Darke County Center for the Arts exists to enrich lives by bringing to our small rural community outstanding artists who share their talents, inspiring introspection, delight and awe. Since 1983, the organization has presented performances to students in each grade level of all local public schools, earning praise from educators and enthusiastic appreciation from students. However, this school year presents never-before-seen impediments to DCCA’s usual methods of operation, including the dilemma of how to continue the valued Arts In Education program when visitors cannot be welcomed to schools and large groups of students cannot closely gather together to respond to gifted performers sharing their diverse talents. What to do, what to do?
Although final details are not in yet place, DCCA’s 2020 Arts In Education program is going virtual. In cooperation with Darke County Board of Education Director of Curriculum April Hoying, DCCA Artistic Director David Warner has arranged for the entire slate of performances to be made available to teachers and their classrooms through the wonder of modern technology beginning in October and continuing into December. Artists are scrambling to find new ways to combat their inability to share their talents before live audiences, and are necessarily coming up with groundbreaking ideas, some wiser than others, but learning from their mistakes to continue making a living by doing what they were born to do in new and innovative ways.
So, in spite of the pandemic, dynamic Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Zak Morgan will thrill kindergarten through third grade students, fourth through sixth graders will experience the one-man variety show presented by Emmy-award winner Robert Post, junior high students can groove on the diverse sounds of another Emmy winner, Shaun Johnson and his Big Band Experience, and high schoolers will learn the many opportunities that music holds for them through talented duo The Moxie Strings, all as originally planned—sort of. I don’t pretend to understand how any of this works, but these inspiring shows will be accessible to individual teachers in a flexible time frame to meet their scheduling needs. And what will the students see?
Zak Morgan is a unique bundle of boundless energy who, through his original music and poems, enthusiastically encourages reading, writing, and imagination; described as a combination stand-up comedian, grade-school teacher, Dr. Seuss, and folk musician, Zak inspires kids to believe in themselves while delighting them with his inventive, quirky songs. Robert Post has captivated audiences across the world with his unique blend of theatre, comedy, mime, juggling, and improvisation that defies categorization; his show “How to Survive Middle School” blends fun with honest talk about social and emotional issues universally faced by students in that vulnerable age group.
Crooner Shaun Johnson heads up the Big Band Experience with a love for the dulcet sounds of Michael Buble blended with the grittier music of Brian Setzer and the contemporary stylings of Rihanna; the band itself contains musicians who have played with Aretha Franklin, Robert Randolph and the Family Band, and New Kids on the Block; Shaun’s ability to inspire enthusiasm for the power of music to positively affect lives generates energy that lingers long after his performance ends. Moxie Strings, classically trained musicians Diana Ladio playing violin and Alison Lynn on cello, blends ear-catching melodies with foot-stomping rock-influenced rhythms, using eclectic creative skills to teach youngsters improvisation and self-discovery while everyone enjoys a really good time; the dynamic duo is committed to inspiring, empowering, and motivating students through music, a commitment shared by DCCA through its AIE programming.
Seeing a way to move through the unknown to achieve its goals remains a struggle, but by going back to school, DCCA continues to move forward in this era of not knowing what comes next; the organization’s commitment to enriching local lives through the arts remains as strong as ever. Arts In Education reaches youngsters who otherwise may have little exposure to the benefits provided by experiencing the talents of gifted artists, thereby engendering a new generation of arts lovers who will help keep the arts alive in our community forever.