JACKSON TWP. Just a little more than two years ago, Natalie Altieri, a 2013 Jackson High School graduate, passed away unexpectedly after a skiing accident.
A newly commissioned musical piece has been written by Dr. Rollo Dilworth to honor her life. The piece titled "All That Hath Life and Breath" was performed for the first time during the 3 p.m. chorale and symphony band concert on Dec. 10 at Jackson High School. It was also performed at the 7 p.m. performance.
Jackson High School choral director Scott Eversdyke is responsible for getting the piece written. He approached Dilworth in February of 2016 while attending the Ohio Music Education Association’s (OMEA) annual conference. He expressed his idea of commissioning a piece for the JHS Chorale to sing in memory of Natalie.
"I told him the story of her tragic accident and a little about what a wonderful student and person she was," Eversdyke wrote in an email. "After I shared this with him, he was very excited to accept the project. I explained that I needed to speak with the Altieri family and if they were comfortable with the idea, it would be a go. After a wonderful conversation with Bruce and Beth Altieri, the project moved forward."
Eversdyke wrote that he was expecting the Jackson Choral Boosters to pay for the commission and was hoping to have Dilworth visit the school to work on the piece. Instead, thanks to a generous donation from Natalie's parents, the cost of the commission and Dilworth’s subsequent visit to Jackson High School were covered.
Natalie’s parents, along with other family members, were in attendance at both concerts. Eversdyke wrote that her parents and family were deeply moved. He sent along an email statement from her parents.
"We express our heartfelt appreciation for the efforts of JSA, Dr. Dilworth, and the students in The Jackson Chorale to create and present a piece of music that so reflects the positivity of both Natalie and the Choral Department at Jackson," Natalie’s parents wrote.
Everysdyke wrote about the process of writing the piece and also about hearing Dilworth describe his reasons for many of the sections of the piece. He added that along with the harmonic structure, the piece is "a joy to work on and perform."
"The style is a bit of a cross between contemporary choral music and a gospel style. I also have a strong emotional attachment to the piece as it will always remind me of Natalie. It is a piece that I am sure Chorale will revisit often," he wrote.
Eversdyke choose Dr. Dilworth because he felt strongly compelled to speak with him when attending a session at the OMEA Conference that he was conducting. He believes Dr. Dilworth is genuine, humble and a talented person. Plus, the students in Jackson have enjoyed performing some of his other pieces. He wrote that he always wanted to expose the students to great examples to look up to and felt Dr. Dilworth fit that description.
Natalie was a student of Eversdyke starting in 7th grade through 12th grade. In addition to having been his student, she was the only babysitter that his four children had ever known up to the time of her passing.
"Her loss was very difficult for myself and my family. Natalie was a student in 7th grade choir, 8th grade choir, freshman chorus, chorale, Jacks-N-Jills, and women's chorus. I had the opportunity to work with her in all of those groups. She was also involved in musicals during her time at Jackson. I am the music director for the musicals and her rendition of Christine in Phantom will always be one of the most memorable performances in my career. She was amazing," Eversdyke wrote.
The 3 p.m. concert was standing room only. The Evening of Music concert at 7 p.m. was also well attended. Eversdyke said the piece was well received by both audiences.
Dilworth is a prolific composer/arranger with more than 200 published chorale works. He’s written for all levels of performance including elementary age choirs to adult professional choirs.
Eversdyke believes the entire process has been an educational experience for himself and the students in the Jackson Choral Department. They’ve gotten to learn about the process of publishing a piece of music, worked with the composer on interpretation of an original piece of music that no one else has ever sung and performed that work in front of a live audience.
"The students and I have learned a little more about each other through this process too. One other interesting note is that Dilworth mentioned that he doesn't often get to work with a group on one of his pieces before the premiere. He also said that it is exciting for him that he was hearing the piece for the very first time, other than in his own mind, when he visited Chorale," Eversdyke wrote.