Pacific Symphony's 'arts-X-press' Program Returns for 14th Summer, Beg. Today
Fostering artistic discovery and creative expression, Pacific Symphony's arts-X-press program returns for the 14th summer to provide 150 middle-school students with a safe and encouraging environment while exploring their love of the arts. Filled with exciting workshops led by arts educators, excursions to see performances and opportunities to meet artists behind the scenes, arts-X-press students are treated to experiences many have never had before. Each year, students from all parts of Orange County entering 7th and 8th grade are nominated by their teachers and apply for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Beginning today, July 12, these students dive into the heart of the arts and discover dance, theater, visual art, vocal music and instrumental music during a five-day stay in the dorms at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa. Founded by Music Director Carl St.Clair to celebrate the memory of his (and wife Susan's) son, Cole Carsan St.Clair, the innovative and multidisciplinary program lets students test the boundaries of their creativity in an overnight summer camp, where no artistic risk is too intimidating to explore.
"As a camper, arts-X-press was an opportunity of a lifetime for me to learn about the arts and explore my own artistic talents," says James Suazo, who returns this year as a staff member. "Arts-X-press took me to my first musical, first symphony concert and opened my eyes to an entire world that I only imagined. Arts-X-press changed my life because I felt comfortable exploring the arts by taking creative risks regardless of what anyone thought of me. These are values and experiences that I still cherish today."
This summer, the first session of arts-X-press takes place from July 12-16; session two from July 19-23; and session three from July 26-30. Fifty students participate in each session. To learn more about the program and to view first-hand accounts of the impact that arts-X-press makes on its students, visit www.PacificSymphony.org/arts-X-press.
Reflective of how many artistic disciplines-not just music-influenced his own creative development, Maestro St.Clair's philosophy is the driving force behind the program. In line with his vision for encouraging love of the arts, arts-X-press is designed for students to gain a lifelong connection to the arts and to foster respect for each student's individuality, interests and diverse heritage.
"At arts-X-press, students immediately jump into the bubble of creativity and risk-taking," says Kelli Rust, coordinator of community arts participation. "Students are encouraged to leave their comfort zones behind as they explore new ways of expressing themselves and learning about one another. This is important because at the ages of 12-14, kids are at a critical point in life where they are figuring out who and what they are about. Providing a nurturing and encouraging environment for taking artistic risks and embracing those different than themselves helps these young people embrace who they are as unique and important individuals in society."
During the week, students actively participate in the arts as they dance, draw, sing, act and play music in workshops led by experienced faculty, in addition to attending performances throughout the county. On the last night, students put together a presentation for parents and show off all they have created over the last five days.
"My favorite activity is 'creative expression,' which I teach," says Suazo, "because it allows all the campers to get their creative juices flowing in the morning as we explore music, creative writing and reflective activities on their camp experience. By the end, all of the campers find new ways to channel and improve their creativity; a skill that they can use for the rest of their lives!"
"Students usually love the talent show and parent presentation at the end of the five days, when they are able to showcase what they have been working on all week for friends, family and each other," adds Rust.
This summer, students participate in excursions to Laguna Beach's Pageant of the Masters and Festival of the Arts, The Chance Theater's presentation of "In the Heights," Musical Theater West's "Beauty and the Beast," Pacific Symphony's "Gershwin Greats" at Verizon Wireless Amphitheater and Symphony in the Cities in Mission Viejo. These field trips allow students to meet the artists behind the productions and hear from the professionals many consider their role models, including Maestro St.Clair!
More than 1,800 alumni have graduated from arts-X-press since its inception in 2001, and while each student may participate in the program only once -- a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity -- many return as program counselors and volunteers for other Pacific Symphony programs.