NEWELL—On Thursday evening, November 30, the Newell School District held its annual winter concert at the Austin Auditorium. The theme for the night was “Christmas is in Our Hearts: A time to celebrate the beauty of diversity and embrace the unity that binds us all as human beings.” This year’s event featured a special presentation by the teachers of Newell’s J1 Visa cultural exchange program.
The evening began with musical performances by Newell Elementary students, ranging from kindergarten to fifth grade. Young talents took the stage and sang classic Christmas songs such as “Jingle Bells” and “Feliz Navidad.” The third-grade class even gave an impressive rendition of “Silent Night” on the ukulele; fourth graders followed suit with their performance of “O Holy Night” on the recorder. Students sang and danced on stage while an audience full of friends and family cheered them on. Benjie Panlican and Ghirlie Jean Menciano, who served as emcees for the evening, told Christmas-themed stories and jokes in between every performance and kept the air full of laughter throughout the night.
Following the students’ performances, the audience was treated to a special presentation by Newell school’s J1 teachers. The J1 visa program allows teachers from various countries to come to the United States for cultural exchange and professional development. This year’s J1 teachers are from the Philippines, and they took to the stage to showcase their culture and heritage through song and dance. Among several talented musical performances were the Filipino patriotic songs, “Ako ay Pilipino,” which translates to “I am a Filipino,” and “Piliin mo ang Pilipinas,” which means “Choose the Philippines.” In addition, traditional Filipino Christmas songs were shared, including the night’s theme “Christmas in our Heart,” and “Give Love on Christmas Day.” The Newell Chorus and Newell Band joined in several musical performances as special participants. Filipino folk dances, which emphasized choreography, were also performed.
The night was a hit, with nearly full grandstands and a family seating section that saw almost every chair occupied. The crowd cheered after every performance, and the air was full of holiday spirit. But most importantly, this year’s winter concert was more than just a celebration of youth talent and the holiday season. It served as a learning experience for all in attendance, beautifully showcasing the talents and traditions of different cultures and urging us all to consider the value of diversity in our community and in our lives.