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Quartet of teachers makes beautiful music

Four devoted teachers at Community House Middle School have helped that school's fine arts program put on "Once on This Island."

Robin Shore, Jan Lauro, Terry Gabbard and Laura Wallis worked together to help produce Community House's fall musical.

The school, at 9500 Community House Road, had a sellout crowd for three nights in late November.

"Once on This Island," a Broadway Junior production, showcases themes of bullying, prejudice and social profiling. The large cast of 75 middle school children sang three-, four- and five-part harmony, all while dancing choreographed routines with character-driven movement.

Choral Director Jan Lauro and Dance Director Robin Shore coordinated singing and choreography for the musical. Terry Gabbard, the drama director, was responsible for dramatic interpretation; and Laura Wallis, the artistic director, was responsible for set design.

Come early for practice

The middle schoolers practice for several months, and for six weeks prior to the show they arrived at 7 a.m. every weekday, and even practiced a couple days after school.

From December to June, Lauro and Shore also direct the Choraliers, the school's show choir. Show choir productions are a musical without a story, with songs and dances around a central theme. Community House Middle has taken first place in show choir competitions for the last four years at Wingate University, winning for repertoire and sight singing.

Lauro and her husband of 26 years, Craig, have two daughters: Katy, 22, and Kara, who is 16. Shore has been married for 16 years to her husband Jeff, and they have a daughter, Ashlyn, 14.

"Putting on a musical or show choir performance is a bit like Christmas morning" said Shore. "There's a big box and you don't know what's in it. But you see the children grow every day, with their chins getting a bit higher."

Worth the hard work

Both Lauro and Shore said the performances "are a labor of love," and parents and school administrators have caught their contagious excitement.

"We have a tremendously supportive school administration, parent group and community," said Lauro. The parents recently held a fundraiser so that lighting could be purchased for the stage.

The students experience many emotional benefits from the experience.

"Children who may not speak to each other in the hallway suddenly have a bond," Lauro said. "They are part of a school family. Middle school is such a tough age, and we like to make that easier."

Lauro and Shore said they work hard to find each child's talent so the kids will feel comfortable on stage.

In terms of academic benefits, said Lauro, "Studies have shown that students who participate in the arts score better on standardized tests; plus they are more organized and perform better in subject areas."

Community House Middle School has 1,550 students. This year, Lauro and Shore had 270 students try out for 135 spots in the performing arts block, an enrichment piece of the student day. They wish they could accommodate everyone who is interested.