha M. March 23rd, 2012 5:58 pm

    David Cangelosi is phenomenal! It is one thing to be able to sing FANTASTICALLY well – correctly – meaningfully – as he does and it is another to transform high school vocal students from where they are to their next level(s). David knows what to correct and how to help individuals achieve their goal. He knew the story of every selection sung (regardless of the language differential), informed the students to always know the value of the words they were singing, and explained the necessity of focusing and getting the storyline across to their listeners. He emphasized the importance of phrasing (while complimenting his NHS Choir Director, Mr. Michael Seredick) and drew tremendous group support. The students in attendance were incredibly respectful and attuned as to why they were present. I was so honored to have been present as history was in the making. It was an experience that those present will not soon forget. Thank you, David, for giving back. This community loves you!!! p.s. A special thanks to the administrators who supported this experience and to Jared Plasterer (VFHS, PHS, NHS Choir Director) who works diligently to make vocal music of major importance in the PCSD. Your efforts are appreciated!

  4. Vikki Hlaves McNeeley March 23rd, 2012 5:58 pm

    What a great article, David – and what a great thing you did mentoring the kids!! LOVE Mr. Seredick – saw him (and his wife) sing with the Cleveland Orchestra chorus at Christmas time.
    I’ve been meaning to ask you if you’ve ever considered (or already performed) singing in “The Phantom of the Opera”? Take care David – thanks for conjuring up some nice memories for me!

  5. Dawn J. March 23rd, 2012 6:05 pm

    I have heard nothing but great things about it. Thank you again so much. I hope you have enjoyed your visit home. Can’t wait for it again next year. Hopefully I will be able to see/hear more next time.

  6. Ben L. March 23rd, 2012 6:06 pm

    Great workshop master class at Normandy High School today! I really enjoyed meeting you, especially since I have admired your great animated and vocal role as Mime!

  7. Danielle B. March 23rd, 2012 6:08 pm

    I wanted to thank you for the chance to get a perspective on life and how hard you worked to get it. Honestly I have never been more inspired in life in such a brand new way. Getting the chance to meet someone so down to earth and really honest was amazing. You gave me the chance to improve my voice and my thought process. I hope you come back next year I would love the chance to get to work with you again.

  8. Michael S. March 23rd, 2012 6:11 pm

    Hello again David! I visited your webpage on March 20th and had the pleasure of reading about your travels around the world while performing at high artistic levels. You have risen to the top of your profession, earning praise with every performance. That tells me about David the musician and it is wonderful news. However, your master class with the students in your hometown tells me about the David Cangelosi, the person. You shared your gift of music with students growing on the same stage you owned in your teen years. The program you enjoyed in high school is barely surviving with this generation because of economic problems, but you came, you shared, and you inspired. It was most interesting to observe how honest you were with each singer. We seldom see that quality because many teachers coddle students. You earned their trust immediately and they worked for you. They could have crumbled with nerves, but your honesty and their trust brought amazing results. You built each singer’s self-confidence and the large audience of teen-age peers was respectful for three hours. Amazing. You are an acclaimed performer and you have my applause. However, for David Cangelosi, the person and teacher, I offer my shouts of “Bravo.”

  9. Kelly P. March 23rd, 2012 6:12 pm

    David, I didn’t get a chance to say hi but I got to watch part of your master class at NHS. It was phenomenal…. You truly know how to share part of yourself and inspire young people, and your artistry is incredible. Thanks for your promised return, we’re so lucky to have such a great NHS alumnus/HOF inductee! Safe travels, and I hope to see you next year!!!!!

  10. David F. March 23rd, 2012 6:13 pm

    Bravo, David, what greater gift could you bring to those students, than to give them part of yourself.

  11. Gail N. March 23rd, 2012 6:14 pm

    Wonderful! Congratulations David on inspiring these young students! I remember your incredible talent up on that Normandy stage. More importantly I remember your kindness. Glad your fame hasn’t changed that! :)

  12. Susan N. March 23rd, 2012 6:15 pm

    You’re paying it forward, Bravo!

  13. Ann R. March 23rd, 2012 6:16 pm

    Dude: you rock utterly.

  14. Ben L. March 23rd, 2012 6:17 pm

    A truly edifying and entertaining experience! for all present! Bravissimo!

  15. Lynne P. March 23rd, 2012 6:18 pm

    Thank you for being a teacher for a day, David! And the students thank you as well!

  16. Heidi V. March 23rd, 2012 6:19 pm

    I never had the opportunity to talk to you earlier today. Seeing all the students perform and you giving them advice was so much fun to watch. Your voice is absolutely beautiful and even though I didn’t get the opportunity to sing I learned a lot. I had mentioned to my mom about today and she said she remembers you from high school, you used to be friends. She said she had always known you would go far with your singing and if you perform in Cleveland soon to please let us know.

  17. Marsha M. March 23rd, 2012 6:21 pm

    You’re the best, David! I love reading your blogs and following your singing career!

  18. Marie P. March 23rd, 2012 6:22 pm

    Heard through the grapevine, you did an awesome job. No doubt with all your learning/experiences.

  19. Lisa B. March 23rd, 2012 6:23 pm

    Excellent work, David. Gotta love those Ohio roots for sure!

  20. Mandy M. March 23rd, 2012 6:24 pm

    One of my PSH honors English students is singing in your class! Thank you for sharing your gifts with us…

  21. Laura M. March 23rd, 2012 6:26 pm

    David~my parents just called, raving about how they had the most wonderful time at your master class today! They said that you were absolutely fantastic, and helped the singers enormously. They loved your stories and demonstrations, and really appreciated the uplifting words about how important the arts are to our lives. My mom sat next to your mom, and they had a great time chatting away. You have many gifts, not the least of which is generosity…my parents are simply flying high from the experience. Plus, it was old home week for many Parma music teachers, including my dad. Thank you for your kindness, it is very much appreciated!

  22. Paul H. March 23rd, 2012 6:27 pm

    Sounds like you had a great day !!!

  23. Joanne O'C. March 23rd, 2012 6:28 pm

    Would love to see you anytime. Will have a concert for you. Come and sing here for a charity do.?????????????

  24. Michael S. March 23rd, 2012 6:35 pm

    I’m still on an artistic high from your Normandy visit. It was terribly warm during my Akron University Choir rehearsal today, but breath control was demanded in your honor. I even borrowed your quote “I swear by all that is holy, it is that simple.” Hope you don’t mind.

  25. Barbara C.T. March 24th, 2012 2:07 pm

    David, I also had the pleasure of attending the Normandy HS masterclass, as a current music educator in the district. Once again I was filled with awe at all you were able to accomplish with the students. I think this year was even grander than last (I didn’t think that was possible). Thank you for providing us with such an inspirational day. I’m already looking forward to your next visit!

  26. Melinda C. March 24th, 2012 3:44 pm

    David, I have enjoyed keeping up with you via your blog, and look forward to seeing you next week for Magic Flute rehearsals!

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