JOHNSTOWN, Pa. — Elizabeth Good, longtime music director and teacher at Westmont Hilltop High School, considers the district a “triple A school” thanks to its support of the arts.
She said the focus was not just on academics or athletics, but also on supporting the performing and visual arts, which has led to a high-quality educational program over the years.
“My hope and wish for the arts programs at Westmont is to continue and thrive so that Westmont can maintain its level of excellence,” said Good.
“The arts show a complete education of a community.”
She looks back with emotion on her nearly 30 years with Westmont.
Good taught high school choral music and led district musicals for 21 years.
She retired in 2013.
“The directors I worked with were very supportive of the arts,” Good said.
Parents and students were equally encouraging, she added.
Westmont Hilltop has a history of stimulating artistic endeavors that dates back to the district’s earliest classes.
In the high school archives are photos of 1920-21 students in full costume for the Shakespearean play “As You Like It.”
Good said that during her tenure she was able to direct “a lot of interesting and exhausting shows” and had complete creative freedom not only to put on shows, but also to hire support staff, like costume designers. and decorators.
Some of the standouts she remembers were ‘Into the Woods’, which she described as a complex show with advanced vocal and acting skills, and ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ – which she directed twice.
“Oklahoma” to “Pirates”
Good also noted that all of the performances by playwright WS Gilbert and composer Arthur Sullivan, such as “The Pirates of Penzance,” were awe-inspiring – seeing the students adopt the style of operetta and spend hours singing.
His band did the “Pirates” show in 2021 to celebrate 50 years of musicals in the neighborhood.
The former manager said Westmont was the first in the area to start producing musicals every year – starting with “Oklahoma.”
During the reunion and this show, they brought in original lead singer Merle Stutzman to sing “Oh, What a Beautiful Morning” to start the show. He was one of many elders who were involved.
“It was exciting,” Good said.
“It was one of the biggest highlights of my tenure there.”
Inspired by Broadway
The beginning of musical theater at Westmont Hilltop is credited to the late educator Marjorie Kaufman.
Good said Kaufman and her husband often travel to New York to see Broadway shows and want to bring that quality of performance back to the Johnstown area.
Good also pointed to the theatrical arts course that was taught after the introduction of school musicals.
“Even then, there was still the value of the arts in the Westmont community,” Good said.
During her time, she augmented the annual shows by teaching the history of musical theater and a musical theater performance lab for acting and singing.
Joshua Brumbaugh’s goal in teaching at Westmont is to nurture a love of music from an early age.
The high school bandleader and bandleader has been with the district since he began his career 17 years ago.
He was initially signed on to lead the band, but soon after was given the orchestra as well.
“Very good program”
Brumbaugh said he loved high school bands and the ensembles that accompanied them.
That’s why he took the job, which he described as having everything he was looking for in a teaching position.
Although there has been some downsizing over the years, Brumbaugh said the musical offerings at Westmont have remained the same and the administrators have been supportive of the offerings.
“We have a very good program,” he said.
Members of the music team discuss each year to decide what can be done to give students the best opportunities available.
Brumbaugh noted that one such offering is the Instrument Rental Program, which the District pays for.
If a student wishes to learn to play, Westmont will provide the desired instrument free of charge.
There is also a rock band class, which features the philosophy of trained musicians to get out into the community and play.
Although Brumbaugh does not lead this class, he contributes to it.
Similar courses include an advanced level music theory course and the opportunity to compete at different levels.
This includes the Tournament of Bands competition for marching band, in which Westmont competes against bands of similar size.
Brumbaugh said last year his performers finished 16th out of 59 groups in the state.
The Hilltoppers have also won chapter championships with the marching band, and Westmont attends about six competitions a year.
The musical group participated in the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire in Manheim, where Westmont won first place on several occasions.
Most years the district has a competitive jazz band performing in Wildwood, New Jersey.
It all adds up to individual accomplishments in all states, districts, regions and other competitions, Brumbaugh said.
“It was a really fun race,” he said.