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Creativity in the Time of Covid–Jan. 30, 2022

I-CONNICK! VPA Students Learn from an Icon

Harry Connick, Jr.

Students were given an opportunity of a lifetime on Thursday when they enjoyed an unscripted masterclass with jazz legend and sensation of stage and screen Harry Connick, Jr. The event was made possible through the generosity of the Van Wezel Foundation and its passionate donors.

Students pose with the master of New Orleans jazz.

During the conversation, the Emmy and Grammy-award-winning Connick shared stories of his life and roots in New Orleans, his early years and his family now. Instilling in our teens the importance of family, Connick described that his marriage and family are what grant him the chance to “fly.”

Preparing to enter the signature purple Van Wezel. Connick quipped about the building’s hue during his performance that night.

He also dispensed words of encouragement, inspiring students that they have “something special that no one else has.” He instructed them to dig deep and develop their own voice. That, he ensured, will help them make their mark on the world.

Connick advised that hard work is the name of the game. A student asked how he fell into acting, and he assured them he did not “fall into” that field, but worked hard to enter it. “Entertainment is no joke,” he said, noting that tenacity, hard work, commitment to rehearsing, and living with rejection are all a part of this career choice.

The conversation was one to remember, with Connick graciously responding to questions ranging from the personal to the professional. He took song requests and played, no mic, mask and tennis shoes on, reminding us of the humanity that connects us.

The Van Wezel Foundation also underwrote tickets for students to attend the Harry Connick, Jr., concert Thursday evening. It was a sizzling performance they will not likely forget. During the sold-out performance, Connick recounted the conversation, telling the audience of his afternoon with Booker VPA students.

VPA Dance Performs at Ringling Museum

The performance, bathed in sunlight, connected past with present, ending with hope.

VPA Dancers performed at Ringling Museum on Jan. 24 as the capstone of an ongoing project dancers have undertaken since September this year. They worked with Canadian artist Rhodnie Desir throughout first semester on a project inspired by her Bow’t Trail work.

The divine Devon Saxman flanked by dancers during a rehearsal.

The Bow’t Trail is Desir’s signature, groundbreaking work that uses interviews to capture personal histories to inspire choreography meant to connect the present with the past.

Movement at moments was reminiscent of walls and barriers.

Students collaborated with the artist, learning her techniques to conduct their own interviews of history-keepers in Sarasota, including descendants of slaves. The resulting choreography powerfully conveyed a history of oppression and brutality with the present of connection and uplift.

The beautiful dancers between rehearsals.

Dr. Lisa Merritt, executive director of the Multicultural Health Institute, introduced the dancers.

On the Road: VPA Visits Middle Schools

This was a busy week for VPA teachers, who visited middle schools in advance of the live auditions on Saturday, Jan. 29, to inform students and teachers about the program and process.

Mr. Strenk shows projects from current students.
Ms. Burton shares animation work with Booker Middle students.

Music, Art, Film and Animation teachers visited Booker Middle School, and Ms. Abrahamson visited Art and Digital Design classes at SSA+S.

It was a great leadup to Saturday’s audition, where hopefuls came in to demonstrate their talent and readiness for the VPA program. Thanks to all who came out!

Upcoming Events

SPIN: Booker’s Student-Parent Information Night

Feb. 3 | 5:30 p.m.

Come out to learn about all the amazing opportunities available for you at Booker High School! Meet teachers, take tours, witness performances, check out our special programs. The event is free and open to the public!

‘Pen to Paper’: A Masterclass with Paula Vogel

Feb. 11 | 5 p.m.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel will present a masterclass and work with participants to write a play. This opportunity is presented by the Hermitage Artist Retreat.

Death By Chocolate: In This Hour

Feb. 25-26 | 7 p.m. and Feb. 26 | 2 p.m.

The most decadent VPA event of the year, Death By Chocolate is a feast for all senses. Patrons can listen to fabulous music while indulging in chocolate, cocoa and coffee. This year’s theme, time, offers exploration into its mysteries, with songs about eternity, repetition, tedium, anticipation, and more.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Mar. 3-5 | 7 p.m. and Mar. 6 | 2 p.m.

Presented in partnership with The Bay Park Conservancy, this Shakespeare in the Park presentation of one of the bard’s most popular plays is sure to please. Exploring love in all its facets, the play is a comical look at the nature of attraction.

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