Professional musicians know the story all too well. If it didn't happen to them, it probably happened to a colleague. When the school budget goes up on the chopping block, the arts department is usually one of the first groups to feel the cuts. Music, art and theater programs are always one of the first to go, deemed the least important of all the academic fields.
But not at Assumption Catholic School in Perth Amboy, NJ.
For 20 years now, the after school activities have been going strong at ACS, and the halls are alive with the sounds of budding thespians and musicians alike. Since the first meeting of the glee club on Monday, February 6, 1995 to today, our after school programs have grown to include drama for both the 3rd – 5th and 6th – 8th grade levels, and the unique sounding chimetteers for the 6th – 8th graders as well. With the popularity of singing ever growing, glee club, which was originally open to all students in 3rd grade or older, was split into two groups, with the middle grades taking over glee club while the show choir would be open for our older students. Today, these clubs are populated by 44 percent of all eligible students.
To celebrate 20 years of after school programs, a show was put together that revisited the theme of the very first glee club show, songs from Annie and Oliver. This year, over 50 students from our after school groups got in on the act and shared their talents in song and in skits. Many of those students are actually in more than one performing group, but made their transitions from one scene to the next with ease. Drama students, under the direction of Mrs. Pickering, performed skits written by themselves or by Mrs. Lawrence. The chimetteers performed two songs arranged by Miss Lawrence – one from each Broadway musical, and the glee club and show choir staged some of the more memorable songs from the two shows, "It's a Hard Knock Life" and "You're Never Fully Dressed without a Smile" from Annie, "Food, Glorious Food" and "Who Will Buy?" from Oliver.
Despite the cold and icy conditions the night of the show, the students performed to a full house. Over 100 parents, grandparents, siblings and friends came to enjoy the show, which was also attended by our ever supportive Father Ivan, our Missionary Sisters, and our principal, Mr. Szpyhulsky. Our students – not just our performers, but all of our students – are supported by not just our priest, principal, nuns and teachers, but by so many parents, friends, and parishioners as well, many of whom were not even in attendance.
While admission to the show was free, the teachers who run the performing arts groups, Mrs. Lawrence, Mrs. Pickering and Miss Lawrence, were asking for donations for music and drama supplies for the students. On the shopping list – 60 recorders for music class, props and accessories, and a new chimes set, which was the big ticket item at a whopping $840. Money from the recent spirit wear sale also went towards this goal. Between the donations collected at the show and also from parishioners of Assumption Church the same weekend, the money from the spirit wear sale, and a generous donation from the FSA, not only was our fundraising goal of $1,240 met, it was exceeded. Thanks to the generosity of our friends, family and parishioners, we raised just over $1,500. As Mrs. Lawrence said, "I'm just overwhelmed," and it's true. In a time where the arts are often left out in the cold, the family of Assumption Catholic School and Church are welcoming the arts in with warm, open arms and saying, no, the arts are here to stay.
Immediately, recorders, recorder music, storage bins, and the new chimes are going to be ordered. After that the teachers will then sit down and do some research to see how best to spend the rest of the money.