MONMOUTH, Illinois- After several hours with Kevin Ferry, a coach, director, and teacher at Monmouth Roseville Highschool, it's easy to see why several first-place plaques and trophies adorn the halls. It's also easy to see why all the students had the same things to say when asked what they thought of their choir director and coach.
But Kevin Ferry, can't see like you or me. In fact, Ferry has one of the first recorded instances of juvenile macular degeneration in the United States. You may know someone with this disease, but as Mr. Ferry is quick to point out, they are probably "in their 60s, 70s or 80s.".
Kevin Ferry was born with the disease and there is still no cure. This was back in the 1980s and helped to show doctors that the disease could take the form of a birth defect. If you ask Coach Ferry's opinion on a cure he would say "It's not anything I'm obsessing over to get done in the near future."
According to http://www.macular.org:
"Macular Degeneration is caused by the deterioration of the central portion of the retina, the inside back layer of the eye that records the images we see and sends them via the optic nerve from the eye to the brain. The retina’s central portion, known as the macula, is responsible for focusing central vision in the eye, and it controls our ability to read, drive a car, recognize faces or colors, and see objects in fine detail."
But Director Ferry doesn't let this hold him back, looking at his achievements at MRHS you would never know he was born with a disability.
When asked every student had similar things to say about their Director.
What do you like most about Mr. Ferry?
"He dedicates his time to his work and he really does motivate the students to do their absolute best"-Abi Daniel
"He just very supportive of us and he treats us like family especially during Mads, We're family, we're together 24/7 the month preparing for the dinner."- Kyrrah Randolph
"He's a very dedicated teacher, and that he takes his time to work with each and every student, and if theres questions he makes sure to go back over it and he explains it very well."- Regan trego
Mr. Ferry has been with Monmouth Roseville for 10 years, it's his ninth year of leading the Madrigal singers as his first year was spent running the Show Choir Program.
In that time Monmouth Roseville Choir has taken first place at IHSA class B solo and ensemble six years in a row. That means Ferry's choir is considered the top Class B school in the state and are defending champs.
The MRHS choir performed at Carnegie Hall in New York as well as the 9/11 Memorial just last summer. The Madrigal singers regularly sing at local churches in the tri-state area, so you may have seen them.
The accompanist and right-hand man of Kevin Ferry is Leo Ramer, from what WQAD was told, if you're from the area you know who this man is, he has dedicated countless years to teaching music and helping the community.
When asked about working with Kevin Ferry, Ramer had these words to say:
"Well, he's become a son to me, and because he's partly blind I have lots of help to give him. And consequently, I have to help him read music and teach HIM music sometimes so we can pull it together."
Why are you so successful as a choir and have such a popular madrigal program?
"I think its because we give our lives to it."-Leo Ramer
"Because we really take our time to make sure all the music is perfect."- Regan Trego
"Because we are a like, a really good group that works together, and Mr Ferry helps us to understand everything, every last bit of everything."- Carlee Wooddell
This weekend, November 30, through December 2, Mr. Ferry and the MRHS Madrigal singers will be hosting the Madrigal dinner. It's a combination of dinner and a show that they say will most likely be sold out soon, so grab your tickets ASAP.
Tickets are available in the Monmouth Roseville High Schoool Office for $17 or you can give them a call at 734-5118, tell them WQAD sent you!
Madrigals are a form of acapella singing which means everything you hear is done with the human voice.
The show will include songs like:
The First Noel
12 Days of Christmas
Sing We Enchant
Friday and Saturday the show starts at 7 p.m. while Sunday's show starts at 2 p.m. There will be a coat check and you must have your ticket with you so the ushers can find your seat(s).
Guests can expect the same menu from years past, salad, rolls, baked ham, cheesy potatoes, and green beans with bacon. The smorgasbord ends with a healthy slice of cheesecake.
Alfano's Pizza in Monmouth will be catering as they always have. According to Coach Ferry last year they served over "200 people in eight minutes flat.".
This year marks the first time that the script will be written in-house, by both the students as well as with assistance by the MRHS Theatre Director Mel Agar and Nicole Trego.
It is a story of lovesick kings in disguise and many other silly situations.