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Nazareth, Pa., United States

Friday, June 06, 2014

Liberty Says Musical Good-Bye to 624 Graduates

A lone bagpiper
Bethlehem has always loved music. It started with the Moravians. Then there was the Bach Choir. It continues today with ArtsQuest, Musikfest, and ... Liberty High School. Its world-famous Grenadier Band, known to most of us, is only the tip of the iceberg. At Liberty's June 5 graduation, held at Stabler Arena before a raucous crowd of over 4,000, the halls echoed with music. It was as much a musical production as a commencement. As trumpets blasted and bagpipes wailed, 624 students were awarded diplomas. "Life is like a dance," said class speaker Apoorva Mathur. "Every step back leads to a step forward."

Before the actual ceremony, a 60-piece orchestra, dressed in tuxedos and black gowns, serenaded anxious parents and siblings for nearly an hour. Led by Kevin Long, many of the same kinds of instruments which once entertained Colonial soldiers, now drew applause from their 21st Century successors. Suddenly, this orchestra was silenced by the fanfare of a squad of trumpeters, who appeared in a balcony above the main floor. They musically announced, not just the processional of dignitaries like Superintendent Joseph Roy and School Board President Michael Faccinetto, but The Liberty Scholar.

60-person orchestra
Victoria Renew Ricles, who achieved a seemingly impossible 4.88 GPA, was awarded on the floor, before the rest of the students made their way. She plans to attend Lehigh University this Fall, where she will study bio-medical engineering. Her long-range goal is to become a surgeon.

Then came the sound that strikes fear into other schools from all over the Lehigh Valley during football games. The bagpipe. Accompanied by 7 pipe drummers, 21 bagpipers marched and played their way throughout the arena, clearing a wide path for the graduates to follow.

Of course, the Star Spangled Banner was sung, and many in this festive crowd joined in. But then Principal Harrison Bailey III asked for a moment of silence in honor of Liberty alumni who passed away, as well as a student who unfortunately succumbed last month.

After that moment, a lone bagpiper, graduating senior Caleb Geinosky, began to play "Amazing Grace" from the balcony above. After a verse, the remaining bagpipers joined him.

That's not all. A choir performed, and the orchestra played The Armed Forces Medley after senior Emily Cecchini was honored with a Congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.

The enthusiasm was infectious. Superintendent Roy said his aunt nearly got arrested earlier this year for breaking through a police barrier in the Tournament of Roses Parade so she could take a "selfie" with the Grenadiers. Even his two year old daughter likes to shout, "Go Liberty." Roy thanked parents "for the honor of educating your children."

A touching moment came when Principal Bailey decided to honor a student for his spirit and enthusiasm, and chose Drew Donaher, son of Director of Student Services Dean Donaher. After his son awkwardly made his way to the stage, a visibly shaken Dean Donaher embraced his son.

Twenty-eight Liberty graduates were honored with the "Lamp of Knowledge" for maintaining straight "A" averages during their four years in high school. Eighty-eight students were honored for attaining an "A" average in their senior year. Students were also honored for a combined 68,000 hours of community service, well above what is required.

Student speaker Spencer Harlan called on fellow graduates to "always be childish" in the sense of keeping it simple and being genuine.

School Board President Faccinetto called on students to "find your passion. Find what inspires you." An example of this was provided by Superintended Roy, referring to his two older daughters. One of them is a writer while the other is a social worker for the homeless. "They found their passion," he said.

Originally known as Bethlehem High School, Liberty was built in 1922. Its graduates include Pro Football Hall of Famer Chuck Bednarik, District Attorney John Morganelli, and Bethlehem Mayors John Callahan and Bob Donchez.

The Christmas City Star must have twinkled a few extra times during this wonderful ceremony that represented everything that is right about Bethlehem and Liberty High School.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

You are a great writer. I feel like I was there.

Anonymous said...

All in all, Liberty still SUCKS!

Anonymous said...

What about Freedom high school?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like a Broadway musical review, not a graduation news article. I was waiting to be told everyone darted rose scented gas.

Anonymous said...

Damn auto-spell. Every once in awhile it has a brain "dart."

Anonymous said...

Congratulations students! Thanks for sharing Bernie.

Mike Faccinetto said...

I know you don't do usually do school stuff, but thanks for coming. We appreciate it!
And...for the record I believe you covered Freedom and not Liberty last year.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Michael, It is the nicest graduation I ever attended. Very well done. Yes, I have done FHS.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"Sounds like a Broadway musical review, not a graduation news article. I was waiting to be told everyone darted rose scented gas."

They did. It was awesome.

Actually, this was more like a Broadway production than a commencement. If that is the impression I left you with, I believe it is the way it was.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"What about Freedom high school?"

I was there two years ago. It was quite nicely done, and it was an amazing class. I still remember that about them. They were a nice group of young men and women. I was not assigned to cover it this year.

Anonymous said...

Good looking young people, versus the worn out looking old hag you can see on another local purported blog.

I can't believe you didn't write about Freedom, since this was an article on Liberty. What were you thinking?

Perhaps all graduation articles will henceforth move towards Broadway musical reviews. You're a trend setter, Bernie. Good work.

Anonymous said...

Nice report Bernie ; you captured the magic of the moment.

Bernie O'Hare said...

Thanks, I tried.