Point Park student joins chorale for ‘Ultimate Oscars’

photo by Alexander Popichak
Freshman criminal justice major, Vince Bonacci performed with Pittsbrugh Symphony Orchestra’s student chorale in their most recent performance “The Ultimate Oscars” at Heinz Hall, Feb. 5-7.  He was the only Point Park student among the performers.

Freshman criminal justice major Vince Bonacci was the only student performer that represented Point Park University in this year’s Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra’s (PSO) Student Chorale.

Rochelle Klein, associate professor of music at Point Park, pre-casts for the chorale each year. Klein usually begins her search with upperclassmen musical theater, theater, acting and dance students.

Point Park students in the school’s Conservatory of Performing Arts (COPA) program are typically asked to sing in the PSO Student Chorale. However, auditions for the spring Pittsburgh Playhouse shows took place after Christmas break this year, making COPA students unavailable to sing with the chorale.

This year, Bonacci was an available student that Klein felt was not only qualified, but also professional.

With his years of choir experience, Bonacci, was a prime candidate for the chorale, according to Klein. Bonacci has also recently been accepted into Point Park’s applied music minor with a concentration in voice.

“When I first started to look into the applied music minor, Shelly [Klein] told me about this possible opportunity,” Bonacci said in an interview last Wed. in Thayer Hall. “At first she told me the deadline to do it had passed, but she still wanted to talk to the director because she believed that I could really benefit from it.”

This is not the first time the university has sent a non-COPA major to be part of the chorale, but it is the first time in its 10-year history of participation they’ve sent only one student.

“Vince is an anomaly,” Christine Hestwood, chorale director, said in a phone interview last Wed. “Typically schools send a quartet of four students, one for each vocal part.”

Hestwood assembled a student choir of roughly 70 students from local colleges and high schools including Duquesne University, Belle Vernon Area High School and Grove City College, among others.

Hestwood has been involved with the PSO with various projects since 1994. She took over the directorial role from Robert Page, who co-founded the chorale alongside the late Marvin Hamlisch.

This year’s theme, which differs every year, was “The Ultimate Oscars.” The show, part of the symphony’s PNC POPs series, featured music from great films of the last 50 years from “Rocky” to “Titanic” to “Star Wars.”

The chorale performed four pieces with the symphony: “The Avatar Suite,” “The Circle of Life,” “The Suite from Titanic” and “The Way We Were.”

The Student Chorale began rehearsals on Jan. 10. Students rehearsed each week until the first performance this past Friday, Feb. 5. The chorale performed three shows: one Friday evening, one Saturday evening and one Sunday afternoon.

“It’s really nice to work with such dedicated, committed students and to bring like-minded, fabulous kids together to create a product,” Hestwood said. “It’s really special for kids of this age to get the opportunity to perform with the Pittsburgh Symphony. The symphony is to be commended for providing kids with this opportunity.”