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Arts in Education: Fostering student development through amazing performances

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From February 24 through 26, there will be a showing of the play Almost Maine in Fort Collins. Written by John Cariani and set in the fictitious Maine town of Almost, this play follows one extraordinary night in the lives of nineteen townspeople. Named one of the top ten plays of 2004-2005, it is bound to be a great show.

What is more exciting about this production, though, is not just the play itself but the people putting it on. The students at Poudre High School have taken on the challenge of performing Almost Maine, and the payoff is sure to be huge. Cariani, an accomplished actor himself, made sure his play was both challenging and rewarding to its performers. This particular production is no exception, as only six students will be playing the roles of all nineteen characters. This really demonstrates their talent, hard work, and dedication, their young age aside. Considered the school’s “varsity” show, Almost Maine certainly boasts a lot of talent.

We know that the arts can have a huge impact on students. Learning to be creative, to express oneself through a positive medium, and to work as a team fosters both professional and social growth. But involvement in the arts also helps students out academically. According to a study by the National School Boards Association and Americans for the Arts in 2004, the arts are vital to education completion and contribute to a rising in student achievement. Students who participated in the arts were found to be 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools, and 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance, to name just a few points.

Studies also show that early involvement in the arts is helpful, too. And thanks to Suna Thomas, middle school students in Fort Collins can be active in the arts through music as well. In November, we found out about a band Suna helped form at Kinard Middle School that was creating places for kids to play instruments not always covered in school bands and orchestras (http://beetstreet.org/blog/?p=1180). With a unique blend of guitars, bass, drums, and electric instruments, the Kinard Middle School House Band has gained some serious popularity, playing at a Colorado Eagles game and at Art Lab Fort Collins. Suna has now founded the Kids Create the Music Foundation, an organization that helps encourage music in schools on the student’s terms. Allowing the students themselves to pursue their craft and learn through the arts is an amazing accomplishment.

Both at the junior high and high school level, students are getting more involved in the arts. They are challenging themselves in their own disciplines, creating music, performances, and art with as much talent as any professional. And while students gain advantages through arts education, they are also playing a vital role in the Fort Collins community. The entertainment and opportunity they provide for viewers and peers is fostering continuous growth in our town.

Students often go on after graduation to become accomplished in many professions, and few will follow careers in the arts. However, what they are learning and contributing right now through their involvement in the arts is invaluable. It is what helps build the accomplished future that they strive for.

Be sure to check out Almost Maine:
Where: Poudre High School, 201 S. Impala St.
When: February 24-26, 7:00pm
Tickets: $8 regular price, $6 student price.
Visit http://www.Showtix4u.com or call (970) 488-6212 for more ticket info.

For more information on the Kinard Middle School House Band and Kids Create the Music Foundation, please visit www.kidscreatethemusic.org.

Encouraging talent in our schools: help support Fort Collins’ first student house band!

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We all have probably heard of the importance of music in schools. Students who study music are opened up to a world of creativity that can enhance learning in other subjects. Our own Poudre School District in Fort Collins offers various music programs to its students, including extracurricular opportunities for bands and choirs, but there is one group going above and beyond to showcase musical talent in our schools.

Over one year ago, Suna Thomas and staff members from Kinard Middle School noticed that many students had musical talents but were unable to play in traditional school bands. Some kids had been playing instruments such as guitar and bass for many years, but had no outlet for their creativity and talent within the school system. With the support of the Fort Collins community, the hopes of Suna and many students became a reality- one month ago, Kinard Middle School formed the Poudre School District’s first “House Band.”

Auditions were held, and 7 students were picked to participate in this unique music program. Instruments include guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, electric drums, and even electric violin. Instructor David Parsons leads the House Band, and holds rehearsal twice a week. Not only do the band members regularly show up to practice, which is held before classes begin in the morning, according to Suna they often show up early, and enthusiastically get in as much play time as they can. That is serious dedication!

And all the hard work is definitely beginning to pay off for these kids. The Kinard Middle School House Band is generating a ton of buzz in Fort Collins, earning support from the Fort Collins Music Association, Colorado Contemporary Music College, Shaped Music, Chipper’s Lanes, Valpak, and Northern Colorado radio station KISS FM. Even local music instructors and lots of music stores around town have lent tremendous support. The response to the House Band in such a short period of time demonstrates both the student’s amazing musical ability and the willingness of organizations and individuals in Fort Collins to step up and support aspiring musicians.

We look forward to hearing more from these students in the coming months. There is work to be done as the House Band continues to perfect their sound, and as the program seeks to gain more support through events and fundraisers. There is a huge need for us to foster musical endeavors such as these as they get off the ground. As Suna noted, “no one has ever done this before.” The ability of everyone at Kinard Middle School to build this program organically is truly impressive, and deserves the continuing support of Fort Collins.

The ultimate goal of the House Band program is to encourage students in their chosen activities, even when they do not fit into the “typical” system of school extracurriculars. Suna said, “We hope that the success that is achieved at Kinard will be a catalyst for others to follow in our footsteps and give more of these type of talented kids the same opportunity to be recognized.” Just imagine how it must feel for any student to know that their own interests are supported and encouraged by their own community.

Check out the Kinard Middle School House Band’s amazing musical talent here!  You can also see them play live early next year, as they have been invited to perform during intermission at a Colorado Eagles game! Beet Street will be keeping you updated on event details as this program continues to grow.

If you would like more information on how you can support the House Band program, please contact us here at Beet Street. After all, recognizing talents of all kinds is vital to inspiring true creativity and learning.