Two Benefit Concerts for St. John School of the Arts Will Aid Students

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SJSA students performed at the Marketplace last year.

As of October 16, all St. John children are back in school, but students at the island’s only public school are attending classes on campus for only half the day.  Hurricane Irma did so much damage to the annex at the Julius E. Sprauve School that the administration decided to go for a split-session schedule: elementary students in the morning; junior high students in the afternoon.

Fortunately, the St. John School of the Arts (SJSA) is gearing up to extend the school day for all students by offering classes in art, music, theater and dance. To fund this initiative, SJSA is holding a benefit concert in New York City on Friday, October 27 at 7:00 p.m.

Coincidentally, a former St. John resident whose heart still remains on the island is also producing a benefit concert in Stowe, Vermont on the same night.  Please see the sidebar.

The NYC benefit, which will be held at the Professional Children’s Theater School at 132 West 60th St. in Manhattan, will include performances by several alumni of SJSA, including renowned steel-pan player Victor Provost.

The concert will feature the Ahn Trio, three Julliard-trained sisters who have performed at the St. John School of the Arts many times to sold out audiences.

“They were scheduled to give a concert on St. John on October 27,” said Kim Wild, executive director of SJSA.   “When Hurricane Irma hit, Maria Ahn asked me, ‘What can we do? We want to help,’” and the plan began taking shape to hold a benefit in New York on the day they had hoped to be on St. John.

“Arts help us to heal, and the children especially need this,” said Wild, but finding a venue for a benefit, particularly at the last minute, was tricky; concert halls in Manhattan don’t come cheap.

However, Ronnie Lee, a Broadway producer who has a home on St. John, had once attended the Professional Children’s Theater School.  He was able to arrange for the donation of the 200-seat hall and persuade his friend Martin Charnin, the lyricist of the song “Tomorrow,” to serve as the concert’s host.  (Fun fact: Lee had portrayed a Shark in the original production of West Side Story, and Charnin had been a Jet.)

Unreserved tickets to the benefit cost $25.  Reserved seats are $100.  Anyone donating $300 or more will be invited to a reception starting at 6:00 p.m. Reservations for tickets can be made by contacting Lee at ronnielee107@gmail.com.

The St. John School of the Arts was damaged by Hurricane Irma, but its board decided to use its reserve capital to make repairs and get the school back in operation as soon as possible, according to board chair Jim Furneaux.

Executive Director Wild lost her home in the storm and is temporarily living in the States, but she’s working hard with her team on St. John to nail down the schedule of classes for public school students.  Tentative plans call for drumming classes with Eddie Bruce; mixed media art (using storm debris) with Angela Warren; and “pop piano” – basic chords to accompany popular songs – with singer Tuvanna Miller.

The school is also planning to offer its regular after school program for children ages four and up, including ballet, painting, and individual lessons on instruments. The tentative starting date is January.  Shakima Jones will lead a gospel choir and Pat Richards, who launched the Dynamic Dancers, will lead a dance troupe.  In a typical year, the school offers around 40 different classes for children as well as 20 classes for adults, including yoga and Pilates.

At Friday’s concert, “Calabash Boom,” an original song by Terre Roche (who has taught songwriting at the SJSA,) will be performed by Roche, piano instructor Luba Dolgopolsky, and her daughter Naima Krigger.  Sage Buchalter, who grew up on St. John and is now an actor in New York, will also perform. Portions of an original musical by Andrea Green filmed with SJSA’s students in 2016 will be screened.

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