NEWBURYPORT — Over the weekend, 700 students in kindergarten through grade 12 showcased their talents for a wider audience and look forward to what’s to come as they follow their passion for performing and visual arts in the school district at the second annual Waterfront Festival.

Newburyport music teachers had success with the festival’s initial run last year and decided to run it again this year, said Jamie Sokolowski, music teacher at Rupert A. Nock Middle and Edward G. Molin Elementary Schools. The event features students across all grade levels participating in band, orchestra, chorus and other forms of performance art.

The event was organized by Newburyport Public Schools performing arts teachers, including Sokolowski, Brian Nickerson, Gardner Rulon-Miller, Steve Cohen, Stephanie Williams and Lisa Zaleski. The festival was sponsored by The Waterfront Trust, The Newburyport Education Foundation and The Firehouse Center for the Arts.

“The Waterfront Festival is a wonderful opportunity for students across all grade levels to see each other perform,” Sokolowski said. “There are many excellent concerts and performances going on at each school throughout the year, but the audience tends to be the parents and families from that school.”

In order to captivate a wider audience and tap into the local community, Newburyport performing arts teachers organized the Waterfront Festival to showcase student talent. Stone Anchor Pizza and Changing Tides Cafe were vendors at the event. Several school administrators and Mayor Donna Holaday were some of the many audience members.

Throughout the day, Francis T. Bresnahan Elementary School students performed in addition to Molin and Nock orchestra, chorus and band and Newburyport High School theater, dance, chorus, band and strings.

“We wanted students from the Bresnahan to see what students at the Molin were doing and students from the Nock to see what the possibilities are at NHS,” Sokolowski added. 

Payton DesOrmeaux, a fifth-grader, chose to participate in the festival because he enjoys singing.

“I thought it sounded cool to perform and share music with others to inspire them,” Payton said. “I liked seeing the different ages of kids performing.”

Several students enjoyed performing in an outside venue and interacting with students in other grades. 

“I liked playing with the other kids on the lawn before the concert,” said Elihu Spalding, a fourth-grader. “It was fun performing with the big group and watching other schools sing too.”

Sokolowski said teachers selected the waterfront stage as their venue because they were inspired by the concerts that take place each summer at Yankee Homecoming in addition to the Americana Festival. Every weekend, she said, the lawn is packed with people who enjoy live music. 

“We wanted to start a tradition for the public schools to celebrate the talent we have here in Newburyport in such a celebrated location,” Sokolowski admitted. “Newburyport is known to be an artistic community and the public schools play a large part.”

Staff writer Amanda Getchell covers Newburyport and Seabrook. Follow her on Twitter @ajgetch.

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