Darke County Center for the Arts is moving forward even while seeking different ways to achieve its mission. That is also true of performing artists who want and need to continue doing the work they love. Two of those artists recently performed for students in Darke County and Greenville City Schools; however, they did not travel to our community in person to present a live show in front of a live audience. Instead, Sean Johnson and Robert Post used their creative skills to innovate a different way to reach out, coming into classrooms virtually during the past couple of weeks to demonstrate their talents and communicate their messages of hope and inspiration.
Sean Johnson brought his Big Band Experience to local junior high students, his inventive energy and verve shining through to connect with an audience that he could not see or hear. The charismatic singer explained that filming the performance on a sound stage feels different, the lack of a palpable energy exchange between artist and audience forcing the performer to draw on himself to generate that mystical connection.
Interspersed between a broad variety of appealing songs, Sean and other musicians talked about their jobs. The alto sax player explained that each instrument in the horn section has its own role to play, sometimes taking the lead while at other times acting as a voice in the choir, making its unique contribution to the whole. After stating that his instrument was the coolest in the band, the drummer said that his drum set is very much like an orchestra, ten instruments projecting one voice while setting the rhythm for the entire group to create the beat that can make you dance to the music or march to it.
In addition to fronting his big band, Sean also performs with award-winning a cappella group Tonic Sol-Fa, a project the versatile performer began while attending St. John’s University in central Minnesota, and which has continued to earn popularity throughout the U.S. and Canada by innovating new ways to achieve it’s musical aims. Sean explained to students that by looking for different ways to do what you love to do, you can keep moving forward towards reaching hoped-for goals, a system that continues to work even when nothing is “normal.”
Comedian Robert Post delivered a similar message in his virtual performance of “How to Survive Middle School” which was streamed to—well, local middle-schoolers, advising the youngsters to keep moving towards whatever makes you you, even during the confusing, awkward, in-between period of growing-up known as adolescence. Post, whose one-man variety show has captivated audiences around the world struggled mightily in middle school; the now highly successful performer talks about his own miserable experiences plus his successes as he discovered the joys of theatre at Ohio State University, leading to a career in the arts that has spanned over ten decades.
The show itself features videos of middle-school students giving voice to their fears, concerns, hopes, and dreams, as well as teachers underscoring their concern for the youngsters as they live through this confusing experience. These are interspersed with Post’s silly, entertaining skits as well as straightforward messages reinforcing the message that, although those very traits may create problems in middle school, something unique and amazing exists within all of us. Surprisingly, watching Post performing a tango with red long johns directly connects to kids dealing with social media and state-mandated testing and the drama of life as a middle-schooler; the message that what makes you different can be an advantage in finding your true self comes through loud and clear. The concept is reinforced when the skilled artist juggles three sticks in amazing patterns to demonstrate how a healthy imagination and hard work can create wondrous results.
April Hoying, Director of Curriculum at Darke County Educational Service Center, asserts that DCCA’s willingness to pivot from its usual structure to present these high quality performances is greatly appreciated by educators and students alike. She sees DCCA continuing to move forward during these trying times, overcoming obstacles, discovering new ways to enrich lives through the arts.
Marilyn Delk is the former executive director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.