October 31, 2012 - Ten years ago, Oxford Middle School Choir Director Jan Flynn came up with a meaningful way to honor area veterans for their deeds and teach students about the significant sacrifices made for the freedoms they enjoy on a daily basis.
A total of 280 Oxford Middle School choir students are ready to sing their hearts out to honor area veterans at the 10th Annual Americana Concert scheduled for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 9 at the Oxford High School Fine Arts Center. Photo by C.J. Carnacchio. (click for larger version)
Since then, every year around Veterans Day, OMS choir students lift up their voices in patriotic praise of America's veterans and their service to our country, whether it was fighting in a war or helping to keep the peace.
Flynn can hardly believe it's been a decade since her vision became a reality. "Isn't that something?" she said.
This year is no exception as once again Flynn's students will share their natural gifts by performing in the wildly popular Americana Concert set for 7 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 at the Oxford High School Fine Arts Center (745 N. Oxford Rd.).
The concert will feature the considerable talents of the sixth, seventh and eighth-grade choirs.
Together, they're 280 voices strong and their ability to fill the 800-seat auditorium with song is quite simply astounding.
From Francis Scott Key's "The Star-Spangled Banner" to Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American," the show will consist of both classic and modern patriotic tunes.
The singers will be joined by a special guest this year – Kili, a 14-year-old male bald eagle who lives at the Howell Conference and Nature Center.
"Every year, we try to add something new and fresh to the show that makes it special for the vets," Flynn said. "I thought it would be fun to add a little sparkle to the show. He'll be brought out and his handler will talk about how the bald eagle became our national symbol. She's going to spend five or six minutes talking about that."
Kili will stay for a while following the show, so folks can get a closer look at him. He'll be sitting on a perch in the ticket booth in the lobby.
Retired Oakland County Circuit Judge Fred Mester is scheduled to be this year's guest speaker. He was a captain in the U.S. Army prior to his legal career, which included 26 years on the bench.
Eighth-grader Olivia Upham will read an essay she wrote regarding what the wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, means to her.
Upham, along with fellow eighth-graders Anthony D'Alessandro, Amber Kovach and Dylan Koss, were selected to lay the wreath when 178 OMS eighth-graders visit the cemetery during their Nov. 6-10 trip to Washington D.C.
OMS Language Arts teacher Stacy Blaskowski described Upham as a "fabulous writer" and someone who is "mature and wise beyond her years."
Eighteen students wrote essays in an effort to earn this honor, but only four were selected. "All the essays were heartfelt and emotional," Blaskowski said.
The North Oakland County Young Marines will be on hand for the Americana Concert to proudly post and retire the colors.
Prior to the concert, Flynn and her students engage in some role-playing. They practice how to respectfully interact with veterans and active military personnel.
The students learn what to say to them and how to properly welcome and thank them for their service. Flynn believes it's a great chance for the kids to enhance their social skills and "learn how to be gracious" to others.
Flynn is encouraging members of the public to take some time out of their busy schedules to attend this important concert and pay tribute to the area's local heroes. "Most everyone today has someone, either a family member or a friend, who's been in the service," she said.
Veterans and active military personnel from Oxford, Orion, Addison and Brandon are encouraged to attend the show wearing their uniforms, so they can be properly recognized for their service.
CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.