November 12, 2012

Jessica Pope
Communications and Media Relations Coordinator

Grant Allows College of the Arts to Expand Activities for Area Youth

VALDOSTA — An Arts Education in American Communities grant from the National Endowment for the Arts will help Valdosta State University continue and expand its College of the Arts Outreach Activities for Youth.

Jacque Wheeler, professor and head of the Theatre and Dance Area, applied for and received the $10,000 grant. In her application, she noted that the funds will be used to both increase understanding of the arts for area youth and to provide live cultural experiences in the arts for youth who live in rural, underserved areas.

Theatre for Youth

Valdosta State University Theatre and Dance will open kids up to the possibilities of who they could be — not who they should be — when it presents “Free To Be … You And Me,” the 2012-2013 Theatre for Youth production. Performances are scheduled for the general public at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, and 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 2, in Sawyer Theatre on the first floor of the Fine Arts Building. Then the group will go on tour.

“We generally do 15 to 20 tour performances,” Wheeler shared. “There will be two public performances. The other performances will be at school locations or at arts centers in various communities around Valdosta.”    

Based on the book by Marlo Thomas and Friends, “Free To Be … You And Me” takes life-enhancing themes and combines them with music and humor to help kids view the world and its endless possibilities. It expands their personal horizons and then enables them to create their own futures — without limitations. Along the way, it dispels some old constraints and worn-out conventions.

Wheeler said the goal of the annual Theatre for Youth productions is to expose kids in the rural South Georgia area to live theatrical performances. At the same time, the participating actors, actresses, and production team members talk to the attendees about the importance of post-secondary education and share lessons specific to the production.

“The students are excited and engaged by the performances,” she continued. “We provide educational materials for pre- and post-performance activities. Many, many places ask us to return, which speaks to the popularity and educational value of the performances.”

Theatres for Youth productions are primarily geared toward elementary school boys and girls, in kindergarten through the fifth grade. Wheeler estimated that this year’s show will reach an audience of 6,500 people.     

VSU has a long tradition of serving the kids of South Georgia and North Florida by bringing live theatrical events to them. The College of the Arts has offered Theatre for Youth productions for over 30 years, Wheeler noted.

“We intend to continue the long history of presenting plays for young audiences,” she said. “It is a service to our region and part of our commitment to outreach activities in our community. It also assists in the academic preparation of our Bachelor of Fine Arts students by offering another unique performance opportunity.”

Youth Concert Series

The Valdosta Symphony Orchestra will present the second in its 2012-2013 Youth Concert Series at 10 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 16, in the Fine Arts Building’s Whitehead Auditorium. The performance will feature four French horn soloists presenting a piece by Robert Schumann and a piece by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A full house of over 700 students and teachers is expected.

Dr. Doug Farwell, interim head of VSU’s Department of Music, executive director of the Valdosta Symphony Orchestra, and professor of music-trombone, said schools from around South Georgia are invited to attend Youth Concert Series events. The majority of participants come from the Valdosta City and Lowndes County school systems. However, he has also welcomed schools from Brooks, Cook, Tift, Coffee, Thomas, Berrien, and Echols counties, as well as from the Florida border towns of Madison and Jennings.

“Our goal,” he explained, “is to enhance the educational opportunities for young children in our region by providing free symphony concerts so they can experience hearing a live professional orchestra and learn about the literature for this group and experience the joy of music. There are very few or no string programs in most of the schools in our region, so this is the only opportunity many of the students have to hear and see an orchestra.”

Prior to each youth concert, Farwell said that participating schools receive a packet of information — a CD and other listening and educational materials — that can be used by the teachers in their lesson plans to prepare the students for the concert.

During each youth concert, Farwell said the instruction continues, as the students are asked questions about what they hear and see.

After each youth concert, Farwell said that Dr. Howard Hsu, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra conductor and music director, or the guest conductor, and any featured soloists host a question-and-answer session with the students.

“We give four youth concerts and one family concert each year,” he continued. “We average around 500 students for each concert, for a yearly total of 2,500 students. The Valdosta Symphony Orchestra has now played for over 50,000 students in its 23-year history.”

The youth and family concerts are primarily geared toward students in elementary and middle school, kindergarten through the eighth grade.

The Valdosta Symphony Orchestra’s family concert — featuring artwork created in real time to Claude Debussy’s “La Mer” — will be held at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 27, 2013. Children 18 years of age and younger will be admitted free of charge with a paying adult ($15).

Upcoming Youth Concert Series performances include “The Creation” by Joseph Haydn, featuring vocal soloists and a full choir, at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 8, 2013, and Cleveland Piano Competition winner Alexander Schimpf playing Johannes Brahms’ “Piano Concerto No. 2” at 10 a.m. on Friday, April 26.

The College of the Arts Outreach was established in 1987. Its mission is to serve the 48 Georgia counties in VSU’s service region.

Contact Jacque Wheeler at (229) 333-5829 or to learn more about the grant or theatre for youth performances or Dr. Doug Farwell at (229) 333-5804 or to learn more about the youth concerts.