The music department at Pinecrest Elementary School doesn’t just put on spectacular shows year after year; a culture of music making has been created and crafted under the direction of Cynthia Kohanek.
The Pinecrest Music Club is an afterschool, extra-curricular enrichment program that offers more than 100 students in the second through fifth grade the opportunity to participate in a string orchestra and chorus.
To celebrate a decade-and-a-half legacy of musicals through its Music Club, Pinecrest Elementary featured its 15th anniversary Showcase on May 7, marking when Kohanek and a then Pinecrest parent, Sara Jones, joined forces to contribute a treasure trove of musical performance experiences and treasured memories for its students.
Roberto Morean was one of those students. He auditioned for Kohanek when he was in the fourth grade and was cast in his first show, Beauty and the Beast, as the prince.
“Joining the Pinecrest Chorus was the best decision of my life because that is where I found my passion,” said Morean. “From that moment on, I knew that theater was exactly what I wanted to do with my life.”
Morean today is 20 years old, lives in New York City and attends the Tisch School of the Arts for Musical Theatre at NYU, has performed in over 30 shows, workshops, readings and concerts, and has been featured in several commercials and photo shoots. He has produced and directed a cabaret that raised $11,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and has worked and collaborated with industry professionals such as Caissie Levy, Derek Klena, Eden Espinosa and Zuzanna Szadkowski.
“All of this is thanks to Ms. Kohanek and the Pinecrest Music Club sparking and allowing the creative outlet and exploration opportunities that were provided to me,” said Morean.
Former student Adee David also sings the praises of the school’s Music Club. “My time in the Pinecrest Chorus was by far the highlight of my elementary school experience,” said David. “I’ll never forget my first onstage role as Mrs. Potts in Beauty and the Beast. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to sing and act for the rest of my life. Ms. Kohanek helped spark my love for music and musical theatre, which I carry with me to this day as I continue pursuing my degree in musical theatre at NYU Tisch.”
Mia Lam is another of the Club’s veterans who still cherishes her time there.
“The Pinecrest Music Club is where I discovered a love for music and for the stage. Being a part of it will always be an incredible experience in my life, because it has helped shape who I am today. Ms. Kohanek cultivated my passion for music during my years with her and with the Music Club. She taught me so much more than just how to sing. Her compassion, enthusiasm and devotion to all her students inspired me to always remember to love what I do with my life and to pursue my dreams with hard work and dedication. She continues to be an amazing mentor in my life today and I am truly grateful to have been able to be a part of the Pinecrest Music Club under her direction.”
All that love and devotion are not lost in the program’s director.
“I knew when I accepted the position as music teacher at Pinecrest Elementary that I was granted with a rewarding opportunity,” said Kohanek. “I hold that same gratitude and pride today. I was gifted with the opportunity to share in this same vision and to work side by side with Sara Jones. She was a Pinecrest parent and had four boys go through the Pinecrest Chorus Program, and when they graduated she stayed on to ensure this same experience for other children.
“The students, staff and community have offered me the opportunity of making great music and creating memorable experiences for my students. And that’s my dream come true.”
The Pinecrest Music Club staged the annual Spring Extravaganza on May 7 in the Palmetto Middle School auditorium. More than 60 chorus alumni returned for the celebration and joined current Pinecrest Chorus members on stage to sing the evening finale, The Circle of Life.