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Sounds of Success: Westlake Music Students Go Solo

Nina Veljovic is a Blendor. But even a member of that select squad of 20 Westlake High School singers can develop pre-show jitters when representing the school and its music department at a public event.

"She still gets nervous beforehand, but she loves performing," said Elizabeth Melito, Westlake's vocal instructor. "It's good experience for the kids to go out and perform any time they can."

For Veljovic, a sophomore, the time came this week, Memorial Day, when she sang the national anthem and "God Bless America" to open and close the hour-long Thornwood ceremony. She shared the stage – along with a podium, damp grass and a faulty microphone – with another Westlake musician, Kevin John, a senior.

John performed "Taps" on the trumpet. Melito smiled at the thought. "Kevin's been playing 'Taps' for a couple of years now: at the 9/11 ceremonies and Veterans Day," she explained. "He's a veteran of doing 'Taps.'"

Westlake's music program offers an array of classes, including music theory, AP music theory and keyboard instruction, and a variety of performance groups: the chorus, jazz band, concert band and the Blendors. Students start playing instruments in fourth grade with Barbara Schultz and Mike Hood. By high school, Melito said about 175 students participate in the music program each year.

John, who is in the jazz band, has led the trumpet section of the concert band for the last few years. “In our May 17 Spring Concert, he truly shined in the challenging trumpet work of Verdi’s Nabucco Overture, and he led the Ensemble to a stirring standing ovation from our audience, which includes many members of the community, not just the parents and relatives of our students,” said Carlo Capano, who instructs the instrumentalists at the school.

When Steve Loya, one of American Legion Post 1574's veterans, calls Melito for Memorial Day and other events, she said either the entire group performs or she asks one student to do it. "Nina is one of my better singers," she said. "This was her first time doing that event."

Appreciative audiences for Westlake's music students have extended far beyond the Mount Pleasant community. "The Blendors went to a music festival this year in Disney World and we got a superior rating, which is the highest you can get," Melito said.

Have you had a chance to hear the Blendors?

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