Creativity in the Time of Covid–April 24, 2022

Animator Selected as Ringling Pre-College Scholarship Recipient

Congratulations to Animation sophomore Delcy Calderon, who was selected to receive a full scholarship to the Ringling College pre-college program. The pre-college program is an intensive 4-week experience. Students stay on the Ringling campus and immerse themselves in their art and college life.

Delcy will study Visual Development/Concept Art. At this point, she plans to pursue this career path to design animated characters and environments. But she is open to `new career paths and feels that the experience of precollege may help shape those plans.

Delcy said she’s excited to spend the four weeks on campus, learning the art she loves so much. Another aspect she looks forward to is meeting artists from around the world. While she’s nervous about embarking on something new, she can’t wait for the term to begin.

This incredible opportunity was made possible through the generosity and vision of Ringling President Dr. Larry Thompson and Kay Ash, the college’s Assistant VP, Administration. This invitation to attend pre-college came as a piece of a larger partnership between Booker VPA and Ringling.

This summer, 15 Film & Animation students will attend a week-long session of post-production sound design with industry insider Nick Palladino. These sessions will take place in the multi-million dollar post-production facility that opened in November 2018.

Additionally, three VPA students will have the opportunity to attend the weeklong Ringling Teen Studio camp. These are all arts education experiences unique to Booker VPA students through our partnership with Ringling College of Art and Design.

VPA Theater Renovation Update

It’s hard to tell from the street, but the Theater renovation is moving along, with a nearly complete gutting of the building now complete, setting the stage for beginning the actual construction of new facilities.

This week, production manager Lizzi Nehls and technical theatre teacher Caleb Carrier toured the construction site. Now we all have a glimpse of what lies behind the visqueen fencing.

The site of the new blackbox theater that will be a second performance space.
The view from the stage looking out into the house.
The “window” depicted here is the former tech booth, with the flanking door frames that were the entrance to the back of the house. The new tech booth will be higher up to accommodate mezzanine seating.
The plywood seen here is the proscenium arch where the main drape hangs. In front is the former apron and orchestra pit.

Upcoming Events

The 2021-22 season is quickly coming to an end! Make sure you get tickets for these special events.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Reel Life: Annual Film & Animation Showcase

May 17 | 7 p.m. @ Burns Court Cinema

The VPA Film & Animation Annual Showcase will entertain and edify with screen stories that shine a light on life as our students see it. They will also offer a glimpse of the day-to-day process students use to bring their art to life. The showcase is a mix of live-action, animated shorts, and documentary work. This screening opportunity is made possible thanks to The Sarasota Film Society.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Mar. 13, 2022

Yassss, Yissy!

Cuban percussion jazz artist Yissy Garcia heated up the school week for our VPA Music students. First in a masterclass on Mar. 9, Yissy and her band performed and shared the stories of their journey.

Their jams were astonishing–at once precise and also exuberant–and the students soaked it all in, participating through clapping and dancing.

It was an exchange that underscored the importance of being open to opportunity. Most of the band had traveled around the world to seize opportunities to refine their musical mastery.

On Mar. 10, about 100 students traveled to the Historic Asolo Theatre, where they were treated to a full concert in that elegant hall, and then had the chance to wander the Ringling Museum grounds.

All jazzed up! VPA Music students after the performance at The Ringling.

The Ringling provided access to this incredible and inspiring experience.

VPA Art Alum Earns International Illustration Award

Zaine Lodhi

VPA Art alum Zaine Lodhi (’18) has won the “The Illustrators of the Future Award” and will be honored in Hollywood on April 8. He is one of 12 artists globally to win this award this year.  Zaine currently majors in Illustration at Ringling College.

That’s one way to capitulate! One of Lodhi’s winning pieces.

In addition to being honored with the award, he’ll attend a week-long professional workshop with some of the top names in the industry and his art will be published in the anthology, L. Ron Hubbard Presents Writers of the Future Volume 38.

You can almost smell the mead and mutton. This dining hall picture is another of his winning illustrations.

The contest, now in its 34th year, recognizes illustrators and writers. Along with the awards the contests gives, its purpose is to support new generations of sci-fi content creators.

Nobody would want to find this creature lurking in the depths: Lodhi’s mythical lizard beast is the third of his winning illustrations.

Now a senior at Ringling College, Zaine hopes to pursue a career in illustration for the video game industry. He already works for a company creating 3-D assets for video games. He created all these pieces using Adobe Illustrator. Click here for more information about this contest.

Upcoming Events

Fool*ish

Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

Infinite: Music Showcase

April 29-30 | 7 p.m. @ BHS Campus

In our final music showcase of the season, we take to the skies in INFINITE. Featuring music from Lynyrd Skynyrd, John Williams, along with original compositions, arrangements and songs from Booker VPA Music and Staff. our musical selections will create an aura of the air, the sky, and flight, where you will truly feel infinite.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Feb. 27, 2022

At Last! Death By Chocolate Delivers

The wildly popular Death By Chocolate was a hit again this year. With a theme of time–fleeting and everchanging–Death By Chocolate: In This Hour offered plenty of sweetness. Here’s a look:

The Arts as Impact

The BHS Student Government Association presented “Culture Day” on Feb. 25 during both lunches. The presentation included singing, dancing, art, and poetry celebrating Black culture.

It was an uplifting event that reminded all of the power of the arts to stimulate connection and honor identity.

VPA Art Pays Homage to Kara Walker

You saw it featured in the above slideshow–what better way to showcase Black achievement in art than to reference one of America’s most celebrated Black artists? Level 1 VPA artists painted a chalk mural featuring the colors of the African diaspora along with Walker-esque silhouettes.

The process was a lesson in problem-solving: first, the artists photographed Black people of the BHS community. Next, they had stencils cut (thanks to ____ and the Engineering class!). Finally, after painting the colors, students worked together to paint the stenciled figures.

One of the pieces from Kara Walker’s new show, titled “Slaughter of the Innocents (They Might Be Guilty of Something).”
( Kara Walker, courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co., New York )

From Stage to Screen: Film and Theatre Collaboration in the Works

Film and Theatre students began a collaboration this week that will help both groups of students with vital skills. The project, directing actors for film, gives film students an opportunity to guide performances. This gives them insight into how to offer constructive feedback, while for actors, it opens doors to a new venue. For these students who are accustomed to the stage, playing for a camera that’s a few feet away is a new experience. Furthermore, the proximity of lights, mics and film artists is a great way to deliver them from their comfort zones.

Mr. Timpe and Ms. Smith, who are leading the collaboration, have been thrilled already at the outcome and look forward to creating new connective, impactful experiences for their students.

Special Guest in Film & Animation

Levi Hernandez brought in a special guest for drawing day in Ms. Burton’s Level 1 Film & Animation classes Friday. Stan just may be the first Bearded Dragon to visit the Film studios.

Upcoming Events

A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare

Mar. 3-5 | 7 p.m. and Mar. 6 | 2 p.m. @ The Civic Green

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.

Fool*ish

Apr. 1-2 | 7 p.m. @ Booker High School

The line between reality and fiction is blurred in this dance show that explores our tendency to fool others as well as ourselves. Examining deception and awakening, the masks and the revelations, Fool*ish features pieces in modern, ballet, hip hop, African and Latin dance genres.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum

May 6-7 | 8 p.m. @ The Sarasota Opera House

Hang on to your tunics! This madcap farcical tale of a slave attempting to win his freedom by helping his master woo the girl next door is a hilarious adventure of epic proportion. Forum is one of Sondheim’s most celebrated and popular musicals, winning several Tony awards and enjoying numerous revivals and screen remakes.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Feb. 13, 2022

Ringling College of Art and Design Deepens Partnership with VPA

Ringling College of Art and Design will offer a captivating summer workshop in sound design and engineering to students enrolled in the Booker High School Visual and Performing Arts (VPA) Film & Animation Department.

Proud Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley and Ringling President Dr. Larry Thompson seal the deal.

The workshop, designed exclusively for Booker VPA students, will cover the art of sound in live action and animated films. It will utilize state-of-the-art post-production equipment at Ringling College Studio Labs’ Soundstage and Post-Production Facilities. Exploration of the aural world of film will open new avenues for students pursuing higher education or careers in the field.

The program will start Summer 2022 with the expectation of continuing in perpetuity. The College is offering this unique opportunity free of charge to Booker students.

Booker Principal Dr. Rachel Shelley noted that the sessions will open new doors for students.

“This fully aligns with Booker’s mission of college and career readiness, giving students more options for pursuing their dreams. We couldn’t be more grateful for our partners at Ringling College,” Dr. Shelley said.

Ringling College of Art and Design President Dr. Larry Thompson said he’s excited to introduce the young cohort to the realm of sound design and engineering.

“Many high school students go through their entire educational experience without any exposure to the abundance of opportunities in creative careers. We feel so fortunate at Ringling College to have such incredible facilities in which we can help inspire the next generations of creative storytellers, and to continue to further enhance our close relationship with Booker High,” he said.

The sound design program will take place over two one-week sessions in June. It will admit up to 15 Film & Animation students.

Other Ringling Opportunities Open to BHS VPA Students

Along with the workshops, the College is also gifting Booker VPA students with scholarship opportunities, such as underwriting five Summer Teen Studio tuition fees, as well as one scholarship covering all Ringling PreCollege fees. These will be open for students interested in any of Ringling College’s 13 majors, from Film to Fine Arts to the Business of Art and Design.

The arrangement is made possible through the generosity of Ringling College of Art and Design and further signals an even greater level of commitment in the longstanding relationship the two art schools have shared.

Powerhouse Paula Vogel Puts ‘Pen to Paper’

Hermitage CEO Andy Sandberg facilitates a Q&A, calling for Booker VPA students’ questions FIRST! 🙂

Wow! Anyone in the boundless presence of Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel during her “Pen to Paper” event may still feel the life force coursing through them. The workshop was like being plunged into a pool of writing wisdom.

Vogel is one of the most celebrated playwrights alive, having won nearly every award available to theatre writers, including the Tony award for “Indecent,” the Pulitzer Prize for “How I Learned to Drive,” and induction into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Yet you’d never guess it from her disarming demeanor and profound generosity. The workshop was equal parts writing guru’s gifts, life lessons, and bountiful encouragement.

Theatre students Jackson Carney, Ashley Rosas-Rios, Kylee Worth and Alanna Bray pose with Vogel post-workshop. This moment comes after she tells them she’s heard from those in the audience that Booker VPA Theatre productions are the best in town, better than local theatres. After sharing that praise, she advises that there is plenty of money to be made in the arts, so, she says, “follow your dreams.”

Vogel offered generous advice on writing during her workshop. The workshop, brought to Booker through the Hermitage Artist Retreat, was a crash course on all things storytelling: character, plot, and spectacle were just a few elements she elaborated on.

Then came the challenge: a John Ringling “Bake-Off.” What’s a bake-off? Just like ones involving food, literary bake-offs involve taking prescribed ingredients and creating literature. In the case of this one, the ingredients are circus objects and people and dates important to circus magnate John Ringling’s life. Take all these, write for 48 hours, and then stop. Vogel said, “it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of a sentence. Just stop.”

Other than the challenge of writing the piece, Vogel offered empowering encouragement about life: “I celebrate your writing, I celebrate your lives, I celebrate your loves,” she offered through tears at the close of the workshop.

The message of the night was “everyone can write,” and how deeply moving for our Booker students to hear that from a living legend of the theatre. Her generosity, spirit and wit were gifts to all who were there.

Vogel and Theatre Chair Sunny Smith.

Student Wins Superior at Solo and Ensemble

Rutland performing Solo and Ensemble at Braden River High School on Feb. 12.

Congratulations to sophomore Dante Rutland for earning a Superior rating at the Florida Bandmasters Association Solo and Ensemble Festival for District 11. He earned the award and high praise from the judges for his work on the marimba.

Next up for Rutland: moving on to State Solo and Ensemble Festival in March.

Auditions for Upcoming Events Underway

Musicians Vie for Sweet Solos

While Death By Chocolate will follow its format of featuring ensembles like the orchestra and bands, the concert will also showcase soloists and duets. That said, musicians auditioned this week for those coveted pieces, and the results are in!

  • Emcees: Yoshi Wilson and Bea Defrietas
  • Piano soloists: Danae Tran, Cristobal Luguardo, Chelsie Louis, Tristan Tran
  • Vocal Solo: Julia Stover (accompanied by Mackenzie Lopatinski
  • Vocal Duet: Marissa Barnes and Bella Alberti
  • Marimba Solo: Dante Rutland
  • Plus, a small group comprising Anna Alarcon, Gus Baizabal, Edna Hernandez, Cristobal Luguardo, Danae Tran and Tristan Tran

Tickets for this exciting and indulgent event are on sale–get yours TODAY.

Theatre Students Get Farcically Physical for “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum” Auditions

Meanwhile, Theatre students spent the week singing their hearts out and learning dance choreography to “Comedy Tonight” for the upcoming production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” coming up on May 6-7 at the Sarasota Opera House.

For this production, the cast list will be posted early this week, and tickets will go on sale once it’s posted.

Upcoming Events

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.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Nov. 28, 2021

VPA Welcomes Lizzi Nehls as Production Manager

Lizzi Nehls

The VPA is thrilled to announce the onboarding of Lizzi Nehls as the newest member of the Booker VPA team. Ms. Nehls is taking over as the production manager.

With experience including gigs on and off Broadway in stage management and production, Ms. Nehls brings a wealth of expertise to the role. Most recently, she worked as the Production Manager at Florida Studio Theatre, and has enjoyed tenure in production at the famed Hippodrome Theatre in Gainesville.

In her first week on the job, just prior to the break, she jumped right in, painting with Production students, assisting with setup for “Six Degrees of Separation,” and learning the ropes of high school all over again.

Ms. Nehls is excited to be a part of the Booker team. She takes over for Nick Jones, who left the position in October to pursue a career in law enforcement.

Dance: “Six Degrees of Separation” Unites

Ms. Courtney Smith, VPA Dance Artistic Director, addresses the crowd on Friday night. Photo by Leila Newcomb.

The Dance Department presented “Six Degrees of Separation” on Nov. 18-19, just prior to the Thanksgiving Break, and it proved a great way to set the tone for togetherness. With a focus on human connection and the many ways our relationships impact our world, the choreography was fraught with intensity and energy.

Pieces in modern, hip hop, ballet, and styles borrowing from African and Latin traditions were performed, each examining aspects of interaction.

Modern band students provide sizzling songs. Photo by Alexander Zickafoose.

Once again, VPA Music collaborated with Dance to present interlude and accompanying music. The folk band Zephyr and modern band Tempest both performed.

Famed Filmmaker Visits VPA Film & Animation

Judge Charles Williams, left, and Valerie Scoon. Photo by John Timpe.

Filmmaker and professor Valerie Scoon visited VPA Film & Animation’s studio on Nov. 19 to talk about her new documentary. “Invisible History: Middle Florida’s Hidden Roots” was shown as part of this year’s Visions of the Black Experience Film Festival, a joint effort that includes New College and the Sarasota Film Festival.

Dr. Scoon talked with moderator Circuit Court Judge Charles Williams and then answered questions posed by the students in Ms. Burton and Mr. Timpe’s classes, as well as Ms. Sherrell’s social studies class. The event was streamed live through Zoom, so that students from New College and Riverview High could also participate.

The talk covered Dr. Scoon’s extensive work in film, with time as a producer for Warner Bros. (including giving notes to Spike Lee on “Malcolm X”) and for Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Her current film deals with the treatment of Black people in the area around Tallahassee, from the beginning of enslavement through the Civil Rights Era.

Scoon also serves as a filmmaker in residence at FSU, so she was able to give Booker students guidance on what the film program there seeks in applicants.

Focus on Film: On Set

VPA Film & Animation students were on set Nov. 20-21, filming at Booker High’s Law Academy Courthouse and at the Golden Host Resort on the North Trail.

The team’s film, “Sly Ryder,” includes a cast from throughout the state. Director Milania McNair, cinematographer Ayanna Dudley, gaffer Toby Jaffee, sound mixer Marlow Seah, and grip/PA Mikey Morehouse are shooting the story about a mobster’s niece who must choose between family and her flame – who happens to be an FBI agent.

VPA Theatre Students Learn Lesson in Casting

If you’re a fan of this newsletter, you may recall the story in the Nov. 7 newsletter highlighting a Theatre lesson. Students were assigned obscure musicals to research and present to their peers, through spoken word and dance. Ever heard of “Big: The Musical”? Neither had they, until excavating some of these gems and flops brought these forgotten works back into the light.

The panel of judges takes notes and offers feedback.

Fast forward to last week, when students embarked in an enrichment activity: this time, they had to teach choreography, via video links, to their peers. Once the peers learned the steps, they “auditioned” before a panel of judges–the team that initially researched and devised the choreography.

The lesson was captivating, both to the “hopefuls” and their panel of judges, who offered excellent feedback that helped hone performances.

Ms. Cynthia, who teaches dance to Theatre students, explained that the activity also gave the students the chance to see the mechanics of casting. As the resident musical choreographer (and director of the upcoming “Joseph”), she knows well the intricacies of casting. If they chose candidate A for one part, it necessarily dictated who they’d chose for some of the attending roles, based on body type and physical appearance.

Another big takeaway is the importance of personality: candidates brought their own ideas to the choreography, and the judges’ faces revealed which choices were stronger. It was helpful for students to see how these factors play a part in casting–it’s not always the most skilled dancer who gets the part. Casting is an art as rich and dynamic as any in the theatre world.

Coming Events!

Festive favorites will ring in the most wonderful time of the year, with performances in orchestra, jazz ensemble, wind ensemble, chorus, piano and more. 7 p.m. Dec. 2-3 at the First Presbyterian Church near Payne Park, 2050 Oak Street, Sarasota. This is a great event for the entire family.
The beloved musical by Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice is sure to lift spirits. With a focus on family and togetherness, it’s a great treat for the entire family. 7 p.m. Dec. 9-11 at the Municipal Auditorium, 801 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota.
The first in a series of events in partnership with The Hermitage Artist Retreat, renowned bassist Luke Stewart will perform at 5:30 on Dec. 17 at the Courtyard at BHS. The free concert will feature solo performance, storytelling, and a jam session featuring Booker band students.

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Nov. 7, 2021

Booker High Teacher Named District High School Teacher of the Year

Mrs. Urquiza is treated to a surprise celebration of this achievement.

Booker High School Spanish teacher Loridia Urquiza was surprised on Thursday with the announcement that she was named Sarasota County’s high school teacher of the year. Mrs. Urquiza teaches Spanish and has led several initiations to increase visibility and appreciation of Hispanic students at Booker and in the larger community.

In her touching acceptance speech, Mrs. Urquiza thanks her mother (left), who she calls “the best teacher I ever had.”

Originally from Cuba, Mrs. Urquiza infuses love of Spanish culture into her lessons, igniting her students’ passion for Hispanic heritage as well as the language. The largest demographic at BHS is the Hispanic community, with about 40% Hispanic learners. Mrs. Urquiza has worked tirelessly to foster schoolwide understanding of this culture to maximize student achievement among this population.

Leading such causes as the celebrations of Hispanic Heritage Month, Mrs. Urquiza has brought positive awareness of Hispanic heritage. This year, she organized a coffee and pastry tasting, lunchtime dance and music celebrations and more.

The celebration included remarks from Dr. Shelley, with the Whirlwind Brigade playing a festive march and Vocal Vortex serenading Mrs. Urquiza in her native language.

Along with all she’s accomplished for the culture of BHS, Mrs. Urquiza has consistently produced students who have mastered the Spanish language. According to Dr. Shelley, Mrs. Urquiza is the only teacher in the nation to have a 100% passing rate on the AICE Spanish Language exam.

Booker High relishes this recognition; this is the second consecutive year the district’s high school teacher of the year has been a BHS teacher. Last year, BHS’s Becky Satterly earned this award.

Fabulous Forecast Festival

Booker VPA hosted the second annual Forecast Festival on Nov. 6. The festival showcased all the VPA disciplines, inviting guests into classrooms to observe rehearsals and studio sessions, and culminating in a performance and exhibit.

Huge special thanks to Superintendent Dr. Brennan Asplen and Executive Director of High Schools Steve Cantees for spending Saturday morning with us.

Check out these pics!

Whirlwind Brigade is SNN’s Marching Band of the Week

Booker’s Whirlwind Brigade Marching Band was featured this week on SNN. Check out the video here!

The Whirlwind Brigade ends its season with a competition Nov. 13 at Riverview High School in Hillsborough County.

Band Concert Displays Talents

The week began with an intimate outdoor Band concert featuring our jazz and wind ensembles. The occasion marked the debut performance of the VPA’s newest combo, Storm Surge, a jazz combo directed by Tim Eaton.

Classroom Focus: Musical Theatre

We all know “Hamilton” and “West Side Story,” but did you know that there is such a thing as “Big: The Musical”? Neither did the VPA Theatre classes, but they learned about “Big” and other deeply buried gems and flops of musical theatre history.

Exuberance: Students present from “Contact: A Dance Musical”

They researched the musicals’ choreographies and histories, learning about aesthetics and trends through Broadway history. This week they presented their findings in dance, music and spoken word.

Upcoming Events!

VPA Dance will proudly present an evening of dance highlighting the myriad touchpoints we have with one another in “Six Degrees of Separation,” coming up Nov. 18 & 19. The concert will feature modern, ballet, Flamenco, African dance, hip hop and more. Get your tickets today here!

Creativity in the Time of Covid–Oct. 31, 2021

HOCO 2021–A Week in Pictures

This week was Homecoming Spirit week, a time to unify and celebrate the culture of Booker High School. It was a fantastic, fun week, with spirit dress-up days, a door decorating contest, and a pep rally in Tornado Alley.

And then, of course, there was the Homecoming Game against the Hardee Wildcats. With the cool fall weather descending upon Sarasota, Saturday’s outdoor Homecoming Dance was a hit!

Hermitage Artist Retreat Partners with Booker VPA

The Hermitage Artist Retreat, a multi-disciplinary destination for artmakers to create new works of theatre, literature, visual art and more, has partnered with Booker VPA. The two organizations will work together to create access to world-class artists.

The series, “Hermitage @ Booker,” will bring diverse artists to the Booker High School campus, providing access to students, families, staff, and our community.

The first event is an evening with musician Luke Stewart on Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. Stewart is an innovative artist who Downbeat Magazine named “one of the 25 most influential jazz musicians” of his generation in 2020. It will be an honor to host an artist of his caliber on our campus.

Celebrated jazz bassist and composer Luke Stewart is known for his bold experimentation on the cutting edge of musicianship. He shares an improvisatory selection of his work, leads a “jam session” with local artists and students, and discusses his creative process.

The event is free to Booker students with an ID using the promo code STUDENT. Registration is $5 for everyone else. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy this incredible outdoor performance.

Dancers Enjoy UF/Santa Fe Masterclass

A ballet class delivered through Zoom.

On Oct. 29, VPA Dancers participated in a series of masterclasses delivered through the University of Florida’s School of Theatre + Dance and Santa Fe Community College’s Dance program. They took class in modern, ballet, west African, and Afro-Brazilian. Afterward, they enjoyed a “brown bag lunch” with college professors. As they lunched, they could ask questions and learn more about the degree programs and the colleges.

Dancing Through Career Exploration

Students absorb Augustine’s wisdom.

Students in the Dance Program explore dance-related careers in Ms. Courtney’s Pre-AP dance class, where they dive into the many paths this interest can take them.

This week, they researched the specialized field of dance photography, then met with local artist Sorcha Augustine. A former dancer and figure model, Augustine trained in visual arts at Ringling College of Art + Design. She now trains her lens on theatre and dance performances, and also shoots portraits. Clients include Sarasota Contemporary Dance and Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

Augustine dispensed career insights. She shared her own story, her process for capturing energetic, intimate shots, and offered some of the barriers she’s faced as an artist.

Upcoming Events

If you’ve ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes, the FREE Forecast Festival is for you! It’s an invitation to families to see classes and rehearsals in all disciplines, check out our studios and spaces, and witness a performance featuring all disciplines.

From 10-11 a.m., guests will be treated to a self-guided tour of workshops, classes, and rehearsals. At 11 a.m., there will be a short performance and exhibition. On the lineup: numbers from the upcoming Dance Show and Musical (“Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat”), a performance of Category 5, Zephyr, our Jazz Ensemble, chamber orchestra, classical guitar and more.

This is a great event for prospective families, but also for current families or VPA fans curious about the dynamic and unique program offerings in this program of local legend.

Tuning into connectivity in this moment in history is vital. The pandemic and social and political upheaval have forced us through unprecedented isolation. Quarantine, concurrent learning, social distancing, and a fractured political climate have left many feeling less connected than ever.

“Six Degrees of Separation” probes the links between us we may not even be aware of. Through movement, dancers express ideas that may not have linguistic parallels. Featured in this outdoor performance will be ballet, modern, dance from the African diaspora, and hip hop.

Share an evening of inspiring movement that may just leave you feeling a bit more knitted into humanity.