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Harmony Scholars will perform this weekend

When Matthew Kokinda was in intermediate school, he saw the Panther Valley Harmony Scholars perform to music from “The Lion King.”

“It was a big theatrical performance and I couldn’t wait to grow up and be a part of that show,” Kokinda said.

Now as a member of the Panther Valley Class of 2021, Kokinda is one of the most experienced members of the Harmony Scholars cast, inspiring the next generation.

The 29th annual performances of the Harmony Scholars will take place this weekend at Panther Valley Junior Senior High School.

Once again, Panther Valley students will dance and lip-sync a long list of songs and sketches from Broadway, Top 40 and movies.

This year’s program includes the music of Ariana Grande, Fergie, musicals like “Anastasia,” and “Saturday Night Live” sketches.

The cast pulled together a performance in about two months - a shorter time period than usual - after learning in April that they could have a performance.

Kiley Boswell, the show’s director, was preparing to move out of the area at the time. But she wanted to give the cast a chance to perform after their 2020 show was canceled due to COVID-19 restrictions about two-thirds of the way through rehearsals.

“Even if it was more intense with schedules, they deserve it. This year has been rough as it is,” she said.

The rehearsal schedule looked a little different.

Practicing with masks presented a challenge when it came to practicing lip-syncing.

And spring sports athletes couldn’t join the cast until their seasons were over, so any potential COVID-19 exposure would be limited.

The mixture of students from different groups is one of the things that makes Harmony Scholars unique, Boswell said. There are athletes, musicians and JROTC cadets.

“They take away friendships they didn’t have, some people are stepping out of their comfort zone, and growing as people,” she said.

The performance raises money for scholarships for the participants, and for causes in the community.

This year the show will benefit Shane Mangan, “the mailman,” a postal worker for Summit Hill who recently had surgery to remove a brain tumor. Doctors discovered the tumor after he collapsed at work.

The loss of the 2020 performance was tough for the cast members. But it also helped them put together the show in such a short time.

The 2021 performance features some of the same songs, which has them excited.

“Last year was one of the most fun shows ever. I was really upset when we found out it was canceled, but now that we can come back and show the world these numbers, it’s really exciting,” Kokinda said.

The Harmony Scholars performance takes place Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday at 1 p.m.

All performances are in the Panther Valley Junior Senior High School auditorium.

The Panther Valley Harmony Scholars include, from left, Kylie Eidle, Isabella Goida, Ben Kindt, Matthew Kokinda, Brenna Beshock, Brandon Velez, Mackenzie Cloutier, Logan Polak, Kya Norwood, Seth Berk and Ethan Chuma. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
The Panther Valley Harmony Scholars will stage their annual performance Friday, Saturday and Sunday. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS
Matthew Kokinda, Ben Kindt, Mackenzie Cloutier and Logan Polak rehearse for the upcoming performance of the Panther Valley Harmony Scholars. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS