2012-04-13 / Schools

Singing to save the music

Students, alumni to perform concert benefitting high school choirs
By Stephanie Sumell
Special to the Acorn

ROYAL ART—Above, juniors Holly Lewis and Emily LeGrand critique art for their English class during Royal High School’s Art Day on Thurs., April 5. Right, junior Celestina Harman sings and plays the piano during the event.Royal High School junior Christine Patrikian loves the stage.

“It’s just kind of a rush,” said the 17-year-old Simi Valley resident. “Choir has made me a better singer.”

Patrikian is one of 18 students and alumni set to perform in the benefit concert “It’s a New Day!” at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center on May 9 to raise money for the Royal, Simi Valley, and Santa Susana high school choir programs.

“I want to help raise money for my school,” said Patrikian, who will sing a contemporary solo, “If I Ain’t Got You,” by Alicia Keys.

The community event is being organized by Steve Hayes and Jim Harrison, parents of Santa Susana High students.

Harrison, whose daughter Caitlin sings in her school’s choir, said he and Hayes are providing students with a unique experience.

“We’re giving the kids an opportunity to break out of their shells,” said the software developer. “I’ve been playing music since I was 9 years old and I’ve always found it to be extremely rewarding on a personal level.”

Harrison will play in the concert’s six–person backup band. He’s hosting rehearsals three times a week in his Simi Valley home.

“( Hayes) is the executive producer and I’m the musical producer,” he said.

Formerly the art director at Hollow Hills Elementary School, Hayes said the arts are a valuable part of a child’s education.

“I don’t care if you’re going to be a scientist or a lawyer, if you learn how to express yourself and think creatively, it will benefit you in any endeavor,” said the owner of Renaissance Landscaping.

Though his 16- year- old daughter Molly Hayes is not a choir member, Hayes said he believes all children need a creative outlet.

Highlanders explore the arts

“And if people don’t support the arts, they’ll go away,” he said. “Kids need to express themselves.”

Bonnie Graeve, Royal High School’s music director, agreed. “A child is not made up of math facts alone.”

The Simi resident said she hasn’t had program funding for the last decade.

“The budget cuts have been a huge detriment to keeping our programs up and running,” Graeve said.

According to Hayes—himself a Simi Valley High grad— the event will feature standout performers from the three high schools.

“I said to the choir directors, ‘ Send us your best and brighte s t,’” Hayes said. “One guy is an absolute prodigy on the electric guitar.”

The benefit concert won’t feature choir music, he added.

“The students pick their own music, so it runs the gamut. Michael Buble, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Beatles . . . it should be a really interesting concert.”

The Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center is providing the venue at no cost.

“It’s a lovely little theater,” Hayes said. “ We’re all very thankful to them.”

Still, Hayes and Harrison are seeking event sponsors to pay for the theater’s lighting and sound technicians.

Hayes said he and Harrison hope to generate $6,000 in profits.

“We’re hoping that we sell out,” he said.

Patrikian, also a member of the California All State Honor Choir, said she hopes the community will come out to support high school music programs.

“Choir has become a huge part of my life,” she said. “It will be an amazing event.”

Tickets, which went on sale April 1, are $25 for general admission and $50 for premium seating.

Those interested in attending the event can purchase tickets at the Simi Valley Cultural Arts Center, at 3050 E. Los Angeles Ave., or by calling the theater at (805) 583-7900.

Those interested in sponsoring the event can contact Hayes at ynotwhirledpeas@aol.com. ‘If people don’t support the arts, they’ll go away. Kids need to express themselves.’

— Steve Hayes, Santa Su parent and concert co-organizer

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