The Kids Of Dondero High
April 13, 2006 7:20 AM   Subscribe

"He teaches the students to read the music from within themselves." The annual Pop Concert at Dondero High School was a beloved institution from 1971-2006. Under the direction of music instructor Rick Hartsoe, the A Capella Choir and student instrumentalists presented 20 popular songs per concert: "ten full choir pieces chosen for their harmonic and instrumental interest, and ten solos of the students' choosing." Pieces from the last ten years included such unconventional classics as Maroon 5's "This Love," System of a Down's "Chop Suey" and "Down In A Hole" by Alice In Chains. Also included were works by Stevie Wonder, Boston, Weezer, P.O.D., Norah Jones, The Doobie Brothers and many more. Every Pop Concert ended -- perhaps appropriately -- with "Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In" from Hair.

March 2006 saw the last Pop Concert performed at Dondero High. Mr. Hartsoe has announced his retirement. And due to consolidation with a neighboring school, Dondero High itself is closing at the end of this school year. Thankfully, eight of those Pop Concerts (from 1995 to 2005) are available as downloadable 2-CD sets from Comfortstand (previously mentioned). Yes, for free. Convinced yet? Basically, if you were blown away by the likes of The Langley Music School Project (previously mentioned), this might just be right up your musical alley.
posted by grabbingsand (19 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
(The rendition of Coldplay's "The Scientist" from 2003 really gives the original a run for its money ...)
posted by grabbingsand at 7:22 AM on April 13, 2006

This is wonderful! How exciting it must have been for these kids. It's tragic that the program is drawing to a close - I know I'll spend today emailing this story and burning cds for all the many people who supported the music program at my highschool - it was probably the single, most defining part of my formative education.

Fantastic post!
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:40 AM on April 13, 2006

I love this kind of stuff, and I bet there's a few real gems in here. I can't wait to get home and listen. Thanks.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:49 AM on April 13, 2006

As a musical director, he's doing these kids a disservice by letting these kids get away with thinking that the Cowboy Junkies wrote "Sweet Jane" (complete with narration from "Natural Born Killers") and Boyz II Men wrote "In the Still of the Night", but their take on "Down in a Hole" was surprisingly good. I'm downloading the zips for the rest of the shows now, but the server seems to be getting slammed.
posted by emelenjr at 8:05 AM on April 13, 2006

Interesting, I grew up near Dondero High School in the 1970's and hung out with some folks that went there. Never, ever heard of this before. I'll have to listen when I get home tonight. Thanks for the post.
posted by marxchivist at 8:12 AM on April 13, 2006

I wonder if they did any covers of "Time in a Bottle", by Jim Croce.
posted by troutfishing at 8:31 AM on April 13, 2006

Sadly, the mix on the recording I downloaded is poor. The instrumentals (excellent) drowned out the poorly-arranged choral rendition of "Roundabout".

I had expected the mixing problem, all too common in armature choir recordings. The poor arranging was a disappointment.
posted by Goofyy at 8:47 AM on April 13, 2006

Great post. Thank you, grabbingsand.
posted by box at 8:48 AM on April 13, 2006

emelenjr, I don't know what exactly is bothering you... looking at the '95 program I see:

In the Still of the Night (Soloist: Jeremy Rugenstein - Five Satins/Boyz II Men cover)
posted by rxrfrx at 9:30 AM on April 13, 2006

In the program, sure, but not when the songs are introduced onstage.
posted by emelenjr at 10:02 AM on April 13, 2006

I'm downloading a few now to listen to once I get home from work, but my first thought is that anyone who decided to do a cover of Collective Soul's "Needs" can't be that bad.
posted by Godbert at 10:46 AM on April 13, 2006

wow. great stuff, thanks. i love how the last concert ended, appropriately, with "Take Me Out", then "Carry on My Wayward Son" and then their annual "Aquarius" finale. i can imagine that must've been an emotional moment.
posted by ab3 at 11:10 AM on April 13, 2006

The song choices are crazy—a lot of things popular at the time, and then Chicago, Toto and Yes.
posted by kenko at 11:16 AM on April 13, 2006

Oh wait, right, only ten of them are chosen by the students. Not so crazy.
posted by kenko at 11:19 AM on April 13, 2006

The guy whom the teacher claims to have challenged to learn the keyboard parts for the Roundabout cover is the nephew of Matthew Parmenter, of the band Discipline.
posted by kenko at 11:30 AM on April 13, 2006

ab3, that was the 2005 concert. The 2006 concert isn't available for download on that page. I hope it will be, eventually.
posted by emelenjr at 12:35 PM on April 13, 2006

"He teaches the students to read the music from within themselves."

Is that like the Think System?

Goodnight Ladies...
posted by HTuttle at 2:27 PM on April 13, 2006

I had downloaded a surprisingly good version of Sweet's "Fox on the Run" by the Dondero High Group, on mefi link to an outsider music site few years back. I hadn't given it a second thought until now. I guess it was good, but not good enough for me to be inspired to Google it, or else I thought it was a one-off. Great link.

I'm not surprised that the version of "Down in a Hole" turned out so well. That's a surprisingly well-crafted tune (by A-in-C standards, at any rate) that really lends itself well to such treatment.
posted by psmealey at 4:10 PM on April 13, 2006

wow, the version of Sinead O'Connor's Three Babies is amazing.
posted by jgee at 4:34 PM on April 13, 2006

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