“Very Special Arts” going online this year

The Music Center’s annual festival, rather than shutting down as the pandemic continues, will be available as a virtual experience in April, making it possible to not only continue an important decades-old tradition, but to open up the festival and its workshops and activities to a wider public audience.

Please help spread the word about this impressive event.

See the press release below:

The Music Center’s 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual to Celebrate Students of All Abilities

In a First for this Powerful Event, the Public is Invited to Experience Student and Professional Performances, Explore a Virtual Student Art Exhibit and Participate in Six Educational Workshops

WATCH: Friday, April 16, 2021, from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

LOS ANGELES (March 9, 2021)—The Music Center’s 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual will transform its long-standing tradition of showcasing the talents of students of all abilities into a virtual format for 2021. Usually a private event for K–12 schools located throughout Los Angeles County, the online offering now gives the public a first-ever opportunity to participate and join the celebration. The fun, hour-long program will stream on The Music Center Offstage virtual platform on Friday, April 16, 2021, from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m., featuring student performances, professional entertainment segments and six participatory educational workshops. In addition, The Music Center’s 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual will also highlight hundreds of visual artworks created by students based on this year’s theme, “Seeds of Kindness,” in a virtual gallery. The program will include an ASL interpreter and will be transcribed for people with visual impairment. This free, annual inclusive event, the only student festival of its kind in the county, celebrates the students’ artistic achievements and encourages active participation in the arts and connection with one another as a community. 

The Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival is going on 42 years strong, and we are going to make sure these incredible students still have the opportunity to show off their creative talents and have the chance to shine for friends, family and other student performers,” said Rachel S. Moore, president and CEO of The Music Center. “We postponed the live fall event hoping we could still gather in person sooner, rather than later. Yet, even with continued closures, we can still celebrate and share the fun and enrichment the arts offer all of us, and how dancing, singing and performing makes each of us feel special.” 

“Our partner schools look forward to the Very Special Arts Festival each year and we’re thrilled we could create a virtual version that allows young people to actively participate, learn and express themselves through creating and contributing to artistic work. The opportunity of an online format enables students and teachers—and the public—to engage with the program at their convenience without the worry of missing any of the many dynamic arts experiences. The Music Center’s 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual as well as our other arts learning offerings available on The Music Center Offstage provide opportunities for all to enjoy no matter your age or ability,” added Keith Wyffels, associate vice president of education, TMC Arts. 

Hosted by master teaching artist David Prather and mezzo-soprano Suzanna GuzmánThe Music Center’s 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual will feature four three-minute video performances of students from Little Citizens Westside Academy (Leimert Park); Christopher Dena Elementary School (East Los Angeles); Millikan Middle School (Sherman Oaks); and Pio Pico Middle School (Mid-City). These students have created and edited videos of themselves sharing their artistic expression of the theme “Seeds of Kindness.” The program, directed by Nicole Alexander, will also entertain viewers with master magician Kenrick “Ice” McDonald, as well as include performances by ILL-Abilities, an international professional break dancing crew featuring differently-abled dancers showing the world that anything is possible; Infinite Flow Dance, an L.A. dance company composed of dancers with and without disabilities who use dance to promote inclusion and innovation; and student members from Straight Up Abilities, a local non-profit which provides dance training to students of all abilities and ages.

The virtual festival will also include six visual and performing arts participatory workshops led by professional artists, including:

  • Dance Workshop:  Led by Music Center Teaching Artist Tara Cook Davis, this workshop embodies kindness by using the vehicle of dance for self-expression and lots of fun. Viewers will learn choreographed movement and have the opportunity to create moves of their own. 
  • Dance Workshop:  The public is invited to dance along with Robin Olive and two of her All-Star dancers, John Tucker and Marci Landeros, from Straight Up Abilities. This non-profit believes “Everyone can and should dance.”   
  • Media Arts Workshop:  Guided by Music Center Teaching Artist Lynn Okimura, participants will learn how to cut and move simple shapes around to make paper cutout characters drawn from imagination. 
  • Fine Arts Workshop:  Music Center Teaching Artist Beth Peterson teaches viewers how to dream up and create a hand puppet character who can plant a seed of kindness!
  • Theater Workshop:  After viewing a short performance by the Chameleons Mime Theatre, participants will learn an invisible rope illusion that can be applied to a short mime piece, called “The Tug of War.”
  • Music Workshop:  Joseph Peck’s Scavenger Drum Circle introduces various percussion instruments and then teaches the audience how to make a drum and shaker. Viewers will also learn the rhythmic scale and participate in an Engine Room Jam! 

The Music Center’s Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual is produced in partnership with the Los Angeles Unified School District and the Los Angeles County Office of Education. Schools throughout Los Angeles County with students in grades K–12 are invited to participate. Support for this year’s event comes from Glorya Kaufman Dance Foundation; Jerry and Terri Kohl Family Foundation; LSMK Investments; The Kenneth T. and Eileen L. Norris Foundation; The Ring-Miscikowski Foundation/The Ring Foundation; Marie Song; California Arts Council; Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; National Arts & Disability Center; and Superior Grocers. The festival is part of The Music Center’s longstanding, multi-faceted arts education program that typically serves over 150,000 students and educators throughout Los Angeles County.

Calendar Listings

When: Friday, April 16, 2021, from 10:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m. 

Where: The Music Center Offstage (Musiccenter.org) *Artists and programs subject to change

About The Music Center

The Music Center convenes artists, communities and ideas with the goal of deepening the cultural lives of every resident in Los Angeles County. The non-profit performing arts organization has two divisions: TMC Arts and TMC Ops. TMC Arts, The Music Center’s programming engine, provides year-round programming inside The Music Center’s four theatres, on Jerry Moss Plaza, outside at Grand Park—a 12-acre adjacent green space—in schools and other locations all over Los Angeles County and on a digital platform called The Music Center Offstage. TMC Arts presents world-class dance with Glorya Kaufman Presents Dance at The Music Center, free and low-cost public concerts and events, as well as K–12 arts education programs along with workshops, performances, interactive experiences and special events on The Music Center Offstage. TMC Ops manages the theatres, the Plaza and Grand Park on behalf of the County of Los Angeles. The Music Center is also home to four renowned resident companies—Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles Master Chorale, LA Opera and LA Phil. For more information, visit musiccenter.org. Follow The Music Center on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @MusicCenterLA.

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The 42nd Annual Very Special Arts Festival Goes Virtual School Performances

Pio Pico Middle SchoolLAUSD1512 Arlington Ave Los Angeles 90019
Little Citizens Westside AcademyLAUSD4256 Western AveLos Angeles 90062
Christopher Dena ElementaryLAUSD1314 Dacotah StLos Angeles 90023
Millikan Middle SchoolLAUSD5041 Sunnyslope AveSherman Oaks 91423

For more information, go to https://www.musiccenter.org/education/Very-Special-Arts-Festival/

Featured photo of the New Jerry Moss Plaza by Tim Street-Porter, courtesy of the Music Center.

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