Americans are inundated with technology to watch movies, music videos or play their favorite tunes. They’re able to access these creative products at the touch of a mouse or finger, but are never really allowed the time to process their importance.
York Community High School hoped to change this as they celebrated Fine Arts Week March 7-11. Students attended various events showcasing students’ art, music and theatre performance during their scheduled periods. They were even privy to the creative process and tips from a member of a well-known band, OK Go’s drummer, Dan Konopka.
Monday kicked off the week-long celebration with plenty of entertainment for students and faculty alike. The Neo-Futurists, a comedy group from Chicago, performed 15 plays in 30 minutes. The student talent show was separated into three different sections, with section one performing in the afternoon.
Come Tuesday, students were treated to lively debates from the Speech Team, the second section of the talent show, and a performance by the Carl Weathersby Blues Band. Weathersby, a blues guitarist and singer who has played alongside Buddy Guy and Albert King, stopped by before embarking on his European tour with Mississippi Heat.
Wednesday was seemingly College Day as undergrads from Elmhurst College and College of DuPage visited to perform music for the Dukes. The Elmhurst College Wind Ensemble, the Elmhurst College Guitar Quartet, and the COD Jazz Ensemble all performed for possible future students of their respective institutions.
Following the college blitz, the Thodos Dance Chicago, a “critically acclaimed contemporary dance company with a vibrant, award-winning style,” according to their Web site, celebrated the importance of dance during Fine Arts Week. Their performance was followed by Group Interpretation, which is quite similar to The Neo-Futurists in that they must perform a piece of literary work within 30 minutes. Group Interpretation does not allow any props, costumes or accompaniment to the performance.
If students woke up Thursday feeling a little sleepy, they only had to wait until second and third periods to feel energized. Students performed at the third section of the talent show Thursday morning and made sure this section was funny, as well as musically interesting. Among the performers were rockers, like the boys of Kopper Blimp and One Great City, and some of a more soulful type, like Alex Wheatland, who performed Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
Matt Byrne opened the show with a drum solo, sure to wake any of his dozing pupils. Melissa Lindsay and Sandra Hulzar injected some flavor and dance to the show by dancing cumbia, a musical style from Colombia. Lois Cha and Ashley Arvis sang a piano-only version of OneRepublic’s hit song, “Apologize,” followed by an unique version of “Dynamite” by Taio Cruz from the A Capella Choir group, which includes about 18 members.
The real showstoppers were, unsurprisingly, four male students doing something atypical for their gender and age group: interpretive dance. Matt Pflum, Kenny Schelberger, Chris Sudder and Aleks Grocic walked onto stage to unprompted applause and began to show off their somewhat sloppy coordination skills. They twirled, shimmied and spun one another around, eventually stripping off their outer layers to reveal glow in the dark outfits, in which they closed their set. The crowd was definitely appreciative of their dance moves.
Following the talent show, an art fair was held in the commons. Students took photographs in a homemade photo booth while others watched or participated in a live figure drawing class. Students opted to get their faces painted by fellow pupils or learned how to create a face or flower out of clay. The art fair allowed participation without any commitment so students could try something new.
Original compositions by students were presented in the orchestra room, and two teachers, Steve Levitt and Jimmy Tomasello, from the Old Town School of Folk Music, played in the auditorium. Students clapped and sang along to the tunes of Joe Hill and Phil Oaks. Levitt and Tomasello sought to educate the audience about musicians they may not be exposed to due to their age.
Thursday evening, all three talent shows were combined into the talent showcase, open to students, friends and family. Teachers Christopher Gemkow and Whitaker Blackall formed the Talent Show Committee to produce the show.
Friday continued the activities, including a percussion concert in the morning, York’s jazz ensemble and a capella groups in the afternoon, and Java Live in the evening. It was a special event in the afternoon, however, that drew the most attention. Dan Kopoka of the band OK Go, spoke to students and showed music videos followed by a question and answer session.
Konopka, a York graduate in 1993, helped form OK Go in 1999 when his fellow band mates attended school in Chicago. Since then, the band has gone on to sell millions of records and become enormously popular due to their innovative music videos. Their most famous music video, “Here It Goes Again,” features the band performing a choreographed dance on moving treadmills, which has been spoofed by The Simpsons and emulated by thousands.
In a rather intimate setting, Konopka spoke openly about being successful in the cut-throat music industry and encouraged students to follow their dreams, whether it is in journalism, photography or rock music. He showed a brief show featuring the bands highlights and paused between videos to allow for questions. Students did not hesitate to probe the successful musician. Questions were about the music business, the making of their music videos, or how many famous people the band has met.
Konopka revealed the band focuses a lot of energy towards making interesting videos that are cheap to make, as well as making the video in the least amount of takes and editing as possible. The video for “This Too Shall Pass” took six months to create. OK Go enlisted the help of physicists and scientists to create a gigantic Goldberg machine. The band finally finished the video after 87 takes and a face full of paint.
Regardless of the topic, the theme of the event was always clear: Konopka was there to encourage students' participation in the arts.
“It’s okay to follow your dreams … it’s totally worth it. It makes you a better person to do what you want with your life,” Konopka said.