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March 17, 1997

Arts Division reaches out to elementary and high school students

By Barbara McKenna

Over the past few weeks more than 200 elementary and high school students have come to the campus to see performances and art exhibits, present their own performances, and take tours of Arts Division facilities. Steve Miller, who helped coordinate these visits along with other arts division staff, hopes that the students will be back again in the future, as enrolled UCSC students.

Miller, Arts Division operations manager, has been working for the past five years to bring area students up to the campus.

"Kids come up here who have lived in Santa Cruz their whole lives and have never been on the campus before or never been in a real theater before," he said. "Once they come up here, meet students, see a performance, the idea of college becomes a lot less intimidating and you hear them talk about coming to school here."

Five visits, sponsored in part by the Arts Division, have taken place in the last two weeks.

Most recently, 70 third graders from Aromas Elementary School spent a day on campus learning about both the arts and science. They participated in hands-on science labs, watched a performance of Richard III by Shakespeare to Go, and visited several campus art studios. (This is the fifth annual visit of Aromas third graders, who have written a book on the university. See related story.)

Sixty sixth graders from Gault Elementary School who are producing their own Shakespeare play learned more about the workings of a professional theater through tours led by Miller and Karen Magaldi-Unger of Shakespeare Santa Cruz.

"We show them what it takes to make the magic of theater happen," Miller said. After visiting the Performing Arts costume shop, scene shop, and control booth, the students ended up on the Performing Arts Main Stage. They also visited the Porter Faculty Gallery to see the current exhibit of Shakespeare Santa Cruz memorabilia and then had lunch in the Shakespeare Festival Glen.

The Main Stage was the site of another student visit when 35 English honors students from Santa Cruz High School came to campus to see a performance of The Trojan Women. Actors in the play met with the students in their classroom earlier in the week to discuss ideas in the play and the logistics of staging it.

"This kind of outreach creates a really good bridge from the classroom to the theater and from the school to the university," Miller said. "The high school students hear from these kids who they can relate to who are just like them but a little bit older and a bit more sophisticated and who are obviously excited about what they're doing up here. This is an ideal engagement."

As the tragedy of war-torn Troy unfolded on the Performing Arts Main Stage the strains of classical music filled the Music Center just across the parking lot. The featured orchestra for the night was comprised of students from the Robert Louis Stevenson High School in Pebble Beach and the Sherbrooke Youth Symphony from Montreal Canada.

The international collaboration was masterminded by associate professor of music Nicole Paiement--on leave in Montreal since 1995--in collaboration with Robert Klevan, director of the RLS School String Orchestra. The students presented performances at UCSC and in Pebble Beach. While here they ate lunch in the Porter College Dining Hall, toured the campus, and met with UCSC music students and faculty.

At the open rehearsal of UCSC's Latin American Ensemble, former music student Gwynne Cropsie brought up eight Latino student/residents from the California Youth Authority Camp in Ben Lomond whom she has been teaching to play traditional Latin American instruments.

The students performed traditional and original pieces during the show. (Cropsie's work is supported by a grant from the William James Foundation.) Among those attending the performance, led by associate professor of music John Schechter, were friends and families of the youths.

"There's a whole level of alienation that always takes me by surprise," Miller said. "UCSC is such a rich and friendly environment to those of us here routinely, but it can seem very foreign and intimidating to newcomers, even from our own community. I've found that you have to hand-feed the process--act as a liaison, arrange for tickets, show people where to park."

But Miller is sure the process is worth it, and based on responses by visiting students and teachers, there are many who agree.

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