Michelle Banayan, graphics editor
Family, friends, students and acquaintances of former Vocal Music Director Joel D. Pressman gathered in the Kenneth L. Peters Auditorium on Sunday, Jan. 26 to commemorate two months since his passing on Nov. 18, 2013.
The memorial commenced with a tribute video which included photographs, as well as remarks from both his father, Rabbi Jacob Pressman, and former students who were unable to attend Sunday’s event. Additionally, the video featured a prior interview with Pressman, in which he talks about a wide spectrum of topics, from his singing career as a student at Beverly, to his teaching philosophy.
“We are in the arts, we are in the humanities,” Pressman said in his interview, “so why not make the ‘humane’ part of [the curriculum]?”
Directly following the tribute video were opening remarks by Beverly alumnus Jonathan Prince, who claimed to have had “a beautifully challenging relationship” with the late teacher.
“I loved that he was honest and that he put who he was out there for you. It was always about helping musicians find their music,” Prince, who studied under Pressman for a year, said.
In addition to Prince, remarks from various other alumni were heard throughout the evening.
“Teaching meant building life-long love and music,” 2009 Beverly alumna Madeline Trachtenberg said while choking up. “[Pressman] made it his number one priority to keep our hearts safe, imaginations real and minds strong.”
However, Pressman’s students were not the only speakers present. Colleagues such as Leslie Stevens, Pressman’s choreographer for both his summer program in Idyllwild, Calif. (“Song and Dance”) and the 2013 spring musical, “The Secret Garden,” confessed the romantic relationship she shared with Pressman, stating that “he changed [her] understanding of what love is.” Furthermore, Pressman’s brother, Rabbi Daniel Pressman, made a short speech in addition to leading the crowd in a Jewish blessing of the soul, “El Male Rachamim.”
“[Pressman] never used his forcefulness in the service of self promotion. It was never about him and that’s why [his students] loved him,” Rabbi Daniel said.
Throughout the ceremony, there were also periodic musical performances by the Madrigals and various other choir groups composed of people that Pressman either taught, conducted, or sung with throughout his life.
“Singing at the memorial was an incredibly different experience,” Madrigal Shana Kheradyar said. “During the performance I just remembered all the times I was singing in front of Pressman as he conducted during concerts and rehearsals; and now, here, I was singing in his memory.”
The evening concluded with a sing-a-long to John Rutter’s “For the Beauty of the Earth” by all Beverly alumni present, along with closing remarks by Aviva Pressman, Pressman’s daughter.
In honor of his memory, the Foundation BH presented a plaque that was unveiled outside of the memorial venue. Additionally, the BHHS PTSA announced a scholarship that will be awarded to students who show mastery and character development in the musical and theatrical arts.