MANATEE — Living up to the name of their school, Manatee School for the Arts students showcased their artistic talents during the 2009 seniors commencement exercises Friday.
The ceremonies for the 57 graduates had the traditional trappings at Neel Auditorium: caps and gowns, speeches, diplomas and handshakes. But there also were the performances of the school jazz band, show chorus and soloist singer.
The audience of about 400 family and friends showed their appreciation of the performances with enthusiastic applause.
One middle-aged teacher, sitting on stage behind student soloist Dylan Southwick as he sung the popular Beetles hit tune, “Let It Be,” even mouthed the words and rocked her head side-to-side, obviously flashing back when the song first hit the charts in the early 1970s.
The school Jazz Combo Band under the direction of Paul Henry had the crowd bopping during their rendition of “String of Pearls,” swinging the tune as well as any professional swing band.
The Show Chorus with Debra Helman leading were just as competent with their interpretation of “One Moment in Time.”
Palmetto Mayor Shirley Groover Bryant, the keynote speaker, referenced how impressed she was with the talents of the students.
“The teachers take serious the infusion of arts in the curriculum,” Bryant said.
The mayor, who also is the chief financial officer for the school, told the graduating seniors they are facing some of the worse times, a world different than when they started at Manatee School for the Arts.
But she reminded them that Benjamin Franklin said, “Out of adversity comes opportunity.”
“This could be the best of times for you,” Bryant said. “You can make opportunities for others as well as yourself.”
The student speakers all reminisced about the happy times at the school, but acknowledged the new adventures facing them.
Senior Kyle Shoemaker got a smile and chuckle from the audience by apologizing, “for not being your child.”
Kyle said he knew that the only student they wanted to see was their own.
But he said he had “no doubt these people (his fellow classmates) will be successful.”
Senior Gretchen Goetzman also was confident the class of 2009 will achieve as individuals.
“We do know from here on out we go it alone,” Gretchen said. “I just hope it is more exciting than terrifying.”
Senior Eddison Nelson Jr. compared the future to a race.
“Today is not the end, but the beginning,” Eddison said.
“The only thing that matters in the end is your legacy.”