Idyllwild Arts “Rocks the House”

In California and across the nation, funding for music and the arts has been cut drastically. And yet, the arts endure. Someone once said, “Artists are the first and last to speak.” In today’s economy, they just have to find creative ways of bringing their beloved arts back to the schools, especially grade schools.

On Saturday, Feb. 27, select students from the Idyllwild Arts music, theater and dance departments participated in the 3rd Annual “Rock the House,” a fund-raising festival to benefit the Palm Desert Charter Middle School. Idyllwild Arts Academy was among the 35 schools from the Coachella Valley, Redlands, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Indio and Idyllwild areas that showcased their talents.

“We’re here partly because it’s great publicity for our school,” said Marshall Hawkins, head of the Jazz Department, Idyllwild Arts, who hosted and participated in the event along with Paul Carmen. “Our kids get a chance to perform in front of a new audience. You can’t buy this kind of publicity!”

Those jazz music students who played with Marshall and Paul at “Rock the House,” included: Alejandro Barron, Jesse Berlin, Ashi Whatley-Manoff, Kathryn Schmidt, Benny Kleinerman, Reagan Schweers, Caleb Hensinger and Jacob Gershel.

The two 20-minute jazz sets, at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. were held in the jazz tent outside. Kathryn sang “Body and Soul,” an old Billie Holiday tune, and the jazz band played several different jazz tunes.

“Look! We’re considered ‘headliners,’” said Ellen King, a senior dancer. “Strata,” their Circus de Sole-type modern dance performance with world music (choreographed by Stephanie Gilliland), stunned the crowd, but it wasn’t without its problems. Their music wasn’t cued up in time, and it skipped throughout the performance. Luckily, it wasn’t obvious to the audience.

For the final bit of the “Strata” performance, Shih-Ching “Cyndi” Huang wore a white top and twirled around in circles. But since the music was skipping, she kept twirling and twirling until they finally stopped the music.

“I thought Cyndi was going to throw up,” said Dakota Bailey. “She twirled too many times.” Besides Ellen, Dakota and Cyndi, the Idyllwild Arts dancers included: Leva Navickaite, Adrianna Audoma, Macarena Gomez, Justin Patchett and Geneva Winters.

At 3 p.m., Joey Jensen, Preston Pounds and Ruby Day, three Musical Theater seniors, each sang a song of their choice, and then collaborated on a trio. Daphne “Kitty” Honma, from the Music department, was their piano accompanist. Ruby and Preston sang songs from the musical, “Hair,” including “Easy to be Hard” and “Where Do I Go?” Joey’s song, “I’d Rather Be Sailing” came from “A New Brain.”

“I’m so proud of all of our students today,” said Bonnie Carpenter, Associate Dean of the Arts, who coordinated the trip.

The group braved torrential rain and snow conditions in Idyllwild to get to Palm Desert, only to be met by sunshine and warm weather. They also had a warm reception by those who attending the “Rock the House” event. Young and old alike came up to various Idyllwild Arts dancers, musicians and singers, and congratulated them on their performances.

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