Everyone has that one teacher. The one who inspired you and helped shape the course of your life. The one you still talk about, years and even decades after you’ve graduated.
For Bob Lisberg – and many, many others – that teacher was Meg Papadolias.
Lisberg studied music with the West Aurora legend for 10 years straight – he was in third grade in 1979, the same year Papadolias began at Freeman Elementary School, and as he moved up the grades, Papadolias moved with him. She moved to Washington Middle School, and then became choir director at West Aurora High School in 1985.
Her impact on Lisberg’s life, as it has been for so many, is incalculable. Lisberg, the owner of Pockets Restaurant in Aurora, has pursued music as well, as the keyboard player of local band Hoss. And he credits Papadolias with instilling that life-long love of music in him.
So when Lisberg became the special events chair on the board of the A+ Foundation, which works to instill educational excellence in District 129 schools, he knew he wanted to do something to honor her.
And when he found out that an endowment fund had been set up in Papadolias’ name when she retired last year, he knew just what to do – put on a rock concert.
On Saturday, the legacy of Meg Papadolias will take the stage at Ballydoyle in Aurora, and perform a concert in her honor. All proceeds and donations from the show will go to the Meg Papdolias Endowment Fund, and Lisberg is hoping to raise the $8,000 needed to start dispersing this money – it’s intended to be used to enhance the music and choral programs at West Aurora High.
The lineup includes four bands – Hoss, The Jimmy Kingsway Band, Printer's Row and Acoustic Alternatives – that feature former students of Meg Papadolias, and the bill is topped off by Aurora rockers The Kevin Trudo + Meathawk. Opening the concert will be Darling Youth, the band that won the recent West Aurora High School Battle of the Bands.
But that’s not all – the show also features about two dozen of Papadolias’ former students, returning to pay tribute to their teacher in song. As you might expect from such a long career, the event is going to draw students from several generations.
Heather Lambert, for example, graduated West Aurora High in 1992. She had Papadolias as a teacher for four years – 7th and 8th grade, and 11th and 12th grade – and was one of the only high school sophomores admitted into Papadolias’ choral group, the Madrigal Singers.
“I didn’t know how I would ever measure up to her,” she said. “Her expectations were so high. But I felt she respected me as a musician. I was flattered.”
Though Lambert didn’t pursue music as a career, she kept up with singing, joining the St. Charles Singers in 2000, and, just last year, becoming part of Papadolias’ choral group Ancora Imparo. The group plans to record a Christmas CD this summer, Lambert said. (“Christmas is Meg’s holiday,” she said. “She loves it.”)
Lambert is excited to perform on Saturday with Ancora Imparo, and with Hoss. She said she always loves performing, but putting on a show for Papadolias will be particularly special.
“She’s given so much to so many people,” she said. “I hope this is a smash, and it shows her how many people she’s impacted.”
On the other end of the spectrum is Tyler Bachman, a 20-year-old who graduated in 2010. Three of the five members of his band, Printer’s Row, are former Papadolias students, and another is a current one. The band was formed during Bachman’s sophomore year in high school, and now they play between 30 and 40 shows a year, Bachman said.
And he owes that drive, and that musical knowledge, to Papadolias, who taught him in choir all through high school. Bachman said he knew very little about music before meeting Papadolias, and she taught him several skills he still uses to this day.
Bachman said he is nervous about playing in front of his former teacher on Saturday, but he’s thrilled to be part of a tribute to her and her legacy.
“She was very much a huge influence on me,” he said. “The moment Bob asked me, it was, ‘Of course I’ll do it.’ The band was the same way.”
Lisberg said he hopes to turn the Meg Papadolias Foundation concert into an annual event. The show, he said, will build to a surprise finale, and will also include a raffle and t-shirt sales.
The show begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Ballydoyle, 28 W. New York St. in Aurora. Tickets are $10, and can be purchased online and at the A+ Foundation website. Donations can be made at the website as well.