Monday, June 12, 2017

Susan Koch: Praise for exceptional performing arts at UIS

The following is an excerpt from a column by University of Illinois Springfield Chancellor Susan Koch. This column appeared in The State Journal-Register on June 10, 2017.

"Just a few days ago, The State Journal Register’s “Weekend and More” section featured the rollout of UIS Sangamon Auditorium’s 2017-18 performing arts season. 

The season represents the final encore for auditorium director Bob Vaughn. Bob is transitioning to a well-earned retirement after 11 years of bringing exceptional quality and diversity to the Sangamon Auditorium stage. 

But many of the more than 75,000 patrons who regularly attend Sangamon Auditorium Broadway Shows, Visiting Artists and Kitchen Sink Series each year are not aware of an additional slate of rich performances that are equally appreciated. I’m talking about the Class Acts program — special daytime performing arts programming offered for students from preschool through high school from across central Illinois. 

Thanks to enthusiastic partnerships with several school districts, including the Springfield Public Schools, almost 15,000 students attended at least one of 15 Class Acts performances this year, ranging from Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” for high school students to “Pete the Cat” for primary-aged children. 

A complimentary program called “Grow Up Great” provides additional funding for professional development for teachers and opportunities for parents and Head Start children to attend an evening meal and performance. 

The Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs would not be possible were it not for the generosity of donors who believe in the importance of arts education and who help fund the programming, subsidize the purchase of tickets for the students and help pay the cost of bus transportation. 

In addition to being a show sponsor every year, PNC Bank is a major sponsor of both Class Acts and Grow Up Great. “We’re so appreciative of PNC’s consistent support for these programs,” says Vaughn. “They’re helping us create a point of entry to the performing arts for both students and educators who might not otherwise have access to these experiences.” 

Bob and Liz Staley have also been longtime supporters of the programs. Though Liz is now deceased, the Staley family continues to provide a generous grant each year to enable small-town schools in New Berlin, Auburn and Waverly to participate in the Class Acts program. 

The Staley gift also provides funding for teachers to attend an evening performance at the auditorium each year. Participating teachers are asked to provide feedback about their students’ experiences, and their words may provide the best commentary on the value of the Class Acts and Grow Up Great programs. 

A music teacher from Riverton High School reported, after her class attended a performance of the 
acappella group Vocalosity: “An excellent performance! The students loved it. Students need opportunities to compare and contrast real professionals with their own ensembles so they can better understand what a high quality performance really is.” 

As we bid director Bob Vaughn a fond farewell and welcome new Sangamon Auditorium director Bryan Rives in the coming weeks, I’m looking forward to another exceptional year of performing arts at the University of Illinois Springfield — for audiences of all ages."

Read the entire column online.