BY ZACH MELVIN – It was a packed house at the University of Maryland’s Dekelbaum Auditorium on Nov. 20. Around 900 people filled the stands, spilling into the balcony seating, to listen to the 39th Annual Edward M. Felegy Honors Concert.

“This was a particularly special performance,” said Judith Hawkins, vocal general music supervisor for Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS). “This is the first one we’ve had since Mr. Felegy passed away.”

Performances were given by the PGCPS Honors Orchestra and Honors Band, as well as the PGCPS Honors Middle School and High School Choruses. Several local schools participated, including Hyattsville Middle School, Nicholas Orem Middle School, and Northwestern High School.

Originally called the Kennedy Center Honors Concert, the event was renamed in honor of Felegy, who served as the PGCPS superintendent from 1991 to 1995, after his endowment for the program in the mid-90s.

“Mr. Felegy gave an endowment so we could keep this event in the Kennedy Center,” Hawkins said. “However, economics since then have moved us here.”

Students perform at the 39th annual Felegy honors concert. photo courtesy Zach Melvin.
Students perform at the 39th annual Felegy honors concert. photo courtesy Zach Melvin.

During his 37 years in the county public school system, Felegy was known for his support for the arts. The city of Hyattsville recently named its new art-focused elementary school in honor of the former superintendent.

The night’s program brought together the highest achieving music students in the PGCPS. Participants were required to pass an audition before joining their respective honors group.

The night began with the hum of the High School Honor Orchestra, which flowed nicely into the High School Honor Band.

“Last year, the music was faster,” said Kevin Garcia, a junior tuba player out of Northwestern High School. “This year, it was more symphonic and smooth.”

Melvin Miles, director of bands at Morgan State University, made his second conducting appearance at the event on Thursday, selecting a triage of songs he said brought out the best in the students.

“It was successful in lots of ways,” Miles said. “The students were able to bring great character out of the music and it was great to see them progress outside the music.”

“In Chroma, we got to experience hard notes that we couldn’t hit before,” said Brandon Nsameluh, another junior tuba player from Northwestern High. “We were able to get them down by the performance.”

Following the band was the PGCPS Middle School Honors Chorus, the lone middle school group at the event. The PGCPS High School Honors Chorus closed the show with four songs.

“My favorite is probably Great God Almighty,” said Alexis Griffin, a senior from Oxon Hill High. “My grandmother is from Conyers, Georgia, and the song gives off a great southern hospitality vibe that I absolutely love.”

The chorus closed the show with a unique rendition of Impossible Dream. Conductor Linda R. Hall altered the classic to include a series of solo performances, each bringing the crowd to its feet in applause.

For residents interested in watching the performance, a broadcast will be aired on the Prince George’s County public television station. Hawkins said the program is generally edited by mid-December, just in time for the holidays.