While some knew him as Jonah and others as Mac, we all loved and respected him. And we miss him dearly.

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Jonah and Pete

In Jonah’s 2001-2002 6th grade year, one part of his life that we knew he enjoyed was singing. Not only was he in Ardsley Middle School’s 6th grade choir (anyone who didn’t play in the instrumental program had to be), Jonah also volunteered to sing with the Madrigals, a smaller chorus of kids who could actually carry a tune and really liked singing. Also, Mr. Squillante directed the Madrigals, a super-plus because kids really like him (to this day).

In June 2002, Mr. Squillante invited the Madrigals to join him at the Clearwater Festival, an annual summer frolic of music, food and social consciousness at Croton Point Park in Westchester, NY, where he had somehow made arrangements for the group to sing back-up to Pete Seeger! Those of us parents and grandparents who’d grown up on a steady diet of Pete’s music and love, well we were beside ourselves.

Jonah (far right) sings with Pete Seeger at the Clearwater Festival (Jun 15, 2002)

Jonah (far right) sings with Pete Seeger
Clearwater Festival (Jun 15, 2002)

We packed up the kids, braved the traffic, searched for a parking space, and eventually made our way onto the festival grounds. This was an incredible moment for us, to watch Jonah singing not 10 feet from Pete. We’re not sure he really understood how very special this was but we assumed the experience would grow in stature for him across the years.

In time, Jonah would teach himself to play ukulele and guitar, and would become quite the songleader himself. My 10th grader class was remembering just last week when Jonah had taught them “Father Abraham Had Seven Sons” and, of course, “Jonah and the Whale.” These kids had been in the 5th grade at the time, but the memory reigns as a powerful one for many  of them.

Pete would be proud. I know that Jonah’s songleading parents certainly were.

To both Pete and Jonah, I say: Thank you for your music. Thank you for your goodness. Thank you for creating indelible memories I will cherish forever.

And thank you for the double-billing on June 15, 2002. What a show that was!


One Response to “Jonah and Pete”

  • geri pell:

    Such great memories Billy. I’m glad I dug the photo out and got it to you! I still can’t believe Jonah and Ben got picked by Pete. Jonah and Pete are surely singing in heaven now.

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