Garrett Keaney, a fifth-grader from Normandy Elementary, will play violin. Brandon Ware, a senior at Chatfield Senior High School, is on percussion. Brenda Anderson, a mom, will be the conductor.
They, along with 25 other volunteers, have joined forces with more than 90 elementary through high school students at Front Range Christian School to put on “The Wizard of Oz” in late April. For 90 of the South Jeffco private school’s 500 students (nearly 20 percent) to participate is remarkable, but the large number of people participating in the show from other schools and the community makes it special, according to those involved.
“What’s been so exciting is to see so many people coming out of the woodwork from all different parts of the community,” said Julia Bate, a parent of a Front Range student who’s helped coordinate all the outside volunteers.
Anderson has had a long relationship with Front Range Christian School, having had one child go from first grade all the way through high school the school. Anderson also used to teach band and a technology class at the school. She no longer teaches there, but came back to help coordinate what she thought was another student orchestra performance.
“It’s one of those stories where what you expected and what the outcome was are two different things,” Anderson said. “It’s really been a joy and a treat. I’m learning a lot from these people.”
The group has been steadily growing since the first practice during the first week of February. “We tried to get started early, thinking we were going to get all students,” Anderson explained. “They’re trying to develop the performing arts in the student body.” The school, a private, non-denominational Christian school, opened in 1994. The arts department is still a work in progress. A previous show the school did had just eight band players according to Bate, who praised the quality of that show. So for “The Wizard of Oz,” organizers opened it up to people from the community. “It’s really turned out to be kind of surreal,” Anderson said.
Talk to different people involved and they all get something different out of it. But there is a common theme that runs throughout: fun and a relaxed environment.
“It was a really cool opportunity,” said Melondie Keaney, an adult violin player in the orchestra. She plays in the group with her two children: Garrett, a Normandy Elementary fifth-grader, and Brianna, an eighth-grader at Ken Caryl Middle School. “It’s fun to have the opportunity to be in the orchestra. Not only to be with (her children), but for them to understand what (community orchestra) is, the skills it takes, all in a low-stress, fun, community environment.”
Melondie Keaney started playing violin in third grade, and played all the way through her graduation from Colorado State University. After college she played in several community orchestras, but when she started having children, she had to stop.
“Haven’t been able to play in orchestra for 13 years,” she said. And although she is having a great time, she seems to take more pleasure in spending time with her children and seeing people of all ages from various slices of the community taking time out of their schedules to participate in the show.
“There’s all these Chatfield (High School) kids coming over,” she said. “It’s fun that kids from another high school would take time for a show at a school they don’t even go to.”
For Bate, whose son is a Front Range junior, her work with the show is akin to therapy.
“If you could see a rehearsal, people were laughing, they were having a great time, they were relaxed, swaying to the music,” Bate said. “It’s truly an escape.” Bate, whose family is dealing with personal health problems, said that even though everybody has stresses, coming together twice a week for two-hour practices is a great way to unwind.
“It’s such a joy,” she said. “This, for me, is such a wonderful gleeful distraction. I’m energized by it.”
Anderson agreed, adding that adults need constructive ways to refresh themselves. “Sometimes we don’t get, as adults, we don’t get to put that energy back into our batteries,” Anderson said. “This is a way to make it happen. I look forward to going there every week. You really don’t think about anything else. You’ve got those few hours with strangers, yet we all have a common bond. It’s kind of amazing.”
Keaney hopes that Front Range students will become more involved with the performing arts, but loves to be able to participate in the show.
“It’s just really a neat opportunity,” she said. “If they do it again, I’d do it again. Hopefully Front Range can build their music program, but it’s kind of nice that (parents) can play too.”
Front Range Christian School’s “The Wizard of Oz,” a drama and music performance, runs at 7 p.m. April 23 through 25 at Front Range Christian School, 6657 W. Ottawa Ave., Suite A-17 in Littleton. The school’s performance department also is looking for old instruments, music stands and other materials to help develop its performing arts department. If you have questions about the show, or would like to donate, e-mail Julia Bate at email@example.com.