A Round of APPlause!
School buses lining Rivers Street in the heart of Appalachian
State University’s campus will be a frequent sight in the coming 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. According to organizers, the series offers K-12 students access to a wide variety of art disciplines.
Upcoming performances include River North Dance Chicago’s performance of “Street Beat: Dance Through the Decades,” the Billy Jonas Band, a special screening of the Banff Mountain Film Festival and Montana 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 on campus.
Christy Chenausky, director of arts education and outreach for the university’s cultural affairs area, said 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 across the 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 said.
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 to 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 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, Chenausky said.
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 a recent performance by The Steely Pan Band, “It was a wonderful experience for our students. Exposing them to the arts, diversity and a higher educational setting enriches their lives.”
Chenausky expects more than 8,000 students and teachers from the region’s K-12 public, private and home schools will attend an APPlause! performance this school year.
Tickets for River North Dance Chicago’s “Street Beat: Dance Through the Decades,” the Billy Jonas Band and Montana Repertory Theatre’s production of “The Miracle Worker” are still available. Performance fees range from $1 to $5 and are offered for each event in the series.
For more information, visit http://www.theschaefercenter.org/applause.