Last Friday, the visual and performing arts faculty from the Bedford Central School district gathered at Fox Lane High School to exhibit their talents for the community they teach and serve. To start, nine of the teachers displayed their visual art for the enthusiasts in attendance, which was followed by seven contemporary and classical numbers and one trip back in time to witness a Mark Twain one-man show.
The second annual affair gives teachers the chance to take off the costumes of the day and present their art, music and drama, according to Fox Lane’s Visual and Performing Art’s Director Patricia Wheelhouse. “It’s really who we are,” she said before performing a scene from the Broadway musical “Wicked,” and bringing up the string section in a seven piece rock band.
Even if covering two songs by Phish and The Grateful Dead isn’t how she sees herself, she was happy to give her staff a laugh for the cause. But band mate Matt Vanacoro seemed unconcerned at her ability to swim with the Phishes or go live with “the Dead.”
“She’s a mean 12 string,” said the seven year Fox Lane Middle School music teacher. He also had little anxiety over the prospect of his students possibly seeing him miss a key at show time. “I sing enough in the hallway, so they already know I’m out of tune,” he said.
In all seriousness, Pianist and Fox Lane High School choral teacher Ed Reisert believes strongly in what the event is meant to point out to the young men and women in pursuit of artistic excellence at Fox Lane. “It’s really important that we as teachers practice what we preach and if we want students to be lifelong musicians, we need to be the same ourselves,” he said.
On the other hand, if music and art students choose to practice something else in their life pursuits, the merits of art instruction is not lost on them, according to art teacher Dale Saltzman. “It makes them a whole person,” he said, and art allows them to make a concrete connection to the things they learn in other classes.
So if the French Revolution and Romeo and Juliet seems flat before the bell rings, he knows the best way for the history to actually jump out of the pages. “The kid goes to art and fixes the concept by making something from that period of history,” he said, “and this gives his knowledge dimension.”
Although David Church, who played the Alto Saxophone Wednesday night and teaches elementary school music, finds that it is all contained within the walls he teaches his students. “Everything I do encompasses everything that they learn in school,” he said and that includes all the basics – math, science English, history and athletics.
13 year art teacher Heather Kranz dug deeper into the soul for what this type of expression can mean to a child or young adult. “They are empowered by art,” she said, “because it’s theirs, they own it.” A situation that she finds to be even more important when students struggle with the traditional subjects.
“I think it keeps a lot of kids coming back,” she said, as they develop an aptitude and passion they never knew they had. And the inspiration flows in both directions. “They give me a lot of energy, and I don’t know that I would have that without them,” she added.
Still, Mr. Saltzman sees a problem with the way the arts are viewed by our society and educational systems. “It’s not really valued, it’s talked about but it’s not,” he said, “and that’s why we’re always struggling.”
Although only enthusiasm reigned this night, as Ann Macrae, secretary to Ms. Wheelhouse, laid out why more students should attend next year. “It will be different, unique and exciting, and you’ll get to see your teachers perform and exhibit their art,” she concluded.
Rich Monetti interview of Patricia Wheelhouse, Matt Vanacoro, Ed Reisert, Dale Saltzman, David Church, Heather Kranz and Ann Macrae.