Local students perform at arts festival

Nineteen Big Rapids High School students performed in a percussion ensemble during the Michigan Youth Arts Festival at Western Michigan University’s campus in Kalamazoo. (Courtesy photo and video)

BIG RAPIDS — More than 20 local students spent the weekend showcasing their skills with a variety of performances at the Michigan Youth Arts Festival on Western Michigan University’s campus in Kalamazoo.

“This is the only state-wide talent search in the country,” said Big Rapids High School Band Director Brian Balch. “Thousands participate every year. It’s extremely selective.”

According to the festival website, michiganyoutharts.org, an estimated 250,000 students take part in the adjudication process during the eight month leading up to the annual event. This number gets whittled down to close to 1,000 participants.

This year, Balch took a 19-student percussion ensemble to the festival, while fellow BRHS staff brought a few others. Music teacher Katie McInnis brought one student and theater arts teacher Lori Hathaway took another two students. Also performing at the festival was Crossroads Charter Academy student Noah Mallett.

“This is a very unique opportunity,” Balch said. “It’s a huge honor for the kids. They’ll never forget it. There’s really nothing like it.”

From Thursday through Saturday, students participate in workshops and performances in instrumental music, vocal music, theater, dance and more.

“The Michigan Youth Arts Festival is a celebration of all the arts,” Hathaway said. “It showcases some of Michigan’s best an brightest. It’s definitely an honor and a great opportunity for the students to be immersed in all the arts.”

Two of Hathaway’s theater students, Rory Quist and Autumn Marsh, performed a duet scene from the Secret Garden, a play in which they participated in this past November. BRHS student Arya Rao also took part in a performance, singing with the Michigan School Vocal Music Association honors choir.

“The pieces Arya sang in the MSVMA honors choir are often significantly more difficult than those we are capable of doing in our own school choir, because all of the students who are selected to participate in state and all-state honors choirs are truly advanced and self-motivated,” McInnis said. “It makes me especially proud to see students who take advantage of challenging opportunities.”

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Posted by Meghan Gunther-Haas

Meghan is the education reporter for the Pioneer and Herald Review. She can be reached at (231) 592-8382 or by email at mhaas@pioneergroup.com.

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