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“Play it Again”

The second Save our Musicians concert, starring Luke Bryan, raises $150,000 for the school
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Sofia Hennessey-Correa
The Save Our Musicians Foundation partnered with the School of the Arts Foundation to host a fundraising concert for Bak Middle School of the Arts and Dreyfoos Nov. 18 at Tiki 52. Students, teachers, and their families had the opportunity to attend the concert. “I would consider myself one of the biggest country (music) fans at Dreyfoos. I’m actually not even going to meet the man (Luke Bryan) and I am freaking out,” digital media senior Cynthia Mondragon said before the concert.

Cowboy boots kicked up the gravel heading towards the concert venue that just four days prior was a vacant lot of land between Tiki 52 and the Jupiter Pointe Club and Marina. In anticipation of the performance by Luke Bryan, a couple thousand fans and volunteers waited for the five-hour charity concert to begin.

The Save Our Musicians Foundation partnered with the School of the Arts Foundation (SOAFI) for a second time to host a fundraising event for the school on Nov. 18 in Tequesta, this time including Bak Middle School of the Arts (MSOA) as an additional beneficiary. Several months after the first event, a Gwen Stefani concert, the relatively smaller and more expensive Luke Bryan concert was held.

“It’s amazing students get, obviously, resources, but it gives them, other than money and resources, the experiences they have to be around something so substantial,” said Save Our Musicians founder and CEO Dennis Cunningham.

Over a hundred students were able to experience the concert, with fourteen volunteering as ticket takers. Assistant Principals Jennifer Napuli and Billy Clark coordinated student volunteers, completing most of the organizing within the last month.

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Assistant Principal Jennifer Napuli teaches vocal senior Andrew Gellen and theatre senior Joseph Good how to scan tickets for the concert. “We really knew about the date about two months ago, but a lot of the planning didn’t really happen until about a month before so I would say a lot of my work has been in the last four weeks,” Ms. Napuli said. (Sofia Hennessey-Correa)

“I know all of our students are here volunteering and extremely excited. … It’s unbelievable,” Mr. Clark said. “I think it’s really going to impact their lives and impact future generations of Dreyfoos students with the funds raised tonight.”

Before Bryan performed, Bak MSOA jazz band members, up-and-coming professional artists, and Dreyfoos vocal majors, including the Square One Quartet, composed of vocal seniors Brianna Tejada, Aileen Pereda, Brian Trompeter, and Angelina Castillo, accompanied by vocal senior London O’Brien.

“We were basically ‘voluntold,’ if you will,” said Trompeter about the process of preparing for the concert. “I mean, it’s (country music) always been a part of my life. I’ve been listening to it forever. My parents have been playing it all the time, so that’s what I’ve known for a while.”

Vocal sophomore Sage Duke performed “Tennessee Whiskey” by Chris Stapleton and “Jolene” by Dolly Parton as an opening set for Bryan.

“Before the show, I was really nervous,” Duke said. “My legs were shaking a bit. But when I got up there and saw the sea of people, it was kind of overwhelming, but at the same time encouraging, because everyone here, you know that they’re here … to support the arts. Being a part of a school that really admired the arts and really fosters that completely made me feel more comfortable than I would otherwise.”

Student volunteers were tasked with scanning tiered tickets at the concert’s two entrances as well as monitoring participants in the luxury auction. Items ranged from VIP Formula 1 tickets to a New Years Eve dinner concert with John Legend. To place a bid, audience members could raise a glowstick. Once a winner was announced, a student volunteer helped aid in the payment process.

“I was really looking around trying to hype people (who were bidding) up and get them motivated,” band senior Angelique Arfa said. “There were a couple people near me who kept raising their glow sticks at lower numbers, so I knew that they were likely to keep bidding so I kind of hovered around them.”

Audience members cheer “Peter!” as he decided whether or not to bid higher on the Super Bowl exclusive tickets with retired National Football League (NFL) player Rob Gronkowski. He ended up winning with a bid of $70,000. (Sofia Hennessey-Correa)

Arfa, while wearing bedazzled cowboy boots, assisted an auction participant who won tickets for the John Legend New Year’s Eve experience for a bid of $15,000. All together, the auction raised $350,000. That money, along with what was raised in ticket sales, was dispersed amongst paying for the concert and donations towards Bak MSOA and Dreyfoos, with them each receiving checks for $50,000 and $150,000, respectively.

Vocal senior London O’Brien strums and sings along to “Broken Halos” by Chris Stapleton alongside her partner vocal senior Lilyadny De Leon. (Sofia Hennessey-Correa)

“Oh my gosh, it was so exciting,” Principal Blake Bennett said. “I do get a little starstruck and then the anxiety and the excitement of hearing how much they give back to us. This is already such a great opportunity for our students to get to open for Luke Bryan and be on the stage … and then to go on stage and earn $150,000. It was exhilarating.”

Although not all students, such as Arfa, were fans of Bryan or country music, Arfa found herself having an “amazing experience” and even found herself listening to Bryan for two hours the following morning. Arfa and many students were able to watch him perform from the rails just “10 feet away,” leading Duke to notice the nuance within his live performance.

Playing the piano while performing her original song “Butterflies,” Julia Chisholm urges the audience to “feel the words” even if they didn’t know them. (Sofia Hennessey-Correa)

“I really appreciate what he does, with (playing) the banjo and the mandolin and the fiddle as someone who plays multiple instruments.” Duke said. “I really appreciate that and also just isolating the instruments on it. I actually really enjoyed it, a lot more than I thought I would. It was really, really awesome.”

During the concert, Bryan performed several of his original songs, such as “Play it Again,” “One Margarita,” and “Country Girl (Shake it for Me)” that got audience members of all generations up on their feet dancing along. Attendees gathered from all over South Florida, and media personalities Jojo Siwa and Tyler Cameron were seen singing along in attendance.

“To look around and see everyone enjoying themselves and the outcome of the event and just to see how magical (it is that) everyone’s enjoying themselves,” Napuli said. “It is literally a huge rush of adrenaline. And it is really very rewarding.”

The Save Our Musicians Foundations is planning future events similar to the Gwen Stefani and Luke Bryan concerts to continue supporting Dreyfoos.

“We’re gonna have another one but I don’t have any date or artists announced,” Ms. Napuli said. “So no promises, but rumor is there’s another one.”

This story was originally published on The Muse on November 19, 2023.