BWW News: Stages St. Louis and The Centene Inclusion Project's ROCKIN' THROUGH THE YEARS at Holt High School

Yesterday morning was kind of a homecoming for me as I returned to Holt High School (Wentzville School District) to check out the Centene Inclusion Project that Stages St. Louis, through their outreach program, Access the Arts, put together. The production, called Rockin' Through the Years, allowed students with special needs, including those with physical, cognitive, and developmental challenges to actively participate in a musical presentation along with the drama students at the school. I found the show to be a moving and thoroughly enjoyable experience that allowed these two groups to come together in a truly unique and wonderful way, breaking down barriers that might otherwise keep them from working with one another.

The students, which included: Bri Beames, Clayton Berry, Jasmine Blackburn, Ryan Blazer, Dezzie Blevins, Tyler Centorbi, Joey Coogan, Sarah Disney, Alexander Dockery, Katherine Durant, Alexandria Dyer, Marchaun Gully, Westby Guthrie, Hannah Hecker, Wyatt Henzel, Chris Hermann, Alana Jones, Kenzie Nicole, Riley Leacox, Jason Mccabe, Mikaylin Rose Padilla, William Rackers, Matt Randell, Kylee Reprogle, Rebecca Roessener, Josh Rusan, Jamie Rusan, Aric Schrey, Alex Schulz, Madelieine Sieving, Ellie Simms, Charles Sliger, Hollynn St. Clair, Jami Steckel, Carina Steinhen, Trevor Stogsdill, Keagan Taylor, and Gage Whitehurst, performed five numbers from the 1960's and 70's that displayed their considerable and burgeoning talents in a short program that was truly delightful.

Director Katie Hayes, who is manager of Outreach-Stages St. Louis, worked with the students to choose five songs from the hundred or so that had been suggested. The numbers selected included splendid renditions of "It Takes Two" (Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston), "We Will Rock You" (Queen), "Proud Mary" (the Ike and Tina Turner version of the Creedence Clearwater Revival classic), "Shout" (The Temptations), and "Don't Stop Believin'"(Journey). Through choreography that emphasized movements designed to work both the left and right sides of the brain, this group provided a receptive audience with a very memorable undertaking that was affecting and joyful in its execution. Longtime director of theatre at Holt High School, Rob Gleason (piano), joined members of the jazz band, which consisted of Solomon Rodney (drums), Emily Henley (keyboard), and Mr. Henry Kappler (guitar), to provide the backing for this spirited offering.

For me, coming back to a school that has undergone enormous and substantial improvements and growth since I graduated many years ago, this was an emotional exhibition of how different groups of individuals can come together to produce something that's genuinely significant and noteworthy. I cannot thank all of them enough for giving me the opportunity to attend this meaningful presentation. This was a shining example that provides a blueprint for other communities in their efforts to unite students who might otherwise never have the chance to perform side by side.

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From This Author Chris Gibson

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