GENEVA — Visitors to St. Francis-St. Stephen School recently saw something they probably never thought they’d see — Diana Ross and the Supremes playing on the same stage as Guns N’ Roses.
Well, sort of.
The seventh-grade class, under the direction of art, Spanish and humanities teacher Jeanette Hernandez, brought 16 classic songs to life May 18 during the Kickin’ ’07 Humanities Show. Seventh-graders dressed up as Stevie Wonder, Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Whitney Houston and regaled their fellow students, teachers and parents as they lip-synched along to some of the most famous songs of the past 50 years.
Each year Hernandez directs the students in her seventh-grade humanities class to choose a famous musician, singer or band, study that person or group, and then “become” that person during the annual humanities show. This assignment is not all fun and games, however.
“This is the culmination of 20 weeks of studying post-World War II American music and how it was affected by events,” Hernandez said.
“The show is based on the music of the 1950s through the 1990s. We have been learning about music and culture for a couple months now, and the best way to cap that is by performing examples of the timeless music,” seventh-grader Dylan Hedgepeth added.
This humanities project also incorporated art, since each student had to design and create an album cover. The students also had to include 10 facts about their chosen singer or group’s career, noted seventh-grader Nick DiDuro, who chose to learn about and portray Stevie Wonder.
“You could be anybody you wanted. I looked him up and I liked him since he was blind and could do all this stuff,” Nick said.
Nick said he was surprised to learn Wonder not only sang, but also played the piano, bass guitar, drums and harmonica.
“He won 22 Grammy Awards. He signed a contract with Motown when he was 13,” Nick added. “I was surprised to learn how many different artists and really talented people there were. The whole second half of the semester we’ve been learning about the music from the 1950s (and beyond).”
Classmate Cassidy O’Malley said she enjoyed learning more about Tina Turner as she worked on the project. At first she wasn’t sure which singer or musician to pick. She said she knew she wanted to do a solo artist so she could perform solo during the show, so Hernandez helped her pick Turner.
While researching Turner, Cassidy said she was surprised to learn the star had been abused by her husband. Cassidy memorized the words to “What’s Love Got to Do With It” and opened Kickin’ ’07 with her performance of the song. After she left the stage, a classmate led Nick — who had donned dark sunglasses and a long wig — to a piano, where he performed “Superstition.”
After Nick was led off the stage, Dylan caused a stir when he came onstage dressed as Neil Diamond.
“Be still, my heart!” cried middle-school social-studies and religion teacher Mary Ann Bender as she rushed to the foot of the stage amid chuckles from parents, students and teachers in the audience. Bender is apparently known throughout the school as a big Neil Diamond fan, and she sat at the foot of the stage as Dylan performed “Sweet Caroline.”
Although most of the students didn’t actually sing, they spent hours learning the words to their songs, watching videos of their chosen artists performing live and choreographing movements to accompany the songs. As Kickin’ ’07 drew nearer, they practiced several times with their classmates during school hours, Nick said.
Holly Greco said she and classmate Stephanie D’Amico watched an online video of Sonny Bono and Cher to prepare for their performance of “I Got You Babe.” Holly decided to portray Cher because her mother is a big fan of Sonny and Cher and always played their music while Holly was growing up. She said she liked performing as part of a duo, because she and Stephanie, who are close friends, were able to spend a lot of time together practicing.
Classmates Phillip Bennett and Benjamin Vasquez, dressed as Daryl Hall and John Oates, performed “You Make My Dreams.” Phillip said he wanted to learn more about Hall and Oates because he likes the duo’s music and listens to it a lot. The hardest part of the project, he said, was memorizing all the words to the song.
Students portraying Diana Ross and the Supremes, Whitney Houston, Tiny Tim, Deniece Williams, the Blues Brothers, Creedence Clearwater Revival, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Dayne and Guns N’ Roses also performed before seventh-grader Michael Cragg closed the show with his performance of Edwin Starr’s “War.” Most of his classmates got in on the act, as they dressed as hippies and marched to the foot of the stage carrying protest signs while the recording of Starr’s deep voice belted out, “War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing.”
Michael’s performance was followed by a final curtain call. The seventh-graders then were able to relax for a few minutes before taking the stage again for their afternoon performance. The day’s hectic pace didn’t seem to faze the students, however.
“I liked just watching all of the performances,” Cassidy said.