“I will never forget the gasp from the audience as the curtain and lights rose for Santa’s workshop this past December! As one child whispered to her mom, ‘It’s just like a real theatre!’ “
You could hear the emotion in Melissa Pamperin’s voice as she described a dream come true for her and fellow teacher John Ossiff, on behalf of her students at Joaquin Miller Elementary School. With the money they received last fall, the teachers were able to purchase lighting and sound equipment that dramatically improved the quality of theatrical productions beyond what you’d normally expect at the elementary school level.
“You can’t begin to imagine the impact that this program has had on our students,” continued Melissa. “Just this past year I watched as one of my most insecure, quiet girls developed the confidence to overcome a stutter and shine onstage.”
At Woodbury University last Wednesday evening, a group of 80 listened to Melissa’s moving story, which went to the core reason of why they are major supporters of the Burbank Arts for All Foundation (BAFA.) The organization’s supplemental arts funding can have a profoundly positive impact on young lives.
Hence BAFA’s “Celebrating Impact” event, hosted by the Board of Directors to remind BAFA supporters of the many ways BAFA has made a difference during the school year just concluded. Mayor David Gordon, Vice Mayor Bob Frutos, Council Member Jesse Talamantes and City Treasurer Debbie Kukta were among BAFA’s well wishers.
There was much to celebrate. Trena Pitchford, who until recently had been BAFA’s highly successful Development Director, is now BAFA’s Executive Director. BAFA attracted seven new Board members: Michael Hastings, John Mazur, Carson Smith, Cathy Stevens, Jill Vander Borght, Tom Vice and Karen Volpei. They join the 14 existing Board members, providing BAFA with an even broader base of expertise. And, BUSD Board of Education President Roberta Reynolds noted that BAFA’s supplemental grant funding had launched many successful arts initiatives, in addition to the model theatre program at Joaquin Miller Elementary School:
- At David Starr Jordan Middle School, media teacher Richard Lightfoot was able to fire up his students to make videos documenting compelling life stories. (Also at Jordan, staff was able to install newer and safer stage risers for the students rehearsing and performing in the school’s auditorium.)
- At John Muir Middle School, teacher Nancy Martin was able to show her students how to combine the art of designing with geometric concepts to address a real-world problem of designing and creating a scale model of a mini-golf hole. Also at Muir, visual arts teacher Fatima Morales was able to provide her ceramics class students with a working kiln, which is available for other clay projects as well.
- At Burbank High School, Burbank High’s Jazz Band was able to acquire a new Yamaha Alto Sax for their Lead Alto Player. It highly motivated the student to practice, even to the point of taking private lessons as well.
- At John Burroughs High School, social studies teacher Justin Lee was able to help his AP European History students create a mural panel that encapsulated and interconnected important historical events. Also at Burroughs, art teacher Beth Morrison was able to enable her students to create three-dimensional art projects.
- At Luther Burbank Middle School, Band Director Cathy Kim was able to purchase three new trombones for her class. This inspired her students to spur each other on “not just in band class, but in their everyday activities.”
- At Thomas Jefferson Elementary School, 3rd graders learned to play the tonette and 4th graders learned to play the recorder, very effective ways to learn the fundamentals of music theory.
- At George Washington Elementary School, 1st and 2nd grade teachers, Debra Lack and Patty Dagata, teamed up with 24th Street Theatre to create a residency program and Theatre Field Trip for their thrilled students.
And as Melissa reminded her audience, the impact on students goes beyond having a deeper encounter with the arts. Remember the shy 5th grader who came to shine on stage? “The ability that she discovered in herself through our studies of theatre carried over into every aspect of her educational career. The girl that graduated from 5th grade at the end of May believed in herself in a way that I don’t think could have ever been possible had she not have the opportunity to perform in our program.”