Performance » Music

The Kids Take Center Stage



As the last notes of the "James Bond Theme" die out, an explosion of middle school voices echoes through the halls of the Palladium at the Center for the Performing Arts in Carmel.  The Pendleton Heights Symphonic Band and Concert Band just finished performing their spring concert on stage, and if their excited chatter is a sign, they had a lot of fun.  Although the audience for their matinee performance only consisted of a handful of parents and teachers, this is still a rare opportunity for young students.  Now, thanks to All Access, a quickly growing outreach program at the Center for the Performing Arts, more and more kids are getting opportunities similar to this.

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"You can sit in a concert and learn a lot about the artist and such, but to be on stage and backstage is a totally different experience," says John Hughey, Director of External Relations at the Center for the Performing Arts.

The Center houses three performance halls, the Tarkington, the Palladium, and the Studio Theatre, and the Palladium is being touted as a concert hall with some of the world's finest acoustics.  Only two and a half years after the Palladium's grand opening in January 2011, it has become a central part of Indianapolis art and culture.  Along with encouraging the consumption of art in the community, the Center strives to emphasize and educate young people about the importance of the performing arts.

Michael Feinstein, a multi-platinum and five-time Grammy-nominated pianist and vocalist, is the Artistic Director at the Center and takes a great deal of interest in younger generations' perception of the performing arts.  Through projects like All Access and his Great American Songbook Initiative, he hopes that younger generations will appreciate the value of the arts and be inspired to perform by creating a welcoming, fun, and nurturing environment.

The goal of All Access is to encourage youth to get involved and stay involved in the performing arts.

"All Access connects youth to all three of the Center's venues -giving life to the theaters and inspiring young artists. Performing on stage and taking in a performance builds confidence and appreciation in a single field trip experience," explains Hughey.

 "We aren't just an entertainment venue.  Our goal is to educate on all levels," he adds.

Through All Access, students from North Central High School, Zionsville Community High School, Carmel High School and other high schools throughout Indiana and the Midwest have had similar opportunities to participate in workshops, lectures and performances with stars such as Michael Feinstien, Amy Grant, and Take 6.  Hughey's goal is to have every high school in central Indiana visit the Palladium through concerts and field trips.

As director of All Access, Hughey hopes that giving kids the opportunity to play on the Palladium's stage will inspire them to pursue the performing arts, but he also uses the program to emphasize the Center's other important goal: giving back to the community.  Hughey ensures that All Access is more than just a fun learning experience, but he also makes sure that the kids participate in some type of outreach by working with community groups and other art organizations.

After their performance at the Palladium, the Pendleton Heights band heads across the street to the PrimeLife activity center, a recreation center where people 50 and older can socialize and exercise.  The band sets up and performs their spring concert again, this time with a much larger audience, who was excited to hear the kids play.  One audience member wanted to turn off the lights in the nearby workout room and force the exercisers to come listen, too.

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As the 70 sixth, seventh, and eighth graders blare out a slightly out of tune version of "It's a Small World", their brows furrow and toes tap as they silently count the beats.  It's clear that they take this performance in a small rec center just as seriously as their performance in one of the Midwest's most beautiful concert halls.  Later on the bus ride back to school, the kids recapped their experience with glowing faces.

"It was like-insanely beautiful," gushed Katelyn Flick, a 15-year-old who plays the oboe in the Symphonic Band.

And even if that is the only thing students take away from this trip, Hughey is just glad it is making any sort of impact at all.  For Hughey, just getting students on stage and involved in the arts beyond practicing at home is very important.  He points out that kids are deciding whether or not to pursue music or dance when they are in middle school and high school, so it is important for them to get experiences like this now.

"And the Palladium is like the Carnegie Hall of the Midwest.  To play on this stage is a privilege, and I never want to take this for granted as a resource."

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