The Hamilton Township School District's Visiting Artist Concert Series, which brings in special guests one night each year to perform alongside township students, has in its five years become a big deal for the young musicians and their families.

Early in the planning process for this year's concert, Hurricane Sandy swept through the region, causing widespread damage. Event planner Donna Marie Berchtold, who started the series in 2009, realized this year's program offered a good opportunity both to showcase township musicians and give them a chance to help their community.

"I thought, 'Wouldn't that be nice if we did something to benefit the people that are struggling?'" Berchtold said.

This year's event, dubbed the Concert for Superstorm Sandy Victims, brings together choir students from Davies Middle School, where Berchtold teaches, Oakcrest High School and the George L. Hess Educational Complex, with a portion of proceeds going to Sandy relief.

This year's special guest will be reigning Miss New Jersey and Egg Harbor City resident Lindsey Petrosh. There is no admission fee for the event, but the school will collect a free-will offering, all of which which will go to the Atlantic County Long Term Recovery Group, a collection of more than 30 organizations working to help the area recover in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

Fran Wise, a representative of the LTRG, will give a brief presentation on the group's work during the show.

There also will be an art and craft show in the front lobby, featuring local artists and crafters, before the show from 5 to 7 p.m. Vendors can opt to give a portion of their proceeds to the Long Term Recovery Committee, Berchtold said.

Davies sixth-grader Sebastian Chiaramonte, who will perform with the choir on March 7, said he's excited to help out those who were impacted by Sandy.

"Some people, they were completely devastated by Sandy, and it feels good to give back to those people," Chiaramonte said.

Each choir will perform a three-song set before uniting for a grand finale performance of "God Bless The USA," Berchtold said. She doesn't yet have a final setlist from the other schools, but Davies will perform "You'll Be In My Heart," from the soundtrack to Disney's Tarzan, as well as a medley featuring other tunes from the popular studio's hits, including "Hakuna Matata" and "Zippity Doo Dah."

Eighth-grader Melissa Vargas, also in the choir, said she's happy with Berchtold's selections for the show.

"Ever since I was little, I've been a big Disney fan, so it's like all my favorite songs in one," Vargas said.

While the Mays Landing students were spared the worst of Sandy's wrath, they still understand the significance of its impact to the area and are excited to lend their voices to the relief effort.

That they also get to show off their singing chops and meet Miss New Jersey and others makes for a fun bonus, Chiaramonte said.

"We're excited because it's going to be us and a whole bunch of other choirs from other schools, and we're going to be with Miss New Jersey," Chiaramonte said. "We're going to have a lot of fun."

Contact Braden Campbell:


If you go

What: Hamilton Township Schools' Superstorm Sandy Relief Benefit Concert

When: 5 to 7 p.m. March 7. Art gallery; Concert, 7 p.m.

Where: George L. Hess Educational Complex, 700 Babcock Road, Mays Landing.

How much: Free, but free will offering requested.

More info: Contact Donna Marie Berchtold at berchtoldd@hamil or 609-625-6600, ext. 1013.