WMU News

Michigan's top high school fine arts students gather at WMU

April 27, 1999

KALAMAZOO -- Over 1,000 of the state's finest young artists will gather Thursday through Saturday, May 6-8, for the 37th annual Michigan Youth Arts Festival at Western Michigan University.

The festival honors Michigan high school students gifted in the areas of dance, drama, instrumental and vocal music, visual arts, creative writing, and film/video.

Unique to the state of Michigan, the festival began in 1963 as simple talent screening of young musicians. Today, it is a comprehensive arts spectacular, culminating a nine-month search for the finest artistic talent in Michigan high schools.

More than 60,000 students across the state become involved in the adjudication process that results in over 1,000 students being invited to participate in the annual three-day festival. This is the fifteenth year that WMU has played host to this event, which is sponsored in part through funding from the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs; National City Bank; NBD Bank, A Bank 1 Company of Michigan; Psi Iota Xi, Eta Omicron Chapter; Howard Printing; Plainwell Paper; Siegfried Crandall Vos & Lewis; Jays Foods; D & W Food Centers; the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Michigan; and WMU.

Honorary chairperson of this year's festival is Betty Boone, executive director of the Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs, a position she has held since 1991. Prior to that she had been on staff with the former Michigan Council for the Arts since 1980, serving in a variety of capacities ranging from grant program coordination to management of the council's grant program office. The daughter of internationally renown Washington, D.C., artist, John N. Robinson, Sr., Boone has also been a community development consultant and is the former chairperson of the state and regional Program Panel for the National Endowment for the Arts.

The outstanding students attending the festival will share their talents with their peers and the public through performances and exhibitions. In addition, part of the participant's experience while at the festival includes educational workshops and clinics offered by professional artists including Dr. Anton Armstrong, Conductor and Professor of Music at St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minnesota, and Conductor of the St. Olaf Choir, a position he assumed in 1990; Terry Blackhawk, poetry, and Peter Marcus, fiction; Kathryn Vander, of Vander Films, Detroit who will teach the film/video workshop; and faculty members from the WMU Departments of Art and Theatre, teaching a variety of workshops.

This year's artist-in residence is Jack O'Brien, artistic director of the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego and an award-winning Broadway director. Recent Globe productions directed by O'Brien include the world premieres of A.R. Gurney's "Labor Day," and Tina Howe's "Pride's Crossing" as well as Shakespeare's "Othello." His New York productions include "The Little Foxes"and "Hapgood," which won theLucille Lortel Award for Direction in 1995, both for Lincoln Center. He also received Tony award nominations for directing "Two Shakespearean Actors" and "Damn Yankees" and he directed "Porgy and Bess" for the Houston Grand Opera and Broadway, which received the Tony for best revival. O'Brien has directed "Most Happy Fella" in Detroit and on Broadway, "Street Scene" for the New York City Opera, "Tosca" for the Santa Fe Opera, and "The Magic Flute" in San Francisco. His television credits include "An Enemy of the People," "All My Sons," "I Never Sang for My Father," "Painting Churches" and "The Skin of Our Teeth," all for PBS' American Playhouse. O'Brien, who was born and raised in Saginaw will address performance and creative writing students and teach interdisciplinary workshops during the festival.

The festival also provides a forum for honoring and recognizing 17 outstanding educators in the arts fields. Those to be honored as "Teacher of the Year" and the organizations that will be presenting the awards are: Michigan Are Education Association -- Mary Park from Edison Elementary School in Detroit; American String Teachers Association -- Kay DeLuca from Davisburg; Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association -- Bob Koger from St. John's High School whose production of "Guys and Dolls" was selected as one of two theatre entries at the festival, and Dorothy Arnett, director of Youtheatre for the Bay City Players.

Michigan Music Teachers Association -- Annie Chang Leong of Kalamazoo; Michigan Council of Teachers of English -- Dawn McDuffie from Mumford High School in Detroit; Michigan School Vocal Music Association -- Robert A. Martin, choral conductor at Southfield-Lathrup High School in Lathrup Village; Detroit Area Film and Television -- Annette Alexander Frank, president of Detroit Area Film & Video; Very Special Arts Michigan -- L.J. Cavanaugh, director of arts and human services at the Midland Center for the Art; Michigan Dance Council -- Babetta Davids, dance education specialist for the Big Rapids Public Schools, and Nancy Baum, who has taught privately for 43 years in Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Michigan; Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association -- Lloyd Whitehead, director of bands from Ida, Mich., and Carl Gippert, instrumental music teacher from the Farmington Hills School System, who will also serve as guest conductors for the Saturday afternoon Band and Orchestra performances in Miller Auditorium.

ArtServe Michigan, in conjunction with The Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network and the National Association of School Associations is honoring the Berkley School District the School Board of the Year. Marc Katz, president of the board will accept the award. Keith H. Birdsall, director of the Center for Arts and Sciences in Saginaw has been named Outstanding Arts Administrator; Chris VanAntwerp from the Kentwood School District as Outstanding Educator of the Year; and Robert H. Luscombe, retiring dean of the College of Fine Arts at WMU as the Arts Advocate of the Year.

A total of 110 award-winning visual arts works will be on display along with 35 works selected from Very Special Arts Michigan in the Multi-Media Room of the Dalton Center. The exhibition will be open to the public 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, May 6 and 7, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 8. This exhibit includes the 30 pieces in the Governor's Traveling Show; and the top 18 pieces that are selected for special recognition.

Public performance events begin on Friday with a performance of "A Midsummer Night's Dream," performed by Holland High School at 1p.m. in Shaw Theatre, while vocal ensembles will hold their performances in the Dalton Center Recital Hall from 1-4 p.m. Public performances continue Friday evening at 6:30 with the String Ensemble performance in the Grand Tier Lobby of Miller Auditorium followed at 7 p.m. with choir performances, Teacher and Administrator-of-the-Year recognition, and the Metropolitan Youth Symphony Orchestra with the outstanding soloists on the stage at Miller Auditorium. Also, Friday evening, the public is invited to selected poetry readings beginning at 9:15 p.m. in Shaw Theatre followed by a repeat performance of the Holland High School theatre production. In the same period on Friday evening, film and video winners will present their work in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall.

Saturday begins with a Dance Concert in Shaw Theatre at 10:30 a.m. followed MSBOA Instrumental Collage/Honors Chamber String Ensemble in the Dalton Center Recital Hall at 11:30. At 1 p.m. a performance of "Guys and Dolls" by St. John's High School will be staged in Shaw Theatre. The film/video showing repeats at 1 p.m. in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall. In the Dalton Center Recital Hall the vocal soloists' performance begins at 1:30 p.m., followed by the All-Michigan Choir at 3:30 p.m.

The festival concludes with the All-Michigan Instrumental Ensembles in Miller Auditorium at 2:15 p.m., featuring the All-Michigan Honors Orchestra, All-Michigan Jazz Ensemble, and the All-Michigan Honors Band. Festival passes for all public events are available for $15 at festival headquarters in the Dalton Center Lobby. Single events tickets are $5 and will be on sale 30 minutes prior to each event in the lobby where the performance takes place. There is no admission charge to view the Visual Arts Exhibit.

The festival is governed by a board consisting of representatives from the Michigan Department of Education and professional arts-in-education organizations and associations. In addition to those listed as honoring teachers of the year, they include: Interlochen Center for the Arts, Michigan Federation of Music Clubs, Education for the Arts and WMU.

For more information, please contact the WMU College of Fine Arts at (616) 387-5811.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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