By Sue Ann Rybak 

J.S. Jenks elementary school students in the Jr. Choir sing "Soap and Water" at the school's annual Evening with the Arts program.

The auditorium at the J.S. Jenks Elementary School was packed on Thursday night for its annual Evening With the Arts program, which features a spring concert and artwork by students.

“The Jenks Evening With the Arts is an exhibition of student talent and enthusiasm,” Jenks’ principal Mary Lynskey said. “Under the direction of our incomparable music and arts team – Mr. Franchetti, band director; Ms. Harrington, art director; Mr. Kell, choir director; Mr. Leland, choir director, and Mr. Wesner, orchestra director – our students have moved beyond general education music and art. Students have learned to tap into their natural talent and emerge confident and efficacious. They take this confidence and apply it into the academic arena and emerge successful and self-assured.”

The audience sat spellbound as members of the school select chorus and soloists Ajanae Mills, Kaci Coles and Cierra Jenkins sang “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele Atkins. The chorus also sang “Ease on Down the Road” from “The Wiz.” Students will be performing in a school production of “The Wiz” on May 25.

Andrew Leland, choir director at Jenks, noted that the music program has grown despite massive budget cuts to its music and arts program.

“The music department at Jenks has flourished in the past few years both in quality and size,” Leland said. “We are much appreciative of the support from teachers, administration, parents and the community, who have all helped us to offer several successful programs in choral and instrumental music.”

“These concert nights are my favorite at Jenks,” said Vanessa Yingling, whose children both attend Jenks. “I love that the audience is there to see and enjoy all the kids’ achievements. I am amazed at what very dedicated teachers and administration can do under the backdrop of constant budget cuts. I counted 204 students’ names on the program – wow, what a large percentage of our kids get the opportunity of high quality music education.”

With the continued support of dedicated teachers, parents, local businesses and the Chestnut Hill Community Association the words from Don McLean’s song “American Pie” – “the day the music died” – will never happen at J.S. Jenks Elementary School in Chestnut Hill.