Photo by Sue Suchyta
Members of the O. L. Smith Middle School Orchestra , directed by Eric Shea, play Jacques Offenbach’s “Can Can” April 16 during Dearborn’s 2014 Youth in Arts Festival Collage Performance at the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center.
By SUE SUCHYTA
DEARBORN – Visual and performing artists filled the Ford Community & Performing Arts Center April 16 as hundreds of public school students showcased talent at the annual Youth in Arts Festival.
The festival, featuring a citywide student art show and an instrumental, vocal and theater collage concert, gives students an opportunity to display their art and to see what other students in the district are doing as well, which inspires them, said Emma Jean Woodyard, executive director of the Dearborn Community Fund.
The DCF is a non-profit organization that supports arts, cultural and recreational programs to enhance the city’s quality of life and vibrancy. It co-sponsored the 2014 Youth in Arts Festival with the Dearborn Public Schools, Henry Ford Community College and the Dearborn Community Arts Council, a non-profit umbrella organization that facilitates, encourages and supports 40 individual area arts and cultural organizations.
Over 400 pieces of student artwork are on display through May 28 in the Padzieski Gallery, and 240 students performed April 16 in the collage concert onstage in the Michael A. Guido Theater.
“You know, it just is amazing to me the talent that is there, and to see the smiles,” Woodyard said. “The kids are so excited to be part of something like this. It is special.”
She said the participation of multiple schools in the district challenges students to raise the performance level at their own school.
Performing groups include the Elementary and Secondary Honors Choirs, and the Dearborn Youth Symphony Flute Choir, with members representing multiple area schools.
School performing groups, which rotate annually, included O. L. Smith Middle School band and orchestra, and the drummers of the Maples Arabic Music Ensemble.
Also performing were the Dearborn High School 10th-grade band and saxophone quartet, the Fordson High School jazz choir and Edsel Ford High School thespians performing “I Won’t Grow Up” from “Peter Pan.”
Blue Fusion, a vocal jazz ensemble from HFCC performed, followed by the combined groups and audience closing the concert with “America the Beautiful.”
Donna Kutylowski-Czeski of Dearborn, whose daughter plays with the Dearborn Youth Symphony and their flute choir, was thrilled to hear her daughter perform and is pleased she has an opportunity to be a part of the group.
“It was absolutely fabulous,” Kutylowski-Czeski said. “It is a fantastic opportunity. I am just so glad that she is a part of it. She is a part of the team and she is just playing her flute so well. We couldn’t be more proud.”
Aurelia Czeski, 14, a freshman at Divine Child High School, said being with the group gives her a chance to develop more friendships with other musicians and to grow musically.
Greg and Christina Viscomi, whose daughters Adriana and Maria performed with the Elementary Honors Choir and the DHS 10th-grade band, respectively, said it is great the way the collage concert brings all the students together.
“The kids don’t often have an opportunity to meet in this kind of setting the kids from the other schools,” Christina Viscomi said. “They know the kids from their own schools but they don’t always know the kids from the other schools, and it is nice to see them play together.”
“It was a nice event, and I hope they continue to do it each year,” Greg Viscomi said.
Kevin and Teresa Barnes of Detroit, whose son Zachary sings with HFCC Blue Fusion, enjoyed hearing him and others perform.
“I thought there was a lot of talent from very young to the older ones,” Teresa Barnes said. “I thought that it was a wonderful experience to see the different things that they all could do.”
Kevin Barnes thought his son and all the student performers did a good job.
“All the different kids that were there were wonderful,” he said. “It was a wonderful experience.”
EFHS theater director Robert Doyle was glad his thespians were included and performed well.
“Pleased as punch with my kids as always,” Doyle said. “They work really hard and it is nice to be a part of the program here. It is always fun to be included in the wonderful arts that we have in Dearborn.”
Students said they enjoyed the opportunity to perform and the support Dearborn demonstrates for the arts.
Molly O’Brien, 10, a fifth-grader at Snow Elementary School in the Elementary Honors Choir, enjoyed the performance experience and being able to sing with her friends.
“It was exhilarating, but I wasn’t really that nervous because I saw my cousin in the crowd, and she gave me confidence,” O’Brien said. “I saw everyone I knew in the crowd.”
Blue Fusion member Katherine Lieblang was pleased to see enthusiasm for music among the young performers.
“I thought it was really inspiring to see kids who really enjoy music so much and are striving to carry on traditions like that,” Lieblang said. “It is super cool. I hope that we inspired the kids to be able to do vocal jazz, because it is not something that a lot of people do any more. It is super fun. I think that this is a great opportunity and I am really glad that Dearborn is so invested in the arts.”