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‘A Bouquet of Music’

Moorestown Community Band holds its spring concert

Special to The Sun
Camden Catholic High School student Matteo Johnson honored his late sister with his musical piece “Rose” at the Moorestown Community Band concert.

The Moorestown Community Band’s May 3 concert featured the premiere of Matteo Johnson’s piece, “Rose,” a memorial to the sister who passed away in her youth.

The 17-year-old Johnson is a composer and percussionist from Camden Catholic High School in Cherry Hill.

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“He (Johnson) studies percussion with the brother of one of our band members,” said the Community Band’s assistant conductor, Michelle Gergich. “That’s how we got that connection, and once I was introduced, we thought that it was a fantastic piece and a great way to honor our youth, because we understand that our future is in the hands of youth.

”Music is in the hands of our youth,’ she added. “Creativity is in the hands of our youth, and when we hear a lot of negative stories about youth in the news, we need to highlight the great, creative side, because there are these amazing kids out there.”

Gergich attended the University of Minnesota and got a bachelor’s degree in flute performance, then earned a master’s in conducting at Rutgers. She relocated to Westampton from Edison during the pandemic, and during that time, she commuted to Rahway to teach.

“In that year, I was just really feeling isolated,” Gergich recalled. “I got up in the morning, I drove to work. After work, I went and did some teaching … and by that time it was night, and I came home. I just didn’t have any community.

” … A job opened up in Mount Laurel and I applied for it and got it, and now I teach third and fourth grade band and orchestra in (the township) at two different elementary schools.”

Once settled in her job, Gergich connected with a member of the Community Band, and she started playing with them last fall.

“Right about that time, Bruce Smith, who was our main conductor – he had actually retired at the end of last year – and they were going to have somebody take over. and that person pulled out at the last minute,” Gergich recounted.

“Bruce took back over and continued this year, and all year, they’ve been doing a conductor search,” she added. “And I offered my services because that is one of my expertise.”

Gergich conducted a couple of pieces at last year’s fall concert, along with another band director in the group. After this year’s fall show, she will take over as the band’s music director and main conductor.

“We’ve been starting that transition, and I’ve been taking on more and more …,” said Gergich, who conducted six pieces (at) the May 3 concert.

“ … They (band members) were just so welcoming,” she related, “and that’s exactly what I needed, was people to play with that didn’t care that I have a bachelor’s degree in flute performance …

“I just want to play with people – and that’s exactly what I found here.”

Dubbed “A Bouquet of Music,” the recent concert included works by Frank Ticheli, Leroy Anderson, John Williams, John Philip Sousa and other composers. Gergich is hopeful that everybody who attended got something out of it, and her vision for the band going forward is to shine a light on the younger generation.

“I really do think that our band can really support the youth of this area, and I really do see us being in that position to support the youth of the area, the schools in the area,” she pointed out.

“There are a number of community bands in New Jersey,” Gergich added, “and so we really have to set ourselves apart in some kind of way, so we’re not just a band that performs concerts every once in a while, just for entertainment.”


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