Last month, Germantown Friends School (GFS) Upper School music and theatre students enjoyed a unique opportunity to experience the excitement of the performing arts and hear first-hand from professionals in the field during a memorable day in New York City.
After a morning tour of the Juilliard School and lunch at the nearby home of alumna Michelle Toll ‘87, students gathered in front of the Revson Fountain in Lincoln Center on their way to see the final dress rehearsal of George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, which opened the Metropolitan Opera season. Beyond the bold, red carpets and massive columns of the opera house, students enjoyed viewing the emotion of the vocalists and seeing the detailed set move as the story progressed. They also discussed the complexity of the story and its relevance today and importance in musical history, serving as the first performance of its kind to feature a cast of classically trained African-American singers.
After the performance, students participated in a Q&A with the singers and writers, gaining insight into artistic storytelling directly from professionals. GFS student Lisa Lu ‘20 asked Eric Owens, who played Porgy, "What is the significance of the opera's ending for Porgy?" After taking time to collect his thoughts, Owens answered that Porgy had to “search deep into his soul to understand what he wanted. He had to listen to and follow his heart no matter what others thought.”
In the evening, students were joined by GFS alumni for a reception at Lincoln Center featuring singer-songwriter and alumna Madison McFerrin, Class of 2010. McFerrin is known for her captivating, unique, and soulful take on a cappella. She spoke about her deep connection to “Porgy and Bess”—her grandfather’s voice can be heard on the soundtrack of the film with Sidney Poitier. McFerrin, who is also the daughter of singer Bobby McFerrin, shared that she is “honored to carry out my family’s musical legacy” and proud of her grandfather’s position in African American history. “If you read anything about opera, my grandfather is in the books.”
McFerrin also performed an original song from her upcoming EP, “You + I,” and inspired students and guests with her captivating vocals and songwriting. She encouraged them to pursue their passions even when faced with adversity.
Together, students, faculty, parents, alumni, and friends enjoyed a day connecting over a love of performing arts and many left motivated and excited to play on!
“I have played cello for ten years. Not only did I enjoy seeing the acting and hearing the music, but I was able to watch the cellists and view each musician’s technique and expression,” said Mae Brockman ‘24. “I hope to incorporate that into my own playing back at home. I had an amazing day.”