On with the show

Variety is the spice of this weekend's benefit for the Juneau Community Charter School

Posted: Thursday, April 27, 2000

With a flourish worthy of a seasoned Shakespearian actress, fifth grader Erika O'Sullivan heralded the opening of Spring For The Arts.

Monday night's rehearsal included many of the musicians, singers, actors and dancers joining forces for the performance Sunday afternoon. The event blends student performers with talent from eight Juneau arts groups. The two-hour show is a benefit for the Juneau Community Charter School.

``Spring For The Arts'' runs from 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday at the Juneau-Douglas High School auditorium. The event will also include a silent action of donated artwork.

O'Sullivan, who attends the charter school, opens the show with the one-minute prologue from Shakespeare's ``Henry V.'' Roblin Davis of Perseverance Theatre will perform excerpts from the upcoming production, ``Fry Tales.'' Members of Juneau Douglas Little Theatre will sing, and the trombone quartet Bones North, the Alaska Youth Choir, violinist Steve Tada of the Juneau Symphony and dancers from Juneau Dance Unlimited will also perform.

Two things brought this diverse group of performers together -- pianist Lorrie Heagy and a desire to support arts education.

Heagy came to Juneau three years ago to teach at the charter school, and her extra-curricular work as an accompanist brought her in close contact with virtually every arts group in town. She said performers were quick to volunteer.


Angie Fowler takes a solo in an interpretive dance that also features charter school students.


``We see the value and an increase in the quality of life,'' said trombonist Paul Hill of Bones North. ``We have to show kids there's more to life than computers, math and science. That's important, but there's more.''

Heagy said the idea with ``Spring For The Arts'' was not just to have a variety show, but to show how the charter school's arts-based curriculum enhances learning in other areas.

Tom Koester and Bill Garry from the Juneau Lyric Opera will perform a scene from ``The Pirates of Penzance,'' followed by a group of student singers from the charter school.

``They memorized the (same) song from `Pirates of Penzance,' but they memorized the entire periodic table of elements to the music, to show what a great memorization tool music is,'' Heagy said.

Heagy felt it was important to include student performers, and a half-dozen short sets will highlight the young musicians, thespians, dancers and singers.

``We just have one little snippet, just to show what people are supporting. We didn't want to just show a great representation of the arts community, but show how it's interwoven with each part of the arts program,'' she said.

Heagy said she hopes the event will demonstrate the effectiveness and importance of arts education for all children, not just at the charter school.

``Research shows it improves and enhances a child's emotional, social and academic development,'' Heagy said. ``Self-discipline, self-esteem, memory and self-confidence are all improved through arts education. There's a critical developmental window before age 12 when kids are most affected by arts opportunities and language education.''

Bill Hurr, who sings and has directed productions for JDLT, offered to help produce the fund raiser for the charter school.

``It's been a fun project. I think it's really exciting the kind of work and visioning that's gone on with the kids there,'' he said.

Music, art and Spanish are the core of the curriculum of the charter school, which opened in 1997 as part of the Juneau School District. It is one of 17 in Alaska, and is the only one in Juneau. It has an enrollment of 60 children in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Charter schools in Alaska and across the country operate primarily under federal, state and school district funding. Most charter schools also depend on grants and fund raising to make ends meet and to provide the particular brand of education stated in their charters.

Heagy said all of the proceeds from the performance will go toward the $12,000 needed to maintain the school's arts programs.

``The start-up grant that initially funded the charter was a three-year grant, and expires in June, at the end of the current school year,'' Heagy said. ``Just as we're seeing these wonderful results with the kids, the funding ends.''

Four music, art and language teachers complement the charter school's three full-time classroom teachers.

The production is dedicated to LuAnn Spiech, who taught music at the charter school before her death this winter.

About 30 pieces of artwork, ranging from Rie Munoz prints to photographer Mark Kelley's latest book, have been donated for the silent auction. A quilt, wood carvings, pottery, photographs, jewelry and paintings will also be auctioned.

Tickets to ``Spring For The Arts'' are available at Hearthside Books for $15, or at the door for $18. Children's tickets are $5.

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