A new appreciation of music and dance may be in the hearts of 153 students at Chase County Schools.
That’s thanks to a three-day experience with the 43-member Young Americans, who spent Sunday to Wednesday last week rehearsing with the grade 3-12 students, followed by a high-energy show in the Longhorn gym.
Jodie Liess, CCS elementary music teacher, couldn’t say enough about the value of such an experience. “Our students had the opportunity to do things we can’t do in the classroom,” Liess said. “They got to work with 43 very talented teachers,” she said. The three-day workshop last week culminated in a two-hour concert featuring the student participants performing alongside The Young Americans. The performance was the end result, but the core of the workshop focused on providing experiences and tools to students that yield individual, personal growth and understanding. “The experience showed some of them (students) that ‘I can do this’ and expand outside the box,” Liess added. Some of her students who are a struggle to get to sing were willing to do so last week, she noted. “It was a very safe environment in which to try something new,” she said. After arriving on Sunday, Feb. 24, the Young Americans first worked with students on Monday after school. After a short performance, they went right into teaching CCS students choreography for the show. Initially, the students were split into three groups, rotating through sessions in the auditorium, band room and gym. The next day, the groups expanded into the commons area and hallways. Wednesday was spent in dress rehearsal.
They have it down to a real system, Liess smiled. Just 12 hours of actual training time were spent learning the routines for the show. “I think everyone liked it,” Liess said. “And, yes, we’d like to have them back.” The Young Americans will perform in the same community no sooner than every three years, so the next earliest visit here would be in 2016. Nine high school students at CCS took the opportunity to audition for a possible future spot in a Young Americans tour group. Liess, who coordinated their visit here, has worked with the group before. During her 20 years as a music teacher in Cambridge, the Young Americans visited three or four times, she said.
Bruce Sampson, who directs the show and a former Young American himself, told the audience of 600 after the show that Imperial was truly hospitable. He said they all felt welcomed and special in Imperial, and gave special thanks to the 14 host families that housed them. Liess noted that Sampson’s words were not part of a script. “They really did feel they were treated special here,” she said. In addition to her thanks to the CCS administration and fellow staff, Liess said the Pom Poms provided huge support for their visit. A $5,000 Pom Poms donation helped drop the per-student cost to $15 instead of a $57 workshop fee. In addition, they had other monetary donations from the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO), Pinnacle Bank and The Imperial Manor. Others supporting the visit were the Chamber which donated water; Brickstone Grille & Sports Bar, which fed the Young Americans Tuesday night; and the United Methodist Church, which fed them Wednesday. The Pom Poms and PTO also provided meals Sunday and Monday. Following their workshop and show in Imperial, the group went on to Kearney, Minden, O’Neill, Cambridge and additional schools in eastern Nebraska. Each tour group performs for a three-month stint, then returns to California to regroup. Other Young American groups are currently performing in the United Kingdom and Japan.