American Heritage students perform songs of hope

A Facebook Live from theater students at American Heritage School raises funds and spirits

As the co-chairman of the fine arts department at American Heritage School in Plantation, Johnpaul Moccia teaches his students more than just music theory and vocal techniques.

“We say, ‘We don’t teach chorus. We teach life lessons through music,’ ” Moccia says, adding that those lessons include being on time and learning how to be a leader.

One of those emerging student leaders is Ethan Shavelson. The 16-year-old sophomore recently put classroom lessons into practice to spearhead the organization of “AHS Sings for Hope,” a May 21 Facebook Live that will feature performances by students and alumni in support of a good cause.

“For me, live performance is magic in a bottle. What I miss most about live theater is that connection between the artist and the audience member,” says Shavelson, who has participated in six school productions, including Chicago and The Good Doctor. “I was thinking, ‘What is a way that we can have a live performance and make a difference?’”

During “AHS Sings for Hope,” 16 theater students and alumni will sing “great songs with great messages”—from classic and contemporary Broadway favorites to songs from artists such as Carole King, Alicia Keys and Joni Mitchell. The goal is to lift viewers’ spirits and raise $1,000 for UNICEF USA, which is assisting children all over the world who have been affected by the pandemic.

“I thought that what the world needs right now is hope,” Shavelson says. “We’re living in such unprecedented times that I think it will be good for people to see some hope—and all the songs reflect the theme.”

Moccia and fine arts co-chair Nina Vanderhoof helped Shavelson and his friends organize the event, getting approval from school administrators and making suggestions for the program order. He emphasizes that it’s a student-driven initiative—one that makes them grow as leaders and makes him proud to be their teacher.

“To use their talent to help someone else is amazing,” Moccia says.

And it’s his teachers that Shavelson credits for teaching him the skills that are making “Sings for Hope” possible.

“They have taught me leadership skills and how to work with other people and collaborate and make sure that the message is the central theme of the concert,” says Shavelson, who calls Moccia and Vanderhoof “life changers.” “That’s really what I’ve learned: All you need to do is move people and your job is complete.”

“AHS Sings for Hope” streams on Facebook Live at 7 p.m. on May 21. Click here to view. To contribute to the $1,000 goal, click here.

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