“A journey of growth through the arts – come along for the ride.” That invitation provided the theme for Darke County Center for the Arts’ just completed season, but also pretty much sums up DCCA’s goal for their youth programming.
Students in each grade of all local public schools are annually treated to performances by outstanding artists who routinely incorporate learning opportunities into their shows, usually unbeknownst to the students who only know that they are enjoying an entertaining experience. DCCA’s 2013-2014 Arts In Education series featured diverse musicians offering their unique perspectives on teaching language arts, history, geography, science and math.
Kindergarten through third grade students enthusiastically sang and clapped along, responding to the songs and stories shared by “Wild Carrot” during the week of Sept. 16-20. Named after the common weed Queen Anne’s Lace, “Wild Carrot” performs music firmly rooted in the solid earth of tradition that continues to bloom and flower with each new generation. The multi-talented duo of Pam Temple and Spencer Funk easily engaged their audience while surreptitiously teaching the origin and development of a broad variety of musical instruments and the evolution of musical forms.
When Carpe Diem String quartet presented their “Numbers Game” program Oct. 7 through 10, Darke County high school students gained insight into the inter-relationship between math and music, as well as to how they are affected by the rhythms and tones derived from those relationships. Skilled musicians Charles Wetherbee, Amy Galluzzo, Korine Fujiwara and Carol Ou quickly enticed audiences to not only listen for rhythms as well as pitches based on numerical scales, but also to have a very good time while seriously engaged in analytical thought.
Upon taking the stage at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall on March 6 and March 7, Alpin Hong immediately captivated his audience of junior high students. Entitled “Movies to Games, Classically Trained,” Alpin’s program investigated how music affects listeners, and demonstrated how classical composers used rhythm, harmony and melody to emotionally influence their audiences.
During the week of March 17 through 21, “Mr. Blue Shoes” took fourth- through sixth-graders on a never-ending journey that began long ago in West Africa. The students experienced how powerful emotions are communicated through music as they sang and clapped and danced and learned about the blues, from its ancient roots through its many present-day branches.
The exciting ride through DCCA’s season also included three memorable Sunday afternoon stops at Henry St. Clair Memorial Hall for the Family Theatre Series. Prices for Family Theatre shows are kept as low as possible, enabling families to learn and grow together through the arts without the necessity of a side trip to the bank. Theatreworks USA’s production of Seussical the Musical opened the series on Jan. 26 with a show that taught admirable life lessons, but was also a lot of fun - just like the Dr. Seuss books upon which the show is based.
Lightwire Theater’s unique retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Ugly Duckling used stunning electroluminescent puppetry to bring the eternally relevant tale to brilliant life on March 9. Paired with Aesop’s fable “The Tortoise and the Hare,” the stories seemed as applicable today as when they were first spun.
Coping with what happens when things go wrong provides life lessons that benefit humans of all ages. On April 6, Adventure Theatre MTC’s fun and funny production of Five Little Monkeys, based on the books by Eileen Christelow, helped children learn the joy of counting and rhyming while teaching that when rules are broken, consequences result.
Last summer’s Missoula Children’s Theatre residency July 29 through Aug. 3 provided another exciting joy ride for youngsters while they developed lifeskills through participation in the arts. Following a week of intense rehearsals, two terrific performances of MCT’s The Tortoise vs. The Hare charmed audiences, continuing DCCA’s tradition of offering local youth the thrilling opportunity for hands-on participation in theatre.
Although DCCA’s GR8 C Sun has reached the end of the road, the glorious experiences gained will continue to illuminate the path to the future for the hundreds of youngsters who went along for the ride.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in these opinion pieces are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.