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Seabreeze High School Grand Staff, The Passing of an Era
Passing of an era
Saturday night saw the culmination of weeks in preparation, hours of planning and compilation of musical arrangements, musical altercations and show developments. The end result offered Residents of Daytona something that has not been seen in over 28 years: Grand Staff under the Direction of Barbara Giffin and Alden Stephens.
What made this so special? The Grand Staff Music program came about through the hard efforts and directorial skills of Barbara Giffin. The name was coined by Barbara to coincide with her vision and self driven strive for excellence in preforming arts; which helped to bring about a music program reveled by not only the chosen performers, but from Miss. Griffin’s colleagues and peers as well. Within a short amount of time, Grand Staff became viewed as the mark of achievement by not only those who successfully made the cut, but in competition, other schools as well.
Directors from area middle schools lifted Grand Staff as the mark to reach, driving the students to work hard at learning to sight read music, develop good posture (extremely important in voice control and development) and try their hardest to sculpt their vocal skills, in an effort to obtain personal accomplishment. Through out the state, many Florida schools feared facing Grand Staff, and the lever of skill the program demanded as well as displayed on and off stage. A level fully attributed not only to the stringent demands of the performers themselves, but also from the critical ear of “The Giff” as she was often respectfully and reverently referred. We were after all still High School Students, and from time to time strayed from the strait and narrow, but with one look from her, it was well understood when time came to be serious and focused.
Many Grand Staffers went on to greatness entering into Leading roles in theater and acting. Grand Staff saw musicians and directors honed as well as successful business managers. The Skills and fortitude demanded within the program are the same ones needed for success in life. All these things are attributed by demands and skills embedded by their high school director.
When “The Giff” stepped down, a former and talented Grand Staff student, Alden Stephens came forward to tale the reigns. But with the writing on the walls, soon Grand Staff’s future dwindled with each stroke of the school board’s curtailment of tryouts, and the “No students left behind” program, becoming a “Staffer” lost it’s luster. So, before the School board forced his hand, Alden Stephens stepped down, gave the name ‘Grand Staff’ back to Barbara Giffin, and the era ended.
But Saturday night, 47 Staffers and 5 of the musician-members of 71’-83’ Grand Staff, under the directorship’s of Barbara Giffin, and Alden Stephens, presented “The Grand Finale Encore,” the last presentation of Grand Staff to the public. The concert offered 5 musical compositions that would rival great choruses in America, and was perfected in less than 14 hours of practice by 51 individuals. Additionally the audience witnessed the beautiful vocal skills of soloist Anita Davis-Hill, Kandie Kearley-Smith, Karlah Hamilton Louis,, Patricia "Tree" Hazard, and a duet featuring Joel Doliner and Mary Weidner-Durham. The Dance portion offered some favorites of Staffers;” with some contemporary choral selections preformed by all the attending members to close. With a standing ovation after a two-hour plus concert, the era ended with joy and notes of sadness as members met with the audience in appreciation by both sides for the gathering.
The choral departments in the future may have individuals that stand out among the rest, but with no standards and minimum requirements and levels of expectation, it will be difficult for a choir as a whole to rise to the level achieved by Grand Staff members, and their Directors.