On Saturday night inside the jam-packed Royale Place Theatre in Williamsburg, Virginia, it became obvious Johnston High School music students have learned their lessons well.
Director Shawn Roberts announced that Johnston was chosen the winner from nearly 30 other school districts that competed in the 2019 Music in the Parks Festival and was about to receive the prestigious Esprit De Corps Award.
“This is what Matt [Gingras], Oliver [Reed] and I talk about to our classes all year, every year – the idea that being in a performing ensemble or any group requires focus, discipline, leadership, scholarship and sacrifice,” Ronald Lamoureux, who chairs the Johnston High School Music Department, said Monday night. “We’re not simply teaching the kids how to play or sing, but how to live.”
Esprit de corps, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition, is “the common spirit existing in the members of a group and inspiring enthusiasm, devotion and strong regard for the honor of the group.”
“This is the most coveted award at the Music in the Parks Festival,” Lamoureux said. “Our kids screamed, hugged, cried and smiled as Johnston was announced the winner.”
While calling Saturday “a very special day” and praising each and every student who has learned to juggle demanding study schedules and practices, Lamoureux noted that “we have taken this award a couple times in our trips to Hershey, Pennsylvania, but this is our first for Williamsburg.”
The Johnston High Music Department was also the envy of the Music in the Parks Festival, as the Gingras-led concert chorus earned an “excellent” rating and captured second place in its category.
“Matt’s group actually missed first place by a mere eight points out of 200, a great tribute to Mr. Gingras and our singers,” Lamoureux said.
Likewise, the Lamoureux-led concert band received a “superior” rating that landed the group in first place at the end of competition in that category.
Lamoureux’s jazz band musicians received an “excellent” rating, which was enough to earn top marks. Ian Quinton Banno received a special award as the top jazz soloist in the entire festival.
“It is certainly a tribute to Ian’s many talents as a bass player,” Lamoureux said.
Elizabeth Cruz performed a solo on the trumpet, and freshman baritone player saxophonist Josh Ramos-Ortiz shined. Carlos Fragoso, Joe Johnson and Quinton Banno all put on a show during their respective solos as well.
“You could feel the excitement in the room when the jazz band played and there was a very real intensity in the whole auditorium,” Gingras said.
The trip to Williamsburg and Busch Gardens wasn’t all work and no play, though.
Lamoureux, who called the entire trek a “rich and rewarding experience,” first wanted to thank the Johnston School Music Association for giving each student a travel allowance and a welcoming pizza party at the Fort Magruder Hotel and Conference Center.
There was a special visit to Golden Corral – “a favorite dining stop for our kids,” according to Lamoureux – as well as team-building activities like trivia night.
The entire troupe also enjoyed self-guided walking tours through Williamsburg and wound up the trip aboard the Spirit of Norfolk, where the Johnston delegation enjoyed a night of fine dining dancing and hanging out with new friends.