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Lyme-Old Lyme students commemorate 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor

Lyme-Old Lyme students will contribute their voices and musical talent, alongside peers from the United States and Japan, during a concert Wednesday in Hawaii in commemoration of the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Lyme-Old Lyme High School will be the sole Connecticut school participating in the event by the Battleship Missouri Memorial at Pearl Harbor, according to Friends of Music — Lyme/Old Lyme, a nonprofit that raised funds for the trip.

More than 100 students from the Lyme-Old Lyme High School Band and Chorus will perform songs that include "America the Beautiful," "Summon the Heroes" composed by John Williams for the 1996 Olympics, and "Armed Forces on Parade" during the 75th Anniversary Pearl Harbor Mass Band Performance.

Maria Donato, chorus president and a Lyme-Old Lyme senior, said Tuesday that the students have been preparing — under Choral Director Kristine Pekar and Band Director Jacob Wilson — for the concert for over a year, and it felt surreal to see it all coming together. 

"It's such an incredible opportunity," Donato said in a phone interview from Hawaii. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do something like this, and I think we're all grateful to be a part of it."

More than 1,300 students are expected to participate in the concert.

"It's really exciting that we're all sharing the same experience, but we all come from different places," Donato added.

In addition to the concert on Wednesday, five Lyme-Old Lyme students were scheduled to perform in a larger Honor Band in a special ceremony Tuesday for veterans and survivors of Pearl Harbor, said Martha Shoemaker, co-president of Friends of Music — Lyme/Old Lyme.

Lyme-Old Lyme students already had met on their trip a survivor of Pearl Harbor who herself was traveling to the concert. The survivor's father had been born in Hawaii, and they both survived Pearl Harbor. Her grandfather was a Holocaust survivor.

During the trip, Lyme-Old Lyme students participated in a host of activities, such as a luau dinner, and a group got up early in the morning to await the sunrise on the beach.

"They're grabbing every experience they can," Shoemaker said.

Bailey Nickerson, a senior at Lyme-Old Lyme and band president, said the students arrived on Sunday and spent Monday exploring and learning about different cultures. They saw peaks in Hawaii, visited the Polynesian Cultural Center and learned how to say 'hello' in different languages during a boat ride.

Nickerson said she always has been interested in history, particularly World War II.

"The fact that I get to be part of this momentous event commemorating the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor is such a big deal for me and my family and my school," she said. "It's very exciting."

Kendall Antoniac, a sophomore and a band member, said she enjoyed seeing the different cultures in Hawaii and how they compare with Connecticut. She was looking forward to meeting a few of the veterans and hearing a "first-hand account" from them. She said it was impressive what they went through and how they survived.

Danny Cole, a senior and chorus vice president, said it was significant that Lyme-Old Lyme High School, a small school, was the only school from Connecticut and one of two schools from New England to participate in the concert.

He said he hopes concert attendees will take away that music is a powerful tool. 

He added that the concert is monumental, particularly because it takes place on the USS Missouri, the ship where Japan surrendered. The concert is significant both for history and the future.

"The concert is kind of strengthening relations between nations that used to be at war," he said. "Now they are coming together and signifying that we are all together, we are all one."

The 52-minute concert, scheduled for 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday, will be live streamed at http://bit.ly/2heIzwQ.

k.drelich@theday.com

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Video courtesy of Martha Shoemaker, co-president of the Friends of Music - Lyme-Old Lyme.

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