Red Hook students step out on Bard stage

The Red Hook School District and Bard College have stepped up their collaboration in the performing arts — and the students are now showing how that works.

Red Hook High School’s band and chorus will present a concert May 30 at 7:30pm at Bard’s Fisher Center. The middle school’s grades 6 and 7 band and chorus were to have performed May 19 and grades 7 and 8 band and chorus on May 21, as well.

The district-college partnership has been underway for several years but only recently blossomed into one that “has everyone excited,” according to Red Hook’s assistant to the superintendent for curriculum and instruction, Donna Gaynor.

Since 2011, at least one school group has performed a concert at the Fisher Center each year, for which Bard charges the school district an at-cost fee. But last year, Gaynor had the idea to approach Bard about expanding the opportunities to do so.

Red Hook is the only school district in the county with no auditorium and Gaynor thought Bard might be the answer to the problem of giving students more exposure to professional performance spaces, rather than the gyms or cafeterias they were used to performing in.

In order to pay for the program and create a true partnership, Gaynor suggested that Bard staff members visit high school and middle school music classes to share information about the performance spaces prior to performances, thus creating Arts in Education residencies.

“This [opportunity] is really important, especially for our kids who [perform] in competitions against kids who have a performance theater that they practice in, that they are in all the time. Our kids go in for the first time and go ‘Wow, this is really neat,’” Gaynor told parents at the district’s State of the Schools recent presentation, according to a Bard news release.

Student musicians have also been invited to attend rehearsals of the college’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program opera as well as its Conservatory of Music orchestra concerts. And Bard College teaching artists conducted musicianship master classes to prepare the students for taking the stage at the Sosnoff Theater.

The Fisher Center’s production manager, Vin Roca, has been helping to upgrade the performance equipment in the high school’s gymnasium to keep the arts’ programs up-to-date. The upgrades have been funded by donations from the Red Hook Educational Foundation.

Between the band, chorus, and Performing Arts Club, Davis estimates that approximately 350 Red Hook students perform at the Fisher Center annually.

“It’s one community. A lot of folks that work at Bard have kids at Red Hook schools,” Davis noted.

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