JHS Theatre Says, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” in Shrek the Musical

MIII2429Last week the Jenison Thespians amazed audiences with their talent and passion in their performance of Shrek the Musical!

MIII1804The story in the musical version is very similar to the movie from 2001 we all know and love with a few minor changes and song additions. Shrek is an ogre who finds solace in a lonely swamp until it is invaded by ousted fairy tale characters from Lord Farquaad’s kingdom when he deems them “freaks.” But Shrek doesn’t want them either. Preferring his solitude to a overly crowded neighborhood, Shrek visits Farquaad to convince him to take the characters back. Farquaad decides to let Shrek rescue Princess Fiona who has long been trapped by a ferocious dragon in return for his swamp. Along the way, Shrek is saddled with Donkey, a chatty but charming compatriot in his adventure. Fiona is less than impressed with her rescuer and even less so with Farquaad and through a continued series of songs, fun and love, Shrek and Fiona end up together and the fairy tale characters get their new home after all. You could say “they live happily ever after…”

MIII1744Director Todd Avery hopes to spread the message about individuality being accepted and celebrated which is a main theme of the production. “As the song, “Let Your Freak Flag Fly!” indicates, EVERYONE has something “freakish” about them and those traits should be celebrated and not suppressed.  People [or in this case, fairy tale creatures] are different.  However, those differences are a GOOD thing and shouldn’t be judged by others.”

There are many  behind the scenes teams including set design and construction, sound and tech, pit orchestra, costume design, hair and makeup and stage management.  Kelsey Shannon is a senior who is the crew leader for the hair and make up team and enjoys being part of productions and the ability to be yourself. “Nobody’s judged, everyone’s accepting because you share the same passion.”

MIII2136Freshman, Ashley Hillson, playing the role of Princess Fiona loves being part of Jenison Theatre and makes her return to the stage after playing Arial in the Little Mermaid in last year’s Junior High musical. “The friendships you make here are so cool. Rehearsal doesn’t even feel like rehearsal anymore, it’s just everyone hanging out.”

Playing Shrek is senior Jacob Helm who says, “I feel like letting your freak flag fly is really important because it’s letting you show who you truly are, especially in theatre, which is why I think it’s so cool that we’re doing this show.  This is a place where we’re allowed to be who we really are without being judged.”

Ashley adds, “Anytime you are yourself people end up accepting you more and you end up finding  the people who are like you and when you’re yourself you’re a lot happier. No matter what you’re part of, just be willing to stay true to yourself and not feel like you need to be fake or hide.”

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of Shrek! We are proud of your talents and we love letting our freak flag fly!MIII1765

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JH Theatre Tackles Once Upon a Mattress

MIII4394Taking the classic fairy tale, The Princess and the Pea, to another level, Once Upon a Mattress was this year’s Jenison Junior High musical production!

The story centers around 15th century Prince Dauntless and his mother’s ruling that no one in their [imaginary] medieval kingdom shall marry until he does. Despite the fact that Princess Winnifred wins his heart, his mother is less than impressed, something many modern women can relate to as well!  Winnifred is put to the final test of sleeping on a stack of twenty mattresses with a pea and when she wakes disheveled and less than refreshed Prince Dauntless [and the rest of the kingdom] rejoice!  [Of course, there are various antics involved — love never works out just that easily!]

MIII4138But this choice of musical wasn’t just for the fun and silliness of a fairy tale retold. According to Director, Holly Florian, it was also about teaching students about life in the 15th century, gender roles, as well as the importance of speaking up in the face of adversity. “Princess Winnifred is great example of someone who is confident in who she is, despite facing pressure from those around her to meet their expectations for her life [and getting more than a few strange looks from the people around her when she doesn’t meet their expectations]. Her influence allows Prince Dauntless to grow in self-assurance and ultimately to stand up to his overbearing mother and break the curse that has caused so much strain in the kingdom. The fact that one person can have such a powerful influence on the world around them is something that I think everyone can learn from, and a lesson that is especially powerful for the young students that were in this year’s production.”

Junior High students auditioned back in October and have been participating in rigorous rehearsals since early November. Students led crew, lighting, did most of the hair styling and makeup as well as set design and costume changes.

The vocals in Once Upon a Mattress can be extremely challenging and with the ever-changing needs of Junior High students and their voices, it was important for the cast and directors to stay flexible and make changes when needed. Despite those challenges, the cast performed four strong shows, the first time a junior high production has held four! Ms Florian says she is particularly proud of their consistency throughout each performance.

MIII4240The cast also faced the challenge of understanding the mindset of this very different time in the world. One thing that “can be difficult in this show is getting the cast to understand why there is so much frustration over Prince Dauntless needing to be married before anyone else can get married. This is a key point in the story but isn’t necessarily something Jr. High kids can really relate to. During rehearsals we were able to explore the role of marriage in this time period. For the girls, getting married was their only option – without a husband, they had nothing. Once the cast members understood what life was like at this time, it made their expressions and actions on stage easier to understand. One of the coolest things about working on a show is the many opportunities for cross-curricular study and the interesting discussions that result. Acting is not just about randomly selecting a facial expression or reaction or just pretending to be someone else. You have to really understand the whole story in order to make it believable for the audience.”

The show was a success, due in large part to the varied experiences of the cast and crew. Some are involved in community theatre, while others had never set foot on a stage. Ms Florian stresses that students are selected based on their ability to model respect, hard work, the ability to follow directions and have a positive attitude are all equally important in a Jenison production.  And they did not disappoint the staff nor the audiences:  “I think people are always blown away when they see our productions because they can’t believe that the kids are only in Junior High. I’ve always believed that kids this age are capable of just about anything. You just have to set the bar high and give them clear expectations right from the beginning and they will meet – or even exceed – the expectations every time.”

Thank you to all of our cast, crew and staff that came together so amazingly to entertain our community! Your talent and perseverance is inspiring!

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High School Chamber Orchestra Performs with GVSU!

thumb_MIII1290_1024 copyThe fall performance season was enriched by another year of the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra partnership with the Grand Valley State University Symphony Orchestra.
In 2008 Jenison was the first high school orchestra asked to do a side by side concert with Grand Valley and they met up again on the stage of the JCA at the end of October this year.  The entire 70 member GVSU Symphony Orchestra was represented, including all woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The Jenison Chamber Orchestra is an elite musical ensemble made up of the top violin, viola, cello and bass players at Jenison High School.  Students are in 10th – 12th grade and perform a rigorous audition in the spring to be accepted into the ensemble.  Though the size of the group varies it’s roughly 25 students each year.
thumb_MIII1280_1024 copyDirector Dan Scott says, “Jenison students rehearsed in class [while also preparing our fall concert and our performance for the Betty Ford Breast Cancer Awareness Event], but they also had one 90 minute rehearsal with the GVSU Symphony on the day of the concert.”
The concert opened with the brass players from GVSU performing Fanfare from ‘La Peri by Paul Dukas from the balcony.  Included in the GVSU part of the program will also be Mars  from ‘The Planets by Gustav Holst followed by the Jenison Chamber Orchestra performing by themselves.  The GVSU Symphony performed three works by themselves before everyone joined together to perform Night on Bald Mountain by Mussorgsky.
Henry Duitman, GVSU Director of Orchestras explains how the side by side aspect works:  “For the Mussorgsky piece, the GVSU Strings will sit “side by side” with the Jenison High School Chamber Orchestra strings.  This gives younger students a chance to learn from older students and gives the entire string section the full sound that this mighty work requires.  It is a lot of fun for the students as well.  thumb_MIII1269_1024 copyOur students love to perform with the high school students and were especially looking forward to performing in the wonderful new Jenison Center for the Arts.”
Professor Duitman knows that music education is about more than performances and reading music. “This is just one more way of exposing students, parents, and the community to the exciting world of classical music, an important part of any liberal arts education.”
Mr Scott adds that the experience of playing alongside college students has a deep value as well. “This was a wonderful opportunity to learn about continuing to play their instruments in college.  Our students worked with students who are still playing in college while experiencing the musical level and expectations of a college ensemble.   As usual, our students were excellent musicians and people throughout the experience.”
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Thank you to both Mr Scott + Professor Duitman for bringing together these two very talented groups of musicians!  Students, we’re so proud of your talent and hard work!  Keep it up!

JHS Theatre Presents: Oklahoma!

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Once again, the Jenison High School Thespians wowed the community with their talents at this year’s High School Musical:  Oklahoma!  While many younger people may not be familiar with the story of this beloved musical, it was written by Rodgers and Hammerstein and first debuted on Broadway in 1943.  It is set in the Oklahoma Territory in 1906 and tells the story of cowboy Curly McLain and his romance with farm girl Laurey Williams. A secondary romance features cowboy Will Parker and his flirtatious fiancée, Ado Annie.  According to Director, Todd Avery, “This is such a great story with many fun characters and a musical score that is unmatched in American musical theatre history.  This was our first production in the JCA without any “gimmicks” or special effects.  All we had was a wonderful story.  We worked very hard to create characters who were believable and engaging to our audience.”

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Hundreds of students are involved in these annual productions and include the pit orchestra, sound and lighting teams, set construction and design, makeup artists and hair stylists, stage crew and, of course, the actors.  Says Mr Avery, “I am always inspired by my students.  They are eager to learn and try new things.  Aside from myself, some parent assistance, our costume designer, Nancy Korth, and our musical directors, Kim Nagy, Diane Schrems, and Carol Johnson, our program is completely run by our students.  Under adult supervision and guidance, our students and their student crew leaders make costumes, build sets, find and make props, run the lights and design sound for every show.  There are very few theatre programs in Michigan, let alone the country, that can claim that their program is student centered.  My students and I take a great deal of pride in that.   Jenison students are always up to the challenge!

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Senior, River Gibbs, served behind the scenes as Stage Manager for the tenth time with Oklahoma!  After working on The Wizard of Oz, River feels that every show is less technical but concedes that there are large set pieces to build, move and maneuver that pose their challenges.  River’s responsibilities as Stage Manager begin months before the show even starts rehearsals.  He reads and analyzes the script, creates a props list, set list and many “massive spreadsheets” for preparation.  During rehearsals he is facilitating scene changes, organizing crew leaders and communicating with the orchestra as the actors and musicians practice working together.  “I’ve learned more doing this than I will doing a lot of other things in life because you learn how to build, design, work with other people — you learn so many new skills.  I’ve started to learn how to read music too because I think that’s a really important skill for a stage manager to have, you get a little taste of a lot of things.”  River will take his passions for stage managing and the skills he’s learned at Jenison High School to pursue stage production and is thinking about attending Whittier College in Whittier, California where he was awarded a full scholarship.

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Makenzie Schnieder, also a senior, may not be planning  a career of makeup and hair but she certainly knew how to lead her team of stylists as they prepared each actor for rehearsals and performances.  Carefully inspecting everyone’s work and offering suggestions and critique before approving them to hit the stage she says that becoming involved in the theatre program was “one of the best decisions” she ever made.  She served on the makeup team for five shows before stepping up to the role of Makeup Crew Leader for the past two shows.  “I was really inspired by our other crew leaders and I thought, “I want that to be me” so last year I worked really, really hard with the Crew Leader — I made sure I was always by her side, learning new techniques and I worked really hard to prove myself” and Mr Avery saw that hard work.  She loves to do “crazy makeup” and while Oklahoma! doesn’t provide a lot of opportunities for “crazy makeup” she is enthusiastic about creating a scar on one of the actors “which not everyone knows how to do”.  One of her main responsibilities is develop the character designs for all the actors, deciding how old they are, what their hairstyle and makeup will look like and while “this show isn’t as much about design as it is about what fits the character”, she is certainly passionate about her work.  She can also add “teacher” to her list of skills because once Makenzie designs the looks for the entire show she shows her team how to execute each style.

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And no theatre production would be complete without sets and set design which is all lead under the careful eye of Junior Jason Jipping who acts as the Set Crew Leader for Oklahoma!  Jason has served on the set crew for three shows and this is his second turn as Crew Leader.  The responsibilities range from keeping everyone safe during construction and moving of the sets to staying on schedule to constructing the set elements from blue prints.  “We build the sets and make sure we’re working on not only the structure itself but looking at the fine details.”  Jason manages 7 — 10 crew members who are also in charge of moving set pieces at specific times and assigning crew members to very specific tasks during the show.  Being part of the show “was definitely worth the time.  I quit my job to do this and it was probably one of the best choices I’ve made.”

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“We were very happy and proud to give back to our seniors at Wednesday nights’ performance.  It was amazing to see the house full of people laughing and singing along with us.  To see our actors interacting with them in the lobby after the show was something I will never forget.  Also, with the help of Carrie DeBruyn, we were able to honor the Jenison High School casts of OKLAHOMA! from 1970, 1977, and 1984.  It was incredible to see former cast members mingling with current cast members.  There was laughter and tears of joy as many mini – reunions took place throughout the lobby.  We are proud to be a part of the Jenison Community, grateful for our new home, and will continue to provide quality theatre experiences for all.”  — Mr Todd Avery

Congratulations to the entire Theatre team at Jenison High School!
Thank you for your incredibly hard work and dedication to giving your best each and every time!

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Jenison Junior High Goes Under the Sea!

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It may have felt like mid-January outside the JCA last week but inside Jenison Junior High theatre students were bringing the tropics home with their production of Disney’s, The Little Mermaid!  Directed by Holly Florian, this was the second musical presented by the Junior High since the opening of the Jenison Center for the Arts last year.

Little Mermaid-play 125 copyFor Ms. Florian, choosing this year’s show was an easy decision:  “Coming off of Mulan last year there was a lot of positive feedback about Disney shows and we knew The Little Mermaid would be a good one to continue the excitement for the Junior High program and people recognizing that these kids can do great things too.”  The 60 Junior High students were supported by High School theatre volunteers and elementary students who have auditioned to fill the smaller roles.

Arial was played by 8th grader, Ashley Hillson, who is growing up in a musical home singing alongside her mom who plays the piano.  She loved “Part of Your World” from The Little Mermaid when she was little so she was excited to be awarded the lead role.  She admits that it can be a challenge to balance her time between rehearsal, school and spending time with her family but she loves seeing the show come together.

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Arial’s guardian is, of course, the precocious Sebastian played by theatre veteran, Zach Avery.  Zach was excited to be part of a show that uses more complicated sets which includes a giant ship and dramatic backdrops.   He got used to his giant claws by practicing with oven mits!

In the fall, close to 100 students came forward to audition to be part of the musical and Ms. Florian says that she would like to see the program continue to grow, include more students every year and provide opportunities to showcase the talent of the Junior High.

Ashley, Zach and Ms. Florian would also like to encourage any students who may be thinking about getting involved but finding themselves with cold feet.  While auditions can seem intimidating the teachers help make it comfortable by breaking up the acting and singing portions and teachers give advice.  “I feel strongly that at this point in their acting careers, for many of them, it’s the first time they’ve done this, they need some front-loading, they need some coaching.” [Ms Florian]  The auditions are seen as an environment for learning about the characters possible actions and feelings and it’s exciting to see the students growth from that early starting point.

Little Mermaid-play 168 copyAshley and Zach are both appreciative of the theatre training they are receiving at Jenison.  “I feel like all the kids that are in the theatre program are inspired by their older peers, so a lot of the students are helping each other.  There’s a lot of cooperation and friendship with the students.”  Ashley adds, “I feel like we have something really extraordinary here.”

If you are a junior high student with an interest in learning about the theatre program or getting involved you can participate in Theatre Club that meets once a week starting in late February.  Contact Ms. Florian and listen for an announcement for details.

Congratulations to the entire cast and crew of The Little Mermaid!  All of our theatre students continue to make our entire community proud!

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ArtMoves Showcases Student Artists

You may not know it but your favorite piece of art at your favorite Jenison business may have been created by one of our very own students!  At the 4th annual ArtMoves event last Thursday student artists had the opportunity to display their juried art work for local businesses and guests. But the art wasn’t just for show!  Local businesses are encouraged to find their favorite piece and pay a small fee of $100 to lease it for the year for display in their businesses.  All of the proceeds go directly back into the program and are also used to have each piece professionally matted and framed.

jps halloween 010 copyArtMoves is more than a leasing program, however, it’s a way to “celebrate our visual artists”, says Lindsay Moynihan, Jenison High School Art Teacher.  The reception at the Jenison Center for the Arts to showcase the selected pieces is a joint effort that includes performances by members of the theatre students, Chamber Orchestra and amazing piano entertainment by one of our exchange students.  All of these elements come together to build community relationships and celebrate the talents of our students district wide.  “The idea is that [business owners] bring the artwork to their business and display it for the year and every year come back and lease a new piece so they have fresh artwork every year.”  “The students get super excited to have their artwork out in the community; it’s a huge honor and they’re obviously very talented.”  – Ms. Moynihan

The judging process begins in the spring at all  grade levels and with more than 600 pieces submitted by students in grades K – 12 the judges have their work cut out for themselves as they need to whittle down the number of pieces to only 31!  School wide shows take place across the district for the judges to view the submissions and the entire summer season is needed to mat and frame each piece.  This year, the Industrial Arts teacher from the High School, contributed by building the frames himself.

Senior Erik Larson created his self portrait from push pins while taking Intro to Art!  He is an incredibly talented student across the board, excelling in band, theatre and planning to enter the Bio Medical field in college, and his acumen for the visual arts quickly earned him a spot in AP Art as a senior, skipping the prerequisites.  In Erik’s Artist Statement he says, “For this piece I wanted to see how well I represent a figure using limited colors.  At the time I was also fascinated with Pointillism, thus, the idea struck me to use pushpins as I was taking down a bulletin board in my room.  To plan the location of pins I used a photo and overlayed colored dots that I felt best represented the color of the photo in that location.  Secondary passes of color brought in the shading between the five colors. Many hours and thumb bandages were expended meticulously pushing nearly 6500 pins into the cork board to create the final result.

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Eighth grader, Arianna Hoeks, comes by her artistic talent naturally as the daughter and granddaughter of artists. She grew up surrounded by crayons, painting and craft projects.  She was chosen for ArtMoves for her piece entitled, “Emperor of the Sea” [below] which was created by painting many small dots and “mixing many colors of paint”.  “I tried to use colors to make it realistic but also did some contrasting so it didn’t look like a blob of dots, so that certain parts would stick out.”

Another featured artist, Rudy Maynard, proudly displayed her piece, “Colorful Giraffe”. Rudy’s favorite part of creating this piece was drawing and painting and she loves using bright, fun colors.  “Someday Rudy would like to be a professional artist and thinks it would be fun to enter a piece in Art Prize.”

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Congratulations to all of our visual artists for this special recognition for your hard work and talent!  As a community we are proud to support you and look forward to seeing your work throughout Jenison.

If you are a local business owner or know someone who would be excited to partner with these talented students please contact Ms. Moynihan [lmoynihan@jpsonline.org] to find out what pieces are still available for lease!  To see all the selected pieces please visit the ArtMoves webpage!

Missoula Children’s Theatre Returns to Jenison!

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The beginning of October brought a community favorite back to Jenison:  The Missoula Children’s Theatre! Our K — 12 students were invited to audition and actors were chosen to fill roles in the MCT version of the classic story of Robin Hood.

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The Missoula Children’s Theatre has been coming to Jenison for twenty years and their mission is develop life skills through participation in the performing arts. To accomplish this goal their 25 – 45, two-person teams travel each week to a different city and work with kids to perform one of over thirty unique shows.  They bring everything they need to put on a show including the set, lights, scripts, costumes, props and makeup. There are only five rehearsals and then the group performs for an audience.  For their week with Jenison they had 60 actors from every grade and were especially encouraged by the number of older students who were involved.

Jeremy Cunningham has been working and traveling with the MCT for eight years and for this production he took on the role of Sherwood [of the Forest] while his wife and teammate, Jenny, acted as Director.  Jeremy was impressed with the Jenison Center for the Arts and had faith that the students could pull off a terrific show:  “The kids are great; they’re doing a really good job.”

The rehearsal was carefully executed from giving the youngest students early time to practice their lines and singing to a careful instruction on the purpose of each prop and the responsibilities that come with them.  Both Jenny and Jeremy kept the crowd attentive and interested as they explained each item to the eager crowd.

Missoula Children’s Theatre puts their unique spin on classic stories to allow as many students as possible to participate. In the MCT version of Robin Hood there is a Merry Band filled with bad actors who think they’re good which means these twelve students did their very best to be bad.  One of those is Band member Trevor Kohley [Senior] who has performed with the MCT every year and he is currently working on the Jenison production of Charlotte’s Web which will be held this November and he sees himself pursuing musical theatre after high school.

Sixth grader, Pateyn Bounds eagerly explained that this is her first year in Jenison after moving from Memphis, TN and she thinks the play is ‘excellent” and has really liked being involved in something new.  Seventh grader, Gabe “Blaze” Herdegen plays a comedian in the Merry Band and likes theatre because he “likes being able to step into someone else’s shoes and see how they think.”  He thinks that acting is a great way to combine all the activities he loves such as gymnastic, cheerleading and singing.

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The Missoula Children’s Theatre is close to Jenison Theatre Director, Todd Avery’s heart as it is how he and his wife, Penny, spent the first two years of their marriage — traveling with the company and teaching students the important skills of performance that go well beyond the stage.  “It’s been a great way to help us get elementary students in particular involved but it’s a great place for high school and junior high students as well.

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The Merry Maids and one little skunk! [Don’t worry! There are more!]

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Jeremy Cunningham of MCT plays Sherwood [of the Forest].

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Sherwood [of the Forest] and his many skunks!

 

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The skunks wait patiently for their turn on stage.

 Congratulations to all of the Robin Hood actors!  Your hard work has paid off and made us proud!

High School Production of Wizard of Oz Amazes Audiences!

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The Jenison High School Thespians and Music Department took on a legendary classic for the first musical production in the new Jenison Center for the Arts and they did not disappoint! Performing to a sold out run for the first time in Jenison theatre history, the classic story of Dorothy finding her way back to Kansas was beautifully performed by the hundreds of actors, musicians, crew members and support staff.

Tryouts began after Christmas but rehearsals were thwarted by the many snow days this winter.  Bringing the show together with those set backs didn’t stop the group from being the kind of team required of this massive production. Kim Nagy, Vocal Director, says that is what impressed her most: “The kids have just done an absolutely incredible job, everybody has completely pulled together.  This has been the tightest cast we’ve ever worked with and absolutely delightful to work with from beginning to end.  Mr Avery stresses professionalism with the students and they live up to that.”

Senior Jenna Bassett was thrilled to play the Wicked Witch of the West which is her “dream role”, “I love being the villain; it’s really fun” and plans to try out for roles at the Civic Theatre in Grand Rapids after graduation because “it’s something, that once you get started you never want to leave”.

Will Docsa, a senior originally from a small town in Kentucky, played the great and powerful Oz and spoke about the role and his time with Jenison Theatre with a bright smile and unmatched enthusiasm.  “I didn’t really fit in very well, I was sort of an outcast and loner but I was encouraged by my English 9 teacher, Mr Brossiet, to join theatre and I really just flourished here.” Never having considered theatre before he caught the keen eye of Mr. Brossiet during a class reading of Romeo and Juliet, “I was reading it very dramatically and he recommended it and I thought I’d give it a shot.”  The role of Oz is one of his favorites and was particularly impressed with the culmination of the teams that came together for the pre-recorded pieces such as tech, audio, camera, make up and editing, “it’s one of the most incredible things I’ve seen Jenison theatre ever do.”

Will is also quick to give props to Mr. Avery, not only for his directorial abilities but the important role he plays in Will’s life:  “Mr Avery has always been like a father figure to me and without him I probably wouldn’t have gotten as successful in high school as I am today.”

“The show is bittersweet because it’s my last show here but our first show in the space”, says Katherine Searcy, playing the role of Dorothy. Amazingly, Katherine had not seen The Wizard of Oz until two years ago, but she was excited for the opportunity nonetheless. For her, singing and performing in the new space “is a little scary but it makes me really happy, it really does.”

The new theatre really got to stretch its wings by showing off the special effects required of this show such as a tornado, flying monkeys, a flying witch and even Miss Gultch riding her bike while flying through the air!  Of course, Toto [played by Lulu Byrne] stole his fair number of scenes as Dorothy did her best to keep him close.  The musical accompaniment led by Orchestra Director Dave Zomborsky, was positively professional and the entire musical team were the hidden stars of the show.

“The community came together to give us the wonderful gift of the new performing arts center.  With our production of The Wizard of OZ, our hope was to take that gift and give one of our own in return.  We love our gift and hope everyone enjoyed their gift, as well.  It was a joy to work with my fellow directors and this great cast, crew and orchestra full of talented young people.  History was made with this production, and it was an honor to be a part of it.”  Mr. Todd Avery, Director

Congratulations to the team for a fantastic run and an incredible job well done!  As always, you make us proud!

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Dorothy played by Katherine Searcy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”

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Glinda the Good Witch played by Marysa Miller floats to Munchkin Land

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Sean Daley playing The Cowardly Lion

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Scarecrow Gerrit Veldt, Tin Man Nate Altena, Dorothy and The Cowardly Lion are off to the see the Wizard!

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Sean Daley and The Wizard of Oz, Will Docsa

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There's no place like home!

There’s no place like home!

 

 

 

 

7 – 9 Male Chorus Wows Music Educators

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Each January, music educators from the entire state of Michigan gather in downtown Grand Rapids for the Annual Michigan Music Conference.  They attend sessions presented by leaders in the field and also listen to selected school musical groups.  The conference is recognized for setting a standard of excellence philosophically and musically throughout the state.

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Various school groups are selected to perform based on audition recordings that are submitted by their directors the previous spring.  In the past thirty years many Jenison Choirs have been chosen to perform at all levels:  elementary, junior high and high school which is something we, as a district and community take great pride in.  However, this year, as a result of a blind audition the 7 – 9 Male Chorus was invited to perform during the MSVMA Choral Hour at the JW Marriott Hotel.  Only six choirs from the state were given this honor and ours was the only choir to include students at the junior high level.

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While the quickly swelling crowd waited for the previous session to wrap up the Jenison Male Chorus worked on their focus with mental warm ups.  The other selected choirs from Traverse City and DeWitt also waited but it was impossible to ignore the 94 young men dressed in their tux jackets and ties.

When they took the stage, they were greeted by applause and performed four songs:  two in Latin with complex harmonies and two that were upbeat and included some different stylings.  The final song, “Coney Island Baby” even included choreography and was a genuine crowd pleaser, earning the group a standing ovation.

Director Steven Waters, a veteran teacher of 29 years who has been with Jenison for 18 years, had this to say in appreciation of the young men he works with:

“I think the thing that is most unique about our group compared to others is that it is an all male JH age (grades 7-9) group. The second thing that sets them apart is that they aren’t an auditioned group. The other choirs that were selected are all “select” , elite choirs from their respective schools. We refer to our choirs at the JH as “y’all come sing” groups. Our Male Chorus is also unique in that it’s a JH aged choir that routinely sings 4-part acappella literature which is very challenging.” 

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If you’d like to catch an upcoming performance of another Jenison Choir please join our JH girl choirs performing in the Jenison Center for the Arts with the Lakewood Area Choral Society (LACS) on Tuesday April 1.

“This is a unique opportunity for our students to perform jointly with an adult group. We’re hoping this encourages them to view singing as a lifelong activity that is healthy and rewarding. The LACS is a phenomenal auditioned community ensemble of 110 voices  and is directed by former Jenison Choir Director Bob Oster.”  – Steven Waters

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Congratulations Male Chorus!  We’re proud of you!

Bauerwood Music Teacher Named Michigan Music Educator of the Year

What Diane Shrems expected to be an average Friday night football game in Jenison this fall turned out to be anything but average.  She was with her best friend and co-director, Karen Ambs, listening to students sing the fight song for a piece of candy when Karen handed her a stack of letters saying, “I want you to read what everyone thinks of you.”

Diane Schrems

They were her colleagues’ letters directed to the Michigan Music Educators Association [MMEA] nominating Diane for the prestigious award of Michigan Music Educator of the Year.  Diane was overwhelmed to tears with the outpouring of support and kind words.

Fast forward to this winter, when Diane received a call during an especially stressful rehearsal.  She told the unknown caller that she was dealing with a crisis and that he would have to call back later.  She hung up without another thought to who he was or why he called.

Much later that day, Diane was catching up on her work, only to discover a short email from the President of the MMEA apologizing for disrupting her rehearsal but wanting to let her know that she had been named the MMEA’s Educator of the Year. He added that he should know better than to contact a music teacher during holiday rehearsal season!

Diane loves working in Jenison and has done so for 23 years, calling it the “best job on the planet” and her students “amazing and respectful.”  She is humbled by the award saying that, “after reading the letters I realized that it is truly a team award.  My team makes me strong; without them I couldn’t be who I am—the team allows us to be the best.”

Co-director of the JPS Elementary Honors Choir and the Bobcat Choir [made up of 100 5th & 6th graders].  Diane’s list of accomplishments is long:

  • She also co-directs the vocals for the JHS annual musical and is excited to be part of the Wizard of Oz this spring.
  • Presented at the Michigan Music Conference, university general music workshops and the MMEA Fall workshop
  • Awarded for excellence by the Jenison School Board
  • Served on the Board of Directors of the MMEA
  • Regularly a mentor to student teachers 

But those awards and recognitions come in second place when compared to “seeing the excitement in kids when they connect to each other with music.” Seeing that interaction is her favorite part of the job, and she is most looking forward to continuing to perform at the new Jenison Center for the Arts. The thought of giving her students the chance to perform on a stage that “is worthy of their talents” and seeing them connect with an audience is a thrill she has long awaited.  Diane said she is especially thankful to have an administration that supports the arts and with that, she says, “the sky’s the limit.”

The Music Educator of the Year Award will be presented on Saturday, January 18th at the annual MMEA breakfast and meeting at the Michigan Music conference held here in Grand Rapids.  Congratulations, Mrs Schrems!  We’re proud to call you one of our own!