By Wilma Allen
Starting next week, hundreds of local kids will be raising their paint brushes, drumsticks, feet, and voices, in fun weekly classes organized by Arts Alive Nassau to provide arts experiences at Nassau County schools.
“This is going to be a great year for Arts Alive,” says Kim Rust, program director. “We have more teachers and classes than last year, and lots of enthusiasm. All our classes are free, unless an instrument rental is required, and we have some great teachers.”
One regular teacher for Arts Alive is the legendary drummer, Les DeMerle, founder and star of the Amelia Island Jazz Festival, who loves introducing kids to the joys of music. “I have a ball with my little drummers,” he says. “It is such a rewarding experience to see the enthusiasm and willingness from these kids to learn.”
Now in its 12th year, Arts Alive is a non-profit organization that is separate from the school system but works closely with it. Classes are held once a week right at school when classes are over, which eases transportation logistics for parents. Fall semester classes in one or more of the following subjects – chorus, art, dance, theater, drums and ukulele – will be held at all eight Nassau County elementary schools and Callahan Intermediate School. Parents should register their children soon through the schools, this week if possible.
In addition to the classes, several concerts and special events are planned. Student artwork will be showcased at Jacksonville International Airport in October. Next semester, theater students at Bryceville, Hilliard and Callahan elementary schools will present “Oz: The Musical” and “Snow White.” According to Rust, theater is the most expensive program to offer, so it is concentrated in west Nassau schools because students there have fewer opportunities to be involved. “Currently, the Fernandina Beach area has some accessible theater venues if a child shows an interest. With more funding, we would love to extend our theater program to the east side of the county,” she says. In Fernandina Beach, Arts Alive offers choir classes at Emma Love Hardee Elementary, two art classes at Southside Elementary, and in Yulee, students can choose either art or dance. Additional programs may be offered next semester.
Arts Alive Nassau is a volunteer organization that relies on grants, personal and corporate donations to pay teachers and make creative learning opportunities available in our schools. Residents who would like to volunteer are welcome to assist in classes, rehearsals and shows, participate in art projects, help maintain and repair instruments, and more. Donations of art supplies and instruments are very much appreciated. To learn more about Arts Alive Nassau, visit their website.