Pop artist Andy Grammer rocks at Milford Elementary School

May 10, 2018, 8:30 PM
New Haven Register
Pam McLoughlin

MILFORD — Pop star Andy Grammer urged the 200 students at John F. Kennedy Elementary School Thursday to use their loudest outside voices in singing the refrains to his hit songs.

“You’re supposed to use your quiet, inside voice” in school, normally, Grammer told his excited fans. “This is the opposite.”

Students complied and turned the volume way up.

The concert by Grammer, who sang such fan favorites as “Fresh Eyes,” “Keep Your Head Up” and “Fine by Me,” was a gift to the school for winning the 3rd annual statewide Bag it Up for Goodwill Challenge, among 365 schools statewide that competed.

The JFK school community collected 58,940 items to support Goodwill during the challenge, equal to 20,000 pounds of clothing and household items.

Grammer got a superstar welcome, complete with handmade signs and chalk art outside. He high-fived and low-fived adoring fans as he entered and exited the cafeteria, and took pictures with each class in kindergarten through fifth grade.

Grammer donated the performance through a partnership with radio station 96.5 WTIC , which partners with Goodwill. From the stage, Grammer complimented students on making him feel so welcome — many held a cut out of his face on a stick — and for the fabulous job they did collecting for Goodwill.

“It’s an incredible thing when you’re able to give to other people,” Grammer said, noting that at first when you get stuff the urge is to keep it, but, “when you give it away you feel so much better.”

Principal Bonnie Etense said she was excited about the concert and the great success of the JFK community collection.

“They dug deep in their closets — literally,” she said. This was the school’s first year participating in the challenge.

Etense, a Grammer fan whose favorite song of his is “Keep Your Head Up,” said students came in Thursday “glowing, happy, skipping.”

She had a chance to chat with Grammer and said, “He’s super down to earth.” Many commented on how Grammer walked in the front door like everyone else, pulling his own bag and casually wishing people a “good morning.”

The students knew his work well, and most seemed to know all the words to his songs, as did teachers.

“I can’t wait until he’s here,” Gianna Bellon, 8, a second-grader, said before the concert,

First-grader Fischer Shulze, 7, said, “I like that he sings songs that have a message.”

After the concert, Carlin Skowronski, 9, said it was “different” and “better” to see Grammer perform live, compared to listening to recordings.

“I thought it was really good — it was fun,” she said.

WTIC Program Director Ryan Jones said the station has a relationship with Grammer, whom he called a “great artist” and “a guy who is doing a lot of good” in the world.

Vickie Volpano, president and CEO of Goodwill of Western and Northern Connecticut, said the challenge is a way of reaching out to schools to help support the mission of helping the disadvantaged and disabled.

“It’s wonderful to get kids involved early on,” she said. “Across Connecticut children are helping their neighbors.”

The concertgoers and their teachers wore white T-shirts that read: “Goodwill wins at JFK, Andy Grammer, 2018.”

As kids moved to the concert/cafeteria space to take their seats on the floor, a line of Goodwill employees clapped and cheered.

In addition to the concert, JFK was given a $1,000 gift certificate for student supplies.

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