Franklin School music teacher Armine Irving has always known that there are a lot of talented students in her North Bergen elementary school. But this year, Irving’s students reached new heights.
First, two of Irving’s eighth grade students, Jesenia Liz and Tyler Griffin, were recently selected to perform with the Off-Broadway theater company “I-Theatrics” production of “High School Musical,” which will be held today (Sunday) at the Chelsea Studios on 26th Street in Manhattan, beginning at 3:30 p.m.
And another eighth grader, Luis Flores, was chosen to participate in the All-State Scholastic Chorus as one of only 13 baritones in the entire state to perform. Rehearsals with the All-State chorus begin in April, with a concert to be held at a site to be determined in May.
Needless to say, Irving is thrilled about her students’ achievements.
“I-Theatrics called me to see if we had any students who would be interested in auditioning for their shows that they do twice a year,” Irving said. “I chose four students from the chorus and prepared them for the auditions. Well, two of those got selected to perform in the show.”
The performance will be held in front of professional actors, directors, and producers.
Lots of recognition
“I think it’s fabulous,” Irving said. “We never achieved this kind of recognition before. It’s the first time we participated and we have two kids who are in. I’m really proud of them. They’re both full of personality, life and fun. They also perform well and have great voices. They’re very hard working. They went home and studied what they had to do and did very well.”
More than 300 youngsters from throughout the Tri-State area auditioned for the show. Only 20 were selected – and two came from the same school.
“It’s amazing,” said 14-year-old Jesenia Liz. “It’s New York. It’s close to Broadway. It’s everything. Kids my age don’t get this opportunity every day. I’m grateful to Ms. Irving for giving us the opportunity.”
It was especially difficult for Liz, because she didn’t know much about the popular Disney cable movie, “High School Musical.”
“I’ve never saw it,” Liz said. “I know people don’t believe me, but I swear I never did. But I want to be an actress and a singer, so I was willing to learn. I’m glad I did, because there are no boundaries. It’s basically do what I want and it’s a great start for me. I hope to go on to bigger and better things. You never know where this might lead. You never think you get a chance like this while in grammar school. It’s the chance of a lifetime.”
But Tyler Griffin, also 14, knew the musical well.
“My mother got me the movie on DVD to watch, and I loved it,” Griffin said. “I like the songs and the music, so I was ready for it. It feels very good to get a chance like this. I know there were a lot of kids at the auditions, so it means a lot to me to be picked. I’m very excited about being in the show. I’m going to give it my all.”
Griffin said that he hopes to keep on singing and dancing like his idol, the King of Pop, Michael Jackson.
“I’ve never been much of an actor, but I can sing and dance,” Griffin said.
Liz said that she’s enamored with Beyonce, especially the popular singer’s efforts in the movie, “Dreamgirls.”
“She’s amazing,” Liz said. “I also like Luciano Pavarotti’s voice. He was amazing as well.”
Flores never thought he would be talented enough to make the All-State chorus, featuring the top 50 singers in New Jersey.
“I love singing and I want to pursue it as a career, but I never thought I’d get a chance like this, especially at this age,” Flores said. “It’s good to have a goal and a dream. This is something I was shooting for.”
“It’s a great accomplishment for Luis,” Irving said. “He has a fabulous baritone voice.”
Flores said that he aspires to be a top-selling R&B singer like Chris Brown or J. Holliday.
Flores said that he likes having other performers in his class, like his friend Liz.
“We got a lot closer since we joined the school chorus together,” Liz said. “We’re like siblings. We tell each other how we can improve.”
“We’re all like a little family now,” Flores said.
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at either OGSMAR@aol.com or email@example.com