Ten years after

| 22 Feb 2012 | 05:33

Rhythm & Rhyme still rocks - and rolls on - at M-W, By Bob Curtis Central Valley - Perhaps Mali Warshofsky put it best for all the musicians and poets who performed at last Thursday night’s 10th Anniversary edition of Rhythm & Rhyme at Monroe-Woodbury High School. “For 10 consecutive years, Michelle and Patrick Bulla honored us and gave us the opportunity to be part of the younger and extremely talented group of writers and musicians,” she said, speaking of herself and Language Department Coordinator Fred Iucci as the “grandma and grandpa of Rhythm and Rhyme,” before the duo presented a commemorative plaque. “Fred has so carefully selected works of Italian and Spanish poets. And I humbly shared my own creations.” This year, more than 50 students and staff members celebrated the wonders of words and music to commemorate the beginning of National Poetry in April. And these multi-talented performers shared their considerable talents with an appreciative audience of nearly 200 fans, family and friends. French, Spanish and Rumanian There were original songs and poems of all shapes, sizes, and emotions. Speaking of languages, there were poems in English, of course, as well as in French, Spanish, and Rumanian - all with English translations. Musical performers ranged from solo artists, to duets, trios, quartets and beyond, with the last song involving virtually all the performers who performed on stage together. So how did it all get started? Well, in 2001, high school English Department chairperson Michelle Gatzen Bulla created this annual event after attending a “Java Jive” presentation by teachers from a Rockland County school district at a teacher’s conference. The idea has grown through the years, as has the event’s intimate, 1960’s “coffee-house” venue, recreated on the auditorium stage each April by Chris Truett and his student stage crew. Always adding something new, this year Truett and crew expanded a rounded proscenium of the stage to bring the young performers closer to their appreciative audience, closer both physically and in spirit. Patrick Bulla acts as musical coordinator, assisted by fellow teachers Tom Lee and Ken Clearwater. Their task is to critique, assist and prepare all of the musical performers who audition for the show, and then coach them as they rehearse to perform. 'Moment of truth’ Michelle Bulla, along with English teachers Mark Filie and Peter Romeo, evaluate, select, critique and prepare the student poets for their moments before the microphone, the “moment of truth.” Michelle Bulla always reminds all of the young performers to “walk up to the microphone, take a deep breath, introduce yourself, and say something about the piece you are about to perform. This will help you to relax and ease into your performance.” Others who supported this production include: Principal David Bernsley; Tom Earl, Noreen Guerra, and their student sound and lighting crew; master/mistress of ceremonies Sean Rooney and Kerri Milton; Mary Gray from the cafeteria, who bakes the goodies served with the price of admission; Andre Rudiak and his custodial staff who set up the chairs and then restore the stage to order; as well as Central Office, the BOE, and numerous other teachers and administrators. 'Listen Up’ Michelle Bulla, who year after year repeats that, “Rhythm & Rhyme continues to be one of the highlights of my teaching career,” shared her deep personal emotions during this year’s edition of the annual event, reading for the very first time something that she wrote. Reflecting the several tragedies that have afflicted the district this past year, and endeavoring to explain to students why teachers teach, Bulla presented her poem, “Listen Up,” which reads in part: “Do you hear it? the sound of our love for you? Walk through the halls, listen to the discourse in the classrooms, hear our desperate desire to help you grow, to teach you to cope, to make you think and feel and be yourself. It hurts to bury the dead. It always will. Love them, talk to them, remember them. Honor them by learning from them, loving anew because of them. And so, precious darlings, for whom we get out of bed at silly hours of the morning so that we can teach you how to love, to laugh, to learn, so that we can help you to grow: LISTEN UP, BECAUSE I’M GOING TO SPELL IT OUT NOW: OPEN YOUR ARMS AND EYES WIDE, BREATHE DEEP, AND ENGAGE IN YOUR LIFE; LIVE!”

Watching students support each other’s creative endeavors is very moving, and the evening always has a profound impact on both the performers and the audience. It never fails to restore one’s faith in the power of poetry and music to bring people together in positive and encouraging ways.” Michelle Gatzen Bulla