Concert to raise awareness, funds for Communities in Schools programs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 12, 2012

CONCORD — Musicians will make a joyful noise to raise funds and awareness for the Communities in Schools programs of Rowan and Cabarrus counties this weekend.

The Rowan Big Band All Stars will perform two concerts under the direction of Dr. Ron Turbyfill, board chairman of CIS of Rowan County.

Typically held in Rowan County, the West Cabarrus Church offered to play host to the annual concert, creating a chance for the two Communities in Schools groups to partner up.

“I’m thrilled that they’ve asked us to join forces,” said Andrea Palo, executive director of CIS of Cabarrus. “I’m excited about bringing Christmas cheer to Cabarrus County and helping kids at the same time.”

Palo said the concert provides an excellent opportunity for the organization to get its name out there

“I’m trying to grow this program and the community is just as important as the money,” she said. “We’d love for people to come out and learn about Communities in Schools.”

Communities in Schools is a dropout prevention program that works to provide students with community support and resources to empower them to stay in school.

Although the concert is an annual event, this year’s performance will include some unique features.

“One of the staff members at the church has written a play to go along with our music,” Turbyfill said. “It’s set as if it was a radio show in the ‘40s because a lot of our music is from that era.

“It’s kind of lighthearted and ends with a Christmas theme.”

Turbyfill will also take the stage with former student Dr. Nikki Jones, owner of Trinity Cosmetic & General Dentistry in Kannapolis, during the concert.

Jones was part of the band when Turbyfill was director at West Rowan High School.

The two hadn’t seen each other in the 20 years since Jones graduated in 1992 until she showed up to one of the band’s performances.

“We became Facebook friends and I told her I’d love for her to sing with the band,” Turbyfill said. “I found out she had a marvelous band when she sang with the high school jazz band.”

Jones said she’s looking forward to performing with her favorite teacher.

“I’m very, very excited, it feels like old times,” she said. “Music was one of my first loves and Mr. Turbyfill was always the coolest teacher.”

Giving back is part of the appeal of singing with the band, Jones said.

“It’s great because I’m a product of the Rowan County school system … I’m glad to know part of that money will get going to Rowan County schools,” she said.

Turbyfill said he runs into former students all the time, but it’s a rare treat to get to perform alongside one of them.

“It’s really, really satisfying to see how well she’s done,” he said. “She still has a love for music and she still has the talent, so it’s a real natural fit.”

The music played by the Rowan Big Band All Stars is defined by Turbyfill as a “Glenn miller, Duke Ellington, Count Basie kind of sound.”

“This program of course will focus on both sacred and secular music,” he said.

Palo will sing “White Christmas” and Turbyfill said the audience can expect to hear an upbeat version of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” as well as a ballad arrangement of “O, Holy Night.”

Turbyfill, who retired in 2008 as the principal of Hanford Dole Elementary, said he’s seen firsthand the good work Communities in Schools does.

“They are a real extension to the school mission in that they are able to work with the family to take care of things that make kids successful in school,” he said.

Turbyfill said that includes pairing students with tutors and mentors as well as helping to with necessities such as uniforms and food.

“There were so many and so many different needs, guidance counselors can’t handle it all anymore,” he said. “The site coordinators’ main focus is spending time building a bridge between the school and the home.”

The concert is free, but a love offering will be collected to benefit the two agencies. Turbyfill’s 19-piece band puts on the concert at no cost.

“These guys just do it for the love of music,” he said. “If my band can make a couple hundred dollars to throw in the bucket that’s what we’re all about. “

But Turbyfill said the money made through the concert is a tiny part of the United Way agency’s overall budget.

“What’s really important is raising the profile of Communities in Schools,” he said.

Vicky Slusser, executive director of CIS Rowan, said the concerts have definitely helped to bring recognition to the organization.

“Dr. Turbyfill has always made sure that the audience knew why they were there and that organizations like CIS Rowan need the communities support,” she said.

The concert titled “Cafe Christmas: Nostalgia” will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at West Cabarrus Church, 7655 Bruton Smith Blvd., Concord.

Desserts along with hot drinks such as coffee, cocoa and cider will be served free.

Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.