WMU News

Young artists to gather for Michigan Youth Arts Festival

April 28, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- More than 700 of the state's finest young artists will gather Thursday through Saturday, May 7-9, for the 36th 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 a 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 the more than 700 students being invited to participate in the annual three-day festival. This is the 14th 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, WMU, NBD Bank, First of America Bank, the Eta Omicron chapter of Psi Iota Xi, Oliver and Tobias Printing, Plainwell Paper, Siegfried Crandall Vos & Lewis, Jays Foods, D&W Foods and the Coca-Cola Bottling Co.

Marilyn Wheaton, director of Detroit's Department of Cultural Affairs, has been named honorary chairperson of the 1998 festival. She has a lifetime of experience promoting the arts in Michigan. For nearly a decade she led two advocacy groups, the Concerned Citizens for the Arts and the Arts Action Alliance. She continues to volunteer her time and talents with numerous arts and cultural organizations at the local, state and national level.

Publisher and poet Naomi Long Madgett has been named artist-in-residence for the festival. Madgett's writing career began with the publication of her first book shortly after she graduated from high school. Since then she has been the driving force behind Lotus Press, one of the nation's premiere publishers of the poetry of African Americans. Her work has been chronicled in the film, "A Poet's Voice," based on her book, "Poetry from Octavia and Other Poems." During the festival, Madgett will work with the young artists across all disciplines, sharing her medium and her voice.

The outstanding students attending the festival will share their talents with their peers and the public through performances and exhibits. In addition, the students will participate in educational workshops and clinics offered by professional artists in their field. Instrumental music clinics will be offered by members of the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra and creative writing workshops will be taught by Madgett, poet Terry Blackhawk and fiction writer Peter Marcus. Dwight Smith, who coordinated the feature artists for the Madgett film, will offer art workshops along with faculty members from the WMU Department of Art. Kathryn Vander of Vander Films will teach the film/video workshop.

The festival also provides a forum for honoring and recognizing outstanding high school 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 Art Education Association -- Diane Kordich, a faculty member in the Department of Art and Design at Northern Michigan University; American String Teachers Association -- Alan MacNair, a teacher at Troy High School; Michigan Interscholastic Forensic Association -- Pauline I. Lakanen of Negaunee, a teacher of speech and English and the drama and forensics director at Westwood High School in Ishpeming, and Suzann E. Lombardo, drama/speech teacher at Midland High School; Michigan Music Teachers Association -- Jean E. Hull of Lansing; Michigan Council of Teachers of English -- Kathryn D. Kercher, English department head at Berkley High School;

Michigan School Vocal Music Association -- Virginia L. Anderson-Kerwin, choral conductor at Big Rapids High School; Detroit Area Film and Television -- Dr. Donna Learmont, video teacher at Lahser High School in Bloomfield Hills; Very Special Arts Michigan -- Millie A. Stachowski, teacher and consultant for the Hamtramck Public Schools; Michigan Dance Council -- Thomas R. Morrell, private studio teacher from Traverse City, and Melissa Miller-Poli, dance teacher from Detroit Kettering High School; Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association -- Gerald A. Woolfolk, director of bands for the Dexter Community Schools, and Jan Z. Burchman, orchestra director for Chippewa and Kinawa Middle Schools, who also will serve as guest conductors for the Saturday afternoon band and orchestra performances in Miller Auditorium.

In addition, ArtServe Michigan is honoring four state legislators as "Art Advocates of the Year": Sen. John Schwarz of Battle Creek; Sen. Gary Peters of Pontiac; Rep. Samuel "Buzz" Thomas III of Detroit; and Rep. Jon Jellema of Grand Haven. ArtServe Michigan also is honoring two "Administrators of the Year": Dr. David Dresslar, superintendent of the Jenison Public Schools; and Dr. Linda Ayres, principal at Commerce Elementary School in the Walled Lake Consolidated School District.

The festival will begin with a display of 113 award-winning visual arts pieces and 10 works selected from Very Special Arts Michigan in the Dalton Center Multi-Media Room. The exhibition will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. Friday, May 8, and from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 9. 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 will begin at 1 p.m. Friday with a production of "The Insanity of Mary Girard" by Holland High School in Shaw Theatre. Vocal ensembles also will perform from 1 to 4 p.m. Friday in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

Events continue Friday evening with a 6:30 p.m. string ensemble performance in the Grand Tier lobby of Miller Auditorium followed at 7 p.m. with choir performances, "Teacher of the Year" recognition and the Detroit Symphony Civic Orchestra with outstanding soloists on the stage at Miller. In addition, the public is invited to selected poetry readings at 9:15 p.m. in Shaw Theatre followed by a repeat performance of the Holland High School theatre production. Also from 9:15 to 10:15 p.m. Friday, the film and video winners will present their work in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall.

Events on Saturday, May 10, begin with a dance concert at 10:30 a.m. in Shaw Theatre, followed by a performance of "Runaways" by Royal Oak's Kimball High School at 1 p.m. The film/video showing repeats at 1 p.m. in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall. The Michigan School Band and Orchestra Association Instrumental Collage/Honors Chamber String Ensemble performs at 11:30 a.m. and the vocal soloists perform at 1:30 p.m. in the Dalton Center Recital Hall.

The festival concludes Saturday with the All-Michigan Instrumental Ensembles at 2:15 p.m. in Miller Auditorium. The concert will feature the All-Michigan Honors Orchestra, All-Michigan Jazz Ensemble and All-Michigan Honors Band.

Festival passes for all events are available for $15 at Festival Headquarters in the Dalton Center lobby. Single event 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 are: Interlochen Center for the Arts; Michigan Federation of Music Clubs; ArtServe Michigan; and WMU.

For more information, persons may contact the WMU College for Fine Arts at (616) 387-5811.

Media contacts: Ruth Stevens; ruth.stevens@wmich.edu

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