From a young age, I was fortunate to have an arts experience all-year round. As the school year bled into summer, my community, Randolph, seemed to light up with open-air concerts and theater. These concerts, which gave young classical, jazz, and even, reggae artists across Morris County the chance to display their musical talent, and despite their small scale, offered dimension to my arts experience with real-life exposure to styles that my music classes only identified. As summers passed, I became inspired to pursue the violin. I, too, envisioned myself playing behind Randolph Library to the adoring applause of fellow community members. Eventually, I had the chance to perform at a Randolph Summer Pops Concert with a classical quartet. As I looked out into the audience, this fledgling musical journey came full circle. Almost everywhere I looked, I saw a group of equally enthralled elementary school students, commencing their own exploration of music.
In addition to music, I developed as an artist, an actor, and a person through community theatre. With a mere 108 seats, the Brundage Park Playhouse felt almost incalculably enormous. Our full-stage productions of Aladdin, The Sound of Music, and Alice in Wonderland inspired my stage presence, and when I could look out to an audience and see the same townspeople with whom I went to school with, the library with, and even summer concerts with, I felt secure enough to perform authentically. At the end of each summer, we organized a Kid’s Cabaret, a medley of songs and skits that explored themes universal to Randolph youth: growing up, the high school experience, and pop culture. With summer theater, I felt proud to live in a town that valued its performers and embraced the chance to be entertained.
These two arts opportunities fundamentally changed my life. Community art gave depth to the breadth of my school arts experience. It forced me to practically explore what it meant to create and perform. Still, I understand that these opportunities simply do not exist in most communities across New Jersey. That’s why Arts Ed Summer is so fundamentally important. It creates a network of events and professionals that can keep arts education alive even as the school year ends. This flurry of shows, exhibitions, and concerts can offer the same self-discovery, the same educational development to students across New Jersey. You, too, can get involved by telling your story on Arts Ed Now’s website (www.artsednow.org), adding your event to the map of New Jersey’s summer arts projects, and getting social with the #artsednow hashtag. Please, contribute to Arts Ed Summer, and offer a holistic arts education to students this summer.
Written By: Christopher Maximos