by Jon Dalrymple
SPOKANE, Wash. - Upper Columbia Academy band, string and choral groups performed a Christmas music concert at the Fox Theater in downtown Spokane, December 18, 2010. It was the fourth year the school has held this special event as a gift to the community and as an opportunity for students to perform in a professional music facility.
"This was by far the best academy performance I have ever heard. I absolutely loved it,” said Chelsea English, a youth pastor who attended the concert for the first time this year. “Academy bands don't usually do it for me, but this was different. During the first song, I was literally bouncing out of my seat.”
“I was incredibly proud of how sensitively and professionally the students performed,” said Dean Kravig, UCA Band Director, “After the concert I had a college level music teacher tell me she was impressed by how highly polished they sounded. She said it was hard to believe she was listening to a high school band. That says a lot about how hard the students worked.”
The Fox theater is a well known performing arts venue in the Spokane community and is the home of the Spokane symphony. UCA's performances at the 1930s era theater, which was restored 4 years ago at a cost of $31 million dollars, has had a number of positive effects both for the school and for the church.
“Our main purpose, and the original idea came about eight years ago,” says Curtis Anderson, UCA Music Department Chairman. “The idea was to use the music program as an evangelistic tool. Gerald Haeger, our ministerial director at the conference office, suggested we take our Christmas program, which we were performing in the gym, into the community and use it as an outreach. Not only has has it opened the eyes of Spokane about who Seventh-day Adventist are, but it has also given us a purpose other than just having a nice concert at school.”
“I meet people all over town that know us because of the Fox concert,” says Kravig. “When I'm wearing my UCA music department shirt people just start talking to me about the Fox concert. The day after the concert this year I was at the Costco optical department and I talked to a lady who said she was just driving by the Fox and saw it advertised on the sign so she decided to come.”
“I invite a Sunday church choir to come to the concert each year, and they think our students are amazing,” says Anderson, “and the staff at the Fox are continually impressed with our group. Most of the staff are volunteers because they love music and being a part of the music community, and I think doing this concert each year plants seeds in these people's hearts that will have an effect in the end time.”
“We also get some very positive comments from the parents of the students,” says Anderson. “They appreciate that their kids have an opportunity to perform in an acoustically professional facility. It puts their performance in the best possible environment rather than in a gym were it is very hard to hear.”
“Gymnasiums aren't made for concerts any more than concert halls are made for basketball games,” says Kravig. “Performing at the Fox lets our student's know what it is like to perform in a great auditorium. It tells them that their music is worth something. It inspires them. When you feel good about what you are doing it just helps you play better.”
“The Fox is such a fun place to perform,” said Jessica Demitor, a senior at UCA who has performed at the concert for two years in a row, “It is the highlight of the year for the music students, the fact that it is downtown in such a cool place just makes you want to do better. It's a bigger deal, because your performing for more than just the people you know at school and you want to make a good impression on the community. I don't think I'll be doing any big performances after I graduate, I probably won't make a career out of it. But I plan to keep practicing and learning to play better, for me music is a way of relieving stress and it is also part of how I worship God.”
“There is no doubt that more kids sign up for music because of the Fox concert opportunity,' says Anderson. “The Fox concert is something kids can shoot for. They know there will be 1000 plus people there and that gives them more motivation.”
“We are so blessed to be able to do this for these kids, and the reason music is such a big deal at UCA is largely because of of Jerry Lange who worked for many years to build up the music program here. We are still reaping the results of his efforts and we are thankful for the continued support of the parents and other supporters.”
It is a huge team effort on the part of the school and the conference to pull off the Fox concert each year, but to me it is so worth it. The greatest part for me is to watch the eyes of the kids as they sing and see how excited they are when they sing. I love watching the kids grow and learn.”