Nov. 15, 2013. School buses lining Rivers Street, in the heart of Appalachian State University’s campus, will be a frequent sight in the coming weeks and months as students fill the seats of the newly renovated Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
Throughout this school year, students and their teachers from K-12 classrooms across the region will experience everything from high energy acrobatics to literary classics brought to life through professional theatrical productions.
The performances are all part of the newly launched “APPlause!” Series, an integral part of the university’s Performing Arts Series. Performances feature university-based artists as well as local, regional and world-renowned professional artists. This affordable series offers K-12 students access to a wide variety of art disciplines.
Upcoming performances include Dickens’ classic holiday play A Christmas Carol, River North Dance Chicago’s performance of Street-Beat-Dance Throughout the Decades, The Billy Jonas Band, a special screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Montany Repertory Theatre’s production of The Miracle Worker. All of the morning and mid-day matinee performances will take place in the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts.
Christy Chenausky, director of arts education and outreach for the university’s cultural affairs area, notes that the essential mission of the program is to connect university arts resources to a diverse audience of community arts patrons, teachers and learners in the campus community, and in the public, private and home school network cross our region.
“The program strives to broaden and deepen arts experiences for audiences of all ages while ensuring access to the performing and visual arts for young audiences, building future audiences for the arts and inspiring a love of learning through the arts,” she explains.
While the university’s arts programming has been focused on arts education and outreach for many years, it expanded the reach of its program starting last summer, when Chenausky was hired as the full-time director of the program. With additional support from the university’s Public School Partnership of the Reich College of Education, which sends student teachers into schools across nine surrounding school districts, the arts education program broadened its target audience beyond Watauga County to serve Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Burke, Caldwell and Wilkes Counties, as well as the Elkin City Schools.
As part of the program’s design, students from the Reich College of Education have the opportunity to view a field trip in action without having to leave campus. University students are welcome to attend performances and serve as volunteer ushers.
In order to make the most out of the students’ visit to campus, study guide materials are provided online with the help from the education librarians from the Belk Library and Information Commons. These materials assist teachers in preparing students for the performances they’ll be seeing and in using the performance as an important opportunity for learning.
Rounding out the APPlause! Series programming is an additional element: exposing students in grades K-12 to life on a university campus, and encouraging them to think about college as an important part of their futures. Working with the North Carolina Appalachian Collaborative for Higher Education (NCACHE), Chenausky and her colleagues coordinate closely with the NCACHE staff to arrange campus tours, offering a taste of the dynamic atmosphere and excitement offered on a university campus. Tours often include lunch in the Central Dining Hall and visits to venues such as the Plemmons Student Union and the Turchin Center for the Visual Arts.
Now in full swing, the APPlause! K-12 Performing Arts Series is already enjoying positive feedback from teachers, principals, parents and students. According to Paige Hoffman, a teacher with Freedom Trail Elementary School in Elk Park, whose first grade class attended the recent performance by the Steely Pan Band, “It was a wonderful experience for our students. Exposing them to the arts, diversity and higher educational setting enriches their lives.”
More than 8,000 students and teachers from the region’s K-12 public, private and home schools are expected to attend APPlause! performances this school year.
Seats for upcoming performances are still available and registration is open for A Christmas Carol on Tuesday, Dec. 3 at noon. This classic story is brought to life by one of Virginia’s most respected Children’s theatre companies, Theatre IV. Tickets for River North Dance Chicago, The Billy Jonas Band and Montana Repertory Theatre’s production of The Miracle Worker are still available. Affordable performance fees ranging from $1-$5 are offered for each event in the series.