Amazing, wonderful, and touching were among the words describing the benefit concert for Chesnutwold music teacher Laura (Slavin) Esposto who suffers from a rare form of cancer.
The Haverford School District Music department held a benefit concert on Tuesday night in the auditorium and organized by Dr. Tom Rudolph and other music teachers in the district.
Six hundred music students from throughout the district came to Haverford High School to sing in Esposto’s honor and raised $10,000 for medical expenses not covered by her insurance.
The 25-year-old Esposto was educated in the township schools, graduated from Temple University Boyer College of Music and came back to teach music in the school district, she said. She started teaching general music at Chestnutwold in September of 2008.
Just months after she started teaching, she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. She began treatment right after Christmas of 2008 and continued with her plans to marry then fiancee Phil Esposto in July of 2009.
Esposto was diagnosed with Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia (CML), a slow moving form of leukemia, which usually occurs in men more than the age of 55. She did not respond correctly to the standard treatment and bone marrow transplantation is the only curative measure for CML, though it is now very rare to require transplant because the oral drugs work for the vast majority of CML patients.
Since that time, she has undergone treatment at cancer centers in Philadelphia and Houston, Texas. She was a new teacher and did not have much sick time accrued so 90 teachers from across the district each gave one sick day to give her more time to recuperate.
Jean McIntire, music teacher at Lynnewood Elementary school, was one of those teachers.
“I am glad to help in any way I could,” McIntire said.
The concert included performances from the school district’s fourth and fifth grade choruses, the middle school Seventh Heaven choral group, and the high school’s jazz combo, wind ensemble, string ensemble and symphony orchestra. The high school Concert Chorale and Chambers Singers received a standing ovation for their performance of Cloudburst.
A highlight of the evening was the performance by the Haverford Music Faculty and their rendition of Dancin’ in the Streets, which brought the audience to their feet for another standing ovation.
Esposto's recent bone marrow transplant kept her from attending the benefit but in a letter read at the event she said, “I am humbled by the showing of love and support for me and my family. I wish I could be there with you in person but my heart is there with you and I look forward to coming back to teach music.”
Rudolph said the benefit concert was a challenge because of its size.
“We have never taken on anything as large as this. When we found out how expensive the bone marrow transplant was and how expensive the on-going medication for Laura is, we wanted to do something," he said. "The Music Faculty brainstormed the idea of a benefit gala. We decided to organize the Choruses in a combined performance since Laura is the director of the Chestnutwold Chorus. We had incredible support from the School District administration, teachers, staff, parents and students.”
Harriet Gross, who attended the concert said, “It was amazing, so touching and the kids sounded great too.”
Th Haverford-Havertown Patch spoke with Esposto’s husband, Phil, and to her parents, Cliff and Marge Slavin, after the concert ended.
“We are overwhelmed at the show of support here but I shouldn’t be surprised because that is the kind of support we have for each other in this township,” Cliff Slavin said.
Phil Esposto said, “The concert was amazing, just like my wife. She is looking forward to coming back to teach in September.”
In an email to Patch on Wednesday, Esposto wrote that she, “was overwhelmed with gratitude and humility. When my husband came home, he was absolutely a-buzz about it and kept repeating that he was amazed, just amazed. We were both very emotional. My parents felt the same way, in awe of the teachers, students and community who put in so much work to help us so greatly. It's a very intense feeling, knowing that people have come together so lovingly to help you ... the absolute knowledge that there is a community of people out there that care. That is exceptionally humbling. It made me feel an even stronger dedication to this district and this music program and huge motivation to get well so that I will return to them in September.”
The concert raised more than $10,000 and donations were still coming in, as concertgoers filled baskets in the lobby with additional donations. Nicky Distler, a fifth grader at Coopertown Elementary School, not only performed in the concert but was happy to put in a few extra dollars after the concert as well.
“We raised a lot of money at our school for her,” Distler said.
Donations are still being accepted and checks can be made out to Laura Esposto and can be sent to Haverford Middle School, 1701 Darby Rd., Havertown, Pa., 19083, c/o Dr. Tom Rudolph.