This week Smith-Cotton High School and the entire Sedalia School District 200 has celebrated Homecoming, a time for alumni, family and friends to reminisce about their high school experiences and the rich tradition of the district.
One of those traditions, a decade in the making, developed between the partnership of the school district and the Sedalia School District Foundation.
“It was in 2007 when Parkview Pizzazz was born,” Parkview music instructor Cindy Calafaty said. “It all started when we were asked to have some students perform at a Foundation event and from there we’ve just kept going on.”
“The event that began the musical troupe was a Foundation Soup Supper Fundraiser,” said Diana Nichols, a member of the Sedalia Board of Education and the Foundation Alumni Committee. “We had invited all the elementaries to showcase their students.
“After performing at our event, Mrs. Calafaty was thrilled with the student’s excitement to perform so she created the Parkview Pizzazz,” she added. “It’s just a different twist on how the school district and the foundation have benefited one another.”
Since the group’s first performance Nov. 3, 2007, at the supper, many things have changed but not the Parkview students’ enthusiasm and love of performing.
“We started out with 20 students the first time we performed as a group,” Calafaty said. “Now I have 90 third- and fourth-grade students who audition each year for the group.
“I do it every year for fun but the students do it because they want that extra music time,” she added. “I think it gives them the opportunity to meet other students and they make new friends.”
Calafaty does have a limited number of second graders who are members of the group for continuity.
“I had to start to do this by audition because my numbers got to be so large,” Calafaty commented. “Our performances are not mandatory but our practices are.
“I think all of the students realize that what happens on stage is just this much of what we actually do,” she said while holding her thumb and index fingers together very closely to illustrate her point. “It’s the choreography and the diction and the fine-tuning that happen during our rehearsals that makes the performances what they are.”
After the group’s first performance almost a decade ago, the students wanted to continue to practice and perform.
“We kept practicing and that first year we decided to walk to Bristol Manor to perform for the residents one day,” Calafaty said. “Then we thought, ‘How many other nursing homes can we hit?’
“We did quite a few and then other schools got wind of what we were doing so it became difficult to schedule a time during the holidays,” she added.
That did not stop their desire to perform. Instead of Christmas, the members started to go to the residential care facilities in the spring.
Every year Calafaty tries to schedule performances for the group that they have not done before.
“We caroled in the hallways at school and performed at a couple of Missouri Mavericks games each year,” Calafaty said. “We get a lot of requests from parents to perform at meetings and events that they are a part of. We usually go wherever we are asked because I don’t know how to say no and so we find a way to make it work.”
“We’ve kind of become known as the ‘pop up and sing’ group because if we are having an assembly and our speaker is running a little late, (Principal Stephanie) Jackson will ask as to perform to keep the students entertained,” she added. “I’ve really been blessed to work with Stephanie and Kelly Sobaski, who was the principal before her, because they have both been so very supportive of the group.”
The members practice each from 3:30 p.m. to 4:15 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, adding additional practices during “crunch time,” as Calafaty calls it.
“We don’t sing lazy so we practice,” Calafaty stated simply. “I can’t believe we are only three weeks into school and we already have a performance already.”
At 8 a.m. Saturday, the group will perform at the Foundation Pancake Breakfast in the Smith-Cotton Junior High cafeteria.
“We’re going to be performing some of our songs from our spring show, ‘Kid Flix,’” Calafaty said. “Then all of our elementary choirs will be singing ‘Fight Song’ for the finale.
“I think one of the reasons we keep going is because I never tell the students they can’t do something, so they don’t think that they can’t do it,” she added. “The group gives them a sense of belonging. They love it, they may never tell me that but they tell others and that’s what keeps them wanting to be a part of this every year.”
Hope Lecchi can be reached at 660-826-1000 ext. 1484.