The West Tisbury School PTO hosted its first Music and Desserts night last Friday. West Tisbury has held talent shows, cabarets, and concerts in the past, but this event was geared toward students who take music lessons outside the school, and rarely get the chance to perform in front of their parents and peers.
"A lot of kids take lessons, but we never have the chance to appreciate their talents," said PTO organizer Chantale Legare. Rather than a formal concert, she and Cynthia Bermudes had in mind a casual café atmosphere, emphasized by the flier sent home to students: "delicious desserts and no pressure."
The school cafeteria was transformed with strings of lights, and community members brought an array of sweets and set up a coffee table. People parked their plates at one of the new round tables, but many chose to stand for a better view of the performers. Adults visited between acts, and many children wandered between the cafeteria and the gym, where they played basketball or just ran off their sugar buzz.
Longtime West Tisbury teacher and musician Jon Harris acted as master of ceremonies, and singer-guitarist Enid Haller opened the evening with her own songs.
First up was a multiage group of orchestra students, led by teacher Nancy Jephcote. Caitlin Serpa, Julia Sauter, Sarah Ortlip-Somers, Emma Johnson, Willa Vigneault, Marcelle De Sousa Alves, Molly Healy, and Peter Engley played "Kings of Stone," a selection by composer Keith Sharp.
Moments before stepping onstage, ten-year-old Marcelle was confident. "I've been playing for three years," she said.
Nine-year-old Willa agreed, but admitted, "I'm glad I'm not playing alone."
Later, seasoned junior high violinists Caitlin, Emma and Sarah performed more challenging music without the younger children.
Zachary Danz played three pieces on the piano, accompanied by his teacher, Carol Loud. Zach's mother Pamela stood breathlessly in the back of the room, following every note. Other parents smiled knowingly.
The Vineyard's embarrassment of musical riches is well documented, but it's always good to be reminded of how that wealth is shared among families.
Guitarist/composer Eric Johnson is a frequent presence at Island venues, but Friday night he was in the audience watching his daughter, Sydney, play piano.
Jeremy Berlin is the keyboardist for Johnny Hoy and the Bluefish and often plays with Eric Johnson. For Music & Desserts Night, his ten-year-old son Silas performed the first sonatina from Clemente, a brisk, rippling river of a piece, which had audience members nodding to his mother, Chantale Legare, with admiration.
Next up were Josh Somers on guitar and his daughter, Sarah, on violin; they performed "Marvin's Tune," a song they wrote together in honor of their cat. This well-crafted piece was a mellow transport, at turns sinuous and contented.
Three sixth-graders closed out the evening in a different vein: Josh Bernstein, Alistair Morgan and Bo Hurwitz, who call themselves Volume Eleven, came together on electric guitars for a much-appreciated medley, including riffs from the Nirvana classic, "Smells Like Teen Spirit."
"Encore!" shouted a pack of younger kids, sitting up front. Afterward, Volume Eleven were rushed by fans.
"It was a good January bash," said parent Micheline Sonia, who brought her daughters Jessica and Meghan.
Along with its annual Chinese New Year and Mardi Gras celebrations, the PTO has more evenings of this sort in the works. Hopefully West Tisbury won't have to wait too long for an encore.
Molly Martone is a freelance writer and a mother of two, one of whom is in first grade at the West Tisbury School.