• HCOA celebrates 27 years of local youth talent
By Christina Whiting
Every year, Homer youth take to the high school’s Mariner Theatre stage, delighting audiences with performances of everything from dancing and singing to gymnastics and hula hooping.
This Homer Council on the Arts annual showcase of youth performance artists is “Jubilee.” Now in its 27th year, the celebration of youth talent also acts as a fundraiser for the Council’s Youth Summer Fine Arts Scholarship fund.
This year, more than 50 kids auditioned in front of judges who looked for poise and comfort on the stage, length of piece, variety offered for the show, age-appropriateness, suitability for a family audience and preparation.
Participating youth — ranging in age from 7 to 17 — will perform some 20 separate acts. And, for the first time, students from Seldovia, as well as a foreign exchange student from Kazakhstan, will also take part in the performance.
“During Jubilee, youth receive validation for their persistence in an art form,” said Diane Borgman, HCOA Board President and creator of Jubilee. “It encourages them to set personal goals and share the results, brings joy and encouragement to the audience and teaches them to plan and problem solve when planning their audition piece.”
As a former principal, Borgman knows how important the arts are for children.
“Students with an arts-rich education have better grade point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math and have lower dropout rates,” she said.
Ella Parks is 17 years old, and this will be her fourth year performing in Jubilee. She will be singing “Break Even” by The Script, while she plays the piano.
“I chose this song because it’s easy and fit my voice range,” she said.
Parks has been singing since she took voice lessons in the fourth grade, but only started playing piano about five months ago. She appreciates the opportunity to perform and share what she can do.
“Being on stage in Jubilee helps give me confidence,” she said. “There are a lot of talented kids in Homer and this is just a great chance to watch them all.”
Falcom Greear is 14, and this will be his sixth year in Jubilee. Last year, he treated audiences to a medley of Dolly Parton tunes, and this year he will sing “All that Jazz.”
“It’s a good idea for kids of all ages to audition and open themselves up to the community,” he said. “In Jubilee, youth get recognized for their talents. We all want to be recognized.”
In the mid 1980s, while principal at McNeil Canyon Elementary School, Borgman saw a need to showcase youth talent in the visual and performing arts. She and a committee of local parents created the visual arts part of Jubilee, and the performing arts side of the event grew out of requests from teachers, parents and students.
“Through the years, Jubilee has become a community-wide event,” Borgman said. “The performances are more professional and those auditioning are well-prepared.”
Every year, Homer’s jazz dance teacher Jocelyn Shiro prepares her young students to audition for Jubilee.
“Experiencing what it’s like to go up before a panel of judges, having one chance to do their dance, and then waiting to see if they are selected is a unique and valuable experience for the kids,” she said.
As a teacher, mother and community member, Shiro appreciates how Jubilee encourages youth talent.
“Every year, there are returning performers and new performers — and every one of them is incredible,” she said. “Jubilee is always very entertaining and makes you feel very proud of the kids. It makes you proud to be a part of this community.”
Brothers Landon (14) and Nolan (16) Bunting will perform a duet of their own arrangements of music from the video game “Halo.” It’s a duet they wrote specifically for Jubilee. Landon will play piano and Nolan will play the cello.
“We thought it would be fun to perform together,” Nolan said. “The hardest thing was finding time to practice together.”
Landon played piano in a past Jubilee, but this is Nolan’s first time. Landon is active in Pier One Theater, HCOA’s Theatershakes and plays trumpet and guitar. Nolan plays tuba and sings baritone in the high school music program. He has also been involved with the high school’s Drama, Debate and Forensics team, runs track and has performed with Pier One Theater.
“Going through a performance is one of the most exciting things you can do,” Landon said.
Falcom’s mom, Alana Greear, encourages parents and caregivers to nurture their children’s talents.
“Kids need a cool mentor — whether it’s a parent, teacher, neighbor or sibling; just someone cheerleading for them,” she said. “They’re only limited by their own creativity, and that’s where adults need to step in and say, ‘hey, you’re really good at …’”
Jubilee starts at 7 p.m. Friday, April 25, at Homer High School’s Mariner Theatre. Tickets are $5 for youth, $10 HCOA members and $15 general admission. They are available for purchase by calling 235-4288 or going to homerart.org. Jubilee is a fundraiser for HCOA’s Youth Summer Fine Arts Scholarship fund.
“It is through our music, literature, art, drama and dance that we tell the story of our past and express our hopes for the future,” Borgman said. “Artists challenge our assumptions, expand our understanding and push us to view our world in new and very unexpected ways.”
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