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MOUNT VERNON — Providing cultural insights and immersive arts experiences, the Youth Enrichment Series of concerts began Wednesday morning for 700 fifth-graders from the four county schools — Centerburg, Danville, East Knox and Fredericktown, as well as Mount Vernon City Schools and St. Vincent de Paul. The concerts are held at the Memorial Building Theater and performers bring in different artistic displays for first through seventh grades.
The YES concerts have been going on for 25-30 years, according to Don Garvic, gifted and enrichment coordinator with the Knox County Educational Service Center.
“It’s a great cultural experience for them because we’re a rural area,” Garvic said. “I think it’s an opportunity for them to learn to become good audience members and I think it’s fun — the kids have a good time. And besides that, it’s educational.”
The concerts are funded through grants with the Community Foundation of Mount Vernon & Knox County, Garvic said, which funds the performers and the Memorial Building Theater venue. The school districts are in charge of paying for transportation, he said.
“We started this because so many of the kids in Columbus have a lot of opportunities to go to the things that are down there,” Garvic said. “Some of the kids have parents that will take them, but a lot of the students here don’t have that ability, so we’re giving them that.”
The performers are selected in a variety of ways, Garvic explained. Some performers come back year after year, he said. The Ohio Alliance for Arts also has groups of performers that are available for school programs and Garvic even gets performers through word-of-mouth, he said, from past performers’ recommendations.
Kicking off the YES concerts this year was Eric Paton, World Class Drummer. Using his background in Japanese-style drumming, Paton opened up a gateway to International culture, tradition and music for the fifth-graders.
Paton was raised in Japan, where he was given the nickname ‘The Fish.’ He performed three pieces for the students, joined by fellow drummers Rachael Zordan and Shane Willis, one original composition called “Angry Thunder,” which was written for Ballet Met. He additionally performed “Flying Dragon” and “The Abundance of the Sea.”
Paton explained that he studied Japanese drumming with the foremost Odaiko soloist, Eitetsu Hayashi.
During his performance, Paton gave opportunities for students and staff from every school to come to the stage and learn some drumming rhythms and Japanese performance techniques.
He has been performing with the YES series for over 20 years, he said, starting in 1995, through the Ohio Alliance for Arts program Artists-in-Schools.
He always loves coming to the Memorial Building Theater, he said, because of how the theater sounds and the intimacy performers can feel with the audience, as well as the educational opportunities the series provides for students.
“I think the idea of giving the students an opportunity for cultural exploration, gives them a greater understanding of their world and also who they are,” Paton said. “And I think it makes their world a larger place and their world a little closer.”
Additional programs through the YES series include: Tony West & the Imani Dancers, MTVArts’ Disney’s “Annie Jr.,” Robert Post, MadCap Puppets, Ballet Met, Knox County native Sarah Reed and the Columbus Children’s Theater.