Since 1947, the Thursday Musicale has been a steadfast musical fix for weekday concertgoers in the New Port Richey area. Under the direction of James Urbanski, and with accompaniment by his wife, Ruth, the all-women choral group offers Broadway tunes, spirituals, seasonal favorites and patriotic numbers for six "first Thursday" performances through April. As is tradition, no tickets are taken at the door. Instead a plate is passed for a free-will offering to help fund the group's high school scholarship program. Audience members and a handful of large donors enabled the Thursday Musicale recently to grant $1,000 to three talented high school seniors who will study music after graduation.
While guest artists are a regular feature, president Dorothy Truscott said the March performance tends to be the most inspiring for the sopranos, mezzos and altos who gladly step back and offer center stage to scholarship winners so the audience can get a taste of what the future has to offer. "We just love doing it," Truscott said. "It makes us absolutely joyous. We love what we're doing. We get along famously and we think that this is such a worthy project.''
"We have (former) scholarship winners that are performing in Europe and one who is singing with the Boston opera company," said Truscott, adding that in recent years there have been fewer vocalist applicants with the elimination of school choral programs. "Most of them end up as school music teachers and we think that's great too, because we want to keep music in our schools. We're helping to supply a need that's not being met and some encouragement to these kids, too."
There were standing ovations all-around for this year's winners during the March 7 concert that featured saxophonist Christopher Pollard from Hudson High; vocalist Alexis Pletincks from Weeki Wachee High; and clarinet player Rachel Robichaud from J.W. Mitchell High.
It's a great push for these young musicians who began honing their talents when Pasco County still had elementary band programs.
"I think it's a great opportunity for people who want to go far in the music and the arts," Robichaud said.
"In high school, music was all there was for me," said Pollard, the first chair saxophonist at the All County Band concerts for five years. He has played in the All County Jazz Band for three years and picked up the French horn as a second instrument along the way. He has also earned high praise for his work as a drum major for the Hudson High Marching Cobras from director Terri Adams, and hopes to one day follow in her footsteps.
"My band instructor inspired me," said Pollard who plans to study at the University of South Florida. "She was a very important person to me and I want to be an important person to someone else."
Pletincks, who joined the Thursday Musicale in a medley from Les Miserables, also plays the French horn, trumpet and has served as drum major in the Weeki Wachee High marching band. "I go back and forth," she said. "I enjoy being in band, but singing is easier for me. Choral education is what I want to be involved in."
Pletincks has racked up an impressive resume, performing in several church-based productions and concerts. She performed in the All County Band, University of Florida Honor Band and the Florida All-State Reading Choir. She was one of five freshmen selected for the All-State Mixed Choir and has been accepted to the University of Tennessee, Stetson University and Florida State University.
Robichaud comes from a family of musicians. "My mom, my brother, my sister all played clarinet," she said, adding that she also plays bass clarinet, cello and piano. "It's basically my whole life."
She has played in the All County Band for the past five years and was selected for the All State Band in 2011. She is band captain for the Mitchell High Mustangs. She has performed with the Tampa Metropolitan Youth Orchestra and attended summer camps at the University of South Florida and Florida State University. For two years, she participated in the Tri-State Music and was named first runner-up at the High School Honors Performance at Carnegie Hall. She has yet to make up her mind on where to go to school, but is considering auditioning for the U.S. Marine Corps Band.