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Miller Fourth-Graders Perform “Pirates Of Perchance”

Joaquin Miller Elementary fourth grade students performed Pirates of Perchance at the school on Thursday, December 3, and Friday, December 4. Students put on an evening show along with two shows during the school day so parents and fellow students could see the culmination of several months of rehearsals.

Written and directed by fourth grade teacher John Ossiff, the play follows the adventures of a pirate crew without a ship.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

Tryouts for parts were held in September.  With a cast of 31, a backstage crew of seven, two students operating lights, one student running sound and seven additional students who helped paint scenery, the Pirates of Perchance was a fairly large production for the school.

Ossiff saw the play as a way to include all interested fourth-graders, “We have students from each fourth grade class, English Language Learners and students receiving other special services.”

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

“The crew moved sets, operated some equipment and appeared as the customers in the last bistro scene,” he added.

Play rehearsals were held at lunch time for the entire months of October and November. Other teachers at Miller adjusted their schedules to allow time for extra rehearsals during the school day in late November and early December, added Ossif.

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by © Ross A. Benson)

The production received additional help from parents, parents of former students and former staff creating background art, setting up lights and setting up the sound system.

Pirates of Perchance was filmed as part of a Burbank Arts For All Foundation (BAFA)-funded grant to help establish a digital media program at Miller Elementary.

“BAFA has been very supportive of our theater program,” Ossiff also said.

Approximately 700 people saw the show during several performances last week. A fifth-grade play is being planned by teacher Melissa Pamperin for Miller Elementary in the spring.

Miller Elementary Theater Program Boosts English Proficiency

The fifth-grade students in teacher Melissa Pamperin’s class at Joaquin Miller Elementary buzz with excitement as they prepare for their final performance of Penelope and the Pirates. The Miller Elementary theater program has become a touchstone of the school’s integrated arts programs, as the school received the California Exemplary Arts Education honor last year.

“The play tells the story of a pathetic posse of pirates that has lost the one and only treasure they’ve ever managed to find and the princess who runs away from home with her ladies in waiting in hopes of having at least one great adventure in her life,” commented Pamperin, who also wrote the story specifically for the fifth-grade production.

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

“Unfortunately for Penelope, she ends up choosing Captain Milligan’s ship to stowaway on and they’ve shipwrecked onto a deserted island,” Pamperin added. “After declaring that she’s had it with their pessimism she whips them into shape. They find the lost treasure and she and Captain Milligan’s son, who had never wanted to be a buccaneer in the first place, live happily ever after running a floating library on board the pirate ship.”

Melanie Josephian, age 10, portrayed Penelope the Princess and thought that the scene in which Penelope trains the pirates to be better pirates, set to the theme song from Rocky, was her favorite. The pirates are pretty pathetic – one is afraid of fish, another can’t read a map.

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

“I thought it was a very fun experience,” commented Jake Bastian, age 11, who played pirate Captain Milligan. “It was really fun to do the shows because we had been working on it since January and it was a lot of hard work and it all paid off. Everybody laughed.”

“It was really funny and everybody in the audience was laughing and sometimes I laughed on stage too,” added Josephian, who’s been bitten by the acting bug. “I liked that Penelope always thought her own things and had her own path. I really like to act; it’s what I want to do.”

Ethan Consignado, age 10, portrayed the captain’s son, Jack Millgan.

“It was easy to identify with the role because I like to read and my character likes to read,” he said. “My favorite scene is the Rocky scene, where the pirates are training to find the treasure.”

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

“This group of kids has been incredible to work with,” commented Pamperin, who also directed the play. “From the very first audition, I knew we had something special when I was having a hard time deciding who to cast in what parts because they were all so talented.”

“Every single note I’ve given them, they’ve taken on within seconds and they’ve created a truly unique experience,” she continued. “All of the hard work that the kids put into every rehearsal culmination in an amazing production. I was incredibly proud to watch their work and I know that they were proud as well.”

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

Burbank Arts For All Foundation Executive Director Trena Pitchford and many of the BAFA board members, along with BUSD officials and Miller Principal Judy Hession, attended Thursday’s show in the school auditorium. Students from the New York Film Academy filmed the rehearsals and behind the scenes work during the final week of production, along with the entire performance opening night.

A BAFA grant helped Pamperin stage the performance. Pamperin mentioned that studies have shown theater programs can result in faster and more thorough English proficiency achievement for young English Language Learners.

“Many of my students have been ELL at some point,” commented Pamperin. “But, by fourth and fifth grade, all of my students have been reclassified as English proficient.”

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

(Photo By Ross A. Benson)

Miller’s English Language Learners total 32% of the student population currently, according to ELD Office Specialist Ana Arzumanyan. That percentage includes children who have been reclassified as English proficient, as they are tracked for two years following proficiency achievement.

Miller Elementary’s teachers, supported by grants from BAFA, have integrated arts and theater instruction into daily classroom work. Recently, National Endowment for the Arts Chair Jane Chu and several officials from the L.A. County Arts Commission, visited Miller Elementary to see their state-honored arts programs in action.

NEA Chairman Observes Miller Elementary Arts Program

National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu observed several elements of Joaquin Miller Elementary’s arts program on Monday as part of an extended meeting with the Los Angeles County’s Arts For All, Arts Commission and Office of Education. NEA Chairman Chu saw a music class taught by Ian Tam, a theater class led by 24th STreet Theatre teaching artist Suzanne Santos and integrated arts instruction by Kindergarten teacher Deb Weinstein.

NEA Chariman Jane Chu (standing, center) visits Joaquin Miller Elementary school in Burbank to observe the school's arts programs in action. She was joined by officials from L.A. County Arts Commission, Arts for L.A., L.A. County Office of Education and the Burbank Unified School District. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

NEA Chariman Jane Chu (standing, center) visits Joaquin Miller Elementary school in Burbank to observe the school’s arts programs in action. She was joined by officials from L.A. County Arts Commission, Arts for L.A., L.A. County Office of Education and the Burbank Unified School District. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Participants in a discussion on Los Angeles County public school arts programs, held in the Miller Elementary Library, included Denise Grande, Director of Arts Education for L.A. County Arts Commission, Laura Zucker, Executive Director of the L.A. Arts Commission, Sofia Klatzker, incoming Executive Director of Arts for L.A., James Herr, Program Officer for the Californina Community Foundation, Rachel Levin, Executive Director of The Rosenthal Family Foundation, Shannon Wilkins, Program Administrator for Educational Leadership and Visual & Performing Arts programs for the L.A. County Office of Education and Ayanna Hudson, Arts Education Director for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA.)

Several Burbank Unified officials also gave presentations on the arts programs in Burbank Unified schools and participated in the discussion, including Board of Education member Larry Applebaum, Superintendent Dr. Jan Britz, Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services Dr. Tom Kissinger, Assistant Superintendent of Instruction & Accountability Sharon Cuseo, Miller Principal Judy Hession and BUSD Visual & Performing Arts Coordinator Peggy Flynn.

24th STreet Theatre teaching artist Suzanne Santos leads a theater class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

24th STreet Theatre teaching artist Suzanne Santos leads a theater class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“Arts education in L.A. County is thriving and good work is happening in school districts large and small,” commented Zucker. “We chose Burbank Unified School District to illustrate this progress because their work is exemplary.”

“The fact that they utilize so many different methods to deliver quality arts education made them a particularly good choice,” Zucker continued. “From a music specialist, a teaching artist, and arts that are integrated into the daily curriculum, it was great to see the results of a strong arts education program, from the district level to the classroom.”

Music teacher Ian Tam demonstrates a rhythmic move in music class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Music teacher Ian Tam demonstrates a rhythmic move in music class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“We are so grateful to L.A. County Arts for All for all of the ways they support Burbank Unified’s efforts to provide our students with a quality arts education,” added Flynn. “That they chose Burbank as an example of successful collective impact with Chairman Chu, is such an honor.”

“The day to day work has us always focused on what’s still to be done. Our visit this morning gave us an opportunity to reflect over the nine years since we became an Arts for All district,” she continued. “It was really amazing to have every level of leadership that contributes to the success of our Arts for All Plan implementation in one room – from the national, state, county, district and school groups to the parents and business community – voicing their perspective and describing their roles.”

Kindergarten integrated arts class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Kindergarten integrated arts class at Miller Elementary. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

“To then be able to walk into classrooms and see what is happening because of our collaboration was a great reminder of why we are doing what we do,” Flynn went on to say. “Miller’s principal, Judy Hession, her staff and students represented the work being done every day across our district so beautifully.”

“We have much to be proud of as a district and community today. Tomorrow, it’s back to the to-do list – I’m so grateful to be in a district with so much support!”

(from left to right) L.A. County Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker talks with NEA Arts Education Director Ayanna Hudson, NEA Chairman Jane Chu and L.A. County Arts Commission Director of Arts Education Denise Grande. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

(from left to right) L.A. County Arts Commission Executive Director Laura Zucker talks with NEA Arts Education Director Ayanna Hudson, NEA Chairman Jane Chu and L.A. County Arts Commission Director of Arts Education Denise Grande. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Nickelodeon Interns Brighten Miller Elementary With Massive Mural

Nickelodeon interns recently completed a gigantic mural lining Joaquin Miller Elementary’s lunch shelter. The painting depicts the school’s mascot, a jaguar, in the forest, under water and in outer space.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

The Nickelodeon volunteers spent hours of preparation designing the mural and multiple afternoons after school hours painting the colorful installation.

“We chose to put the mural in our lunch shelter because it was an area that students passed by and came to everyday,” commented Miller Elementary Principal Judy Hession. “There is a large wall that students look at as they are eating their snack and/or lunch. Why not brighten it up with a mural?”

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Joaquin Miller Elementary Principal Judy Hession stands in the foreground as intern volunteers from Nickelodeon work on a massive mural for the school’s lunch shelter. (Photo by Ross A. Benson)

“We also included a list of traits at the bottom of the mural that represents what our students are working on all year long in addition to the academics: Striving for Excellence, Respect, Honesty, Responsibility and Peacebuilders,” said Hession.

“I did want to thank Carson Smith from Nickelodeon for coordinating this project and all 14 of the interns who came out to Miller to paint the mural during this past week,” added Hession.

“A very special thank you to Annathalia (Thalia) Nalapraya for working with me at the school site, Catharina (Cat) Sukiman for designing the artwork and Chelsea Jauregui for putting together the color scheme for the mural,” she continued.

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

(Photo by Ross A. Benson)

Eleven additional members of Nickelodeon’s Fall 2014 intern class helped realize the massive mural: Eli Barraza, Olivia Burgher, Sara Cook, Jeff Dirdack, Kenya Foster, Brian Hill, Lacey Kaelani, Kevin Lam, Andrew Megow, James Mosley II and Karissa Valencia.

“The students have been talking about how much they like the mural as they watched it being painted,” Hession also said. ” What a wonderful thing to have students excited and talking about”