NEW ROCHELLE, NY — New Rochelle High School choral students know how to get to Carnegie Hall: perform with Director Derrick James.
For 18 years, students lending their voices to NRHS choral groups under James’ direction have taken trips to perform in locales as far-flung as China, London, South Africa and the Vatican – as well as the famed Manhattan concert hall. It has also taken them to their own school’s Whitney M. Young Jr. Auditorium, the largest venue in New Rochelle, to sing and to receive cheers and standing ovations from their friends, family members and community.
James is retiring this year after 18 years as director of Vocal Studies at NRHS, and 33 years total in the City School District of New Rochelle. His last regularly scheduled performance with the District filled the Whitney Auditorium with hundreds of applauding fans for the Springfest Choral Concert on Wednesday. The evening’s finale was “We Are the World,” with James taking part in singing it.
“It’s always been my motto to not only educate the head, but the heart and once you educate the heart of the students, everything will fall into place,” James said.
“You are a phenomenal teacher, phenomenal in everything that you do,” senior Bryce Maddox told James at the concert in tribute to the director just before the final number. “You see the work that you put in, you see the hard effort and it really shows in these concerts. Yes, rehearsals are a headache and you drive us crazy. You bring us on weekends, you do whatever you have to do to make shows like this happen. That’s true dedication, and that’s what we need in every teacher. We thank you and we love you.”
He will direct at NRHS one more time, on June 2, at 4 p.m. in a chorale reunion concert.