Throughout W.H. Keister Elementary School and Harrisonburg High School’s music and drama departments, there’s buzz about the upcoming Creation Recital. From running lines on stage to learning ukulele chords in the classroom, students are endlessly practicing and preparing their works of art. On May 22 at 6 p.m., students will perform original songs and dramatic scenes at JMU’s Forbes Center for the Performing Arts.
Every couple years, local schools of all levels have the chance to be a part of the Creation Recital, in which students of all ages share with the community a diverse selection of work created within the classroom. In this recital, fifth grade students from W.H. Keister will be performing songs they’ve written within groups during their music classes. Individual songwriters at Harrisonburg High School and students participating in drama classes will also showcase their pieces.
“I got a grant through the Harrisonburg Education Foundation to get a class set of ukuleles so the students have been learning very easy chords,” Margaret Hagy, the music teacher at Keister Elementary School, said. “I think a couple of them might play but they get really nervous about playing in front of people, so I’ll probably play guitar with them and then they will sing their songs. I’ve helped them with the chord progressions, but they wrote all of the words and some of the tunes themselves, so it’ll be a collaboration.”
In preparation for a performance on a scale much bigger than most elementary school students have been involved in, Hagy also models the songwriting process by first choosing a theme. Then, she asks her students to each write a line pertaining to this theme and sings each line back to them in song form. This has encouraged her students to come up with their own themes and formulate songs to sing during the recital, all while learning performance etiquette. While they’re nervous about performing in front of others, Hagy encourages them to put forth their best effort and be creative.
“I think so many times we have ideas and we’re so afraid to share them because of the other,” Hagy said, “And the other could be a person in the class or the audience that’s listening to us or our teacher or something. It’s really important for them to see that there is a space dedicated solely for arts, music, visual, dance and theatre, one block away from their school where students have dedicated their lives to study creation and that is an opportunity for them if they wish to do that.”
At Harrisonburg High School, the advanced drama class has spent its last few weeks preparing for the recital by writing an original play focused on the idea of family to present to its younger costars. The students have practiced improvisation, participated in writing exercises during class time and will feature their own creative costumes in the show. The class agreed that since the recital is based upon “Creation,” it’d be best to write its own script of a children’s story while including improvisation. Stanley Schwartz, the drama teacher at Harrisonburg High School, expresses that his students are excited and ready to perform collaboratively on a professional stage.
“To me, it’s extremely important because if they’re going to have art in their lives that’s what they’ve got to learn and that’s what they enjoy,” Schwartz said. “They enjoy the collaboration, they enjoy the creativity and it’s one of the few classes where we can combine everything about the student. We combine their body and mind and creativity and everything about them.”
Following the Creation Recital, the Forbes Center will be holding a series of other performances by Harrisonburg High School and neighboring schools on May 23-24. The events are made free to the public by HCPS so that no family or community member is unable to attend their child’s performances.
“One of the purposes of this special is to do as much combination of levels and programs as possible,” J.R. Snow, the Fine Arts Coordinator and Academy Director, said. “It’s not just a choir concert or just a band concert or just a drama production but we actually mix it up a little bit so students’ perspective is opened up.”
Showcasing every students talents, the Creation Recital will aim to please a variety of styles. The students of W.H. Keister Elementary, Harrisonburg High School and others prove to be important members of this growing artistic community. From a young age, students can continue to thrive in their creative abilities, becoming lifelong artists.
“I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities we have is for students to really share their art outside of their home and school and their circle,” Snow said. “It brings a comfort to them and gives an opportunity for students to really shine in ways that they didn’t know were possible.”
Contact Traci Rasdorf at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter @Breeze_Culture.