Poetry Out Loud –Tuolumne County Final Competition
WHEN: Wednesday, February 15th, 2012
WHERE: Stage 3 Theatre, 208 S. Green St. Sonora, CA 95370
TIME: 6:30pm Competition will start promptly
Designated Competitors should arrive no later than 6pm
Free to the Public. Audience Seating Limited to 90
Central Sierra Arts Council invites the public to the Fourth Tuolumne County Poetry Out Loud Final Contest. The event, which honors 12 local high school competitors, will take place on Wednesday evening, February 15th, at Stage 3 Theatre, 208 S.Green St. in downtown Sonora. Competition rounds for this poetry recitation performance contest will be begin promptly at 6:30pm. Seating is limited and admission is free, but donations to Poetry Out Loud are gladly accepted.
Students from four participating high schools will vie to represent Tuolumne County at the California State Poetry Out Loud Contest, which takes place in late March and is presented by the California Arts Council. Groveland’s Tioga High School will be represented by Junior Chalea Marie Carter and Senior Delicia Olvera. Competing for Sonora High School will be Senior Howard Benjamin Blazzard, Senior Kiera Jacob, and last year’s returning County POL winner, Senior Jonathon Bermea. Tuolumne’s Summerville High School will be represented by Junior Cade Huff and Senior Randy Hart. Connections Visual and Performing Arts Academy is sending the largest delegation to this year’s competition with five contestants: Freshman Lauren Dempsey, Freshman Emily Fishburn, Sophomore Lorna Job, Sophomore Teresa Woods and Junior Adria Britton. “This is CSAC’s only program that is exclusively for high schools students,” comments CSAC’s Arts Education coordinator Louise McPeeters. “We are one of only 29 counties statewide who is invited to participate. Both large urban counties and small rural counties will attend the state event. One of these students will go on to shine for us in Sacramento!”
Each competing student selects, memorizes and prepares three poems from the Poetry Out Loud Anthology,” Tuolumne County’s Poetry Out Loud coach, Rick Foster outlines. The anthology has been developed by The National Poetry Foundation, with poems carefully chosen to reflect a wide range of ideas and emotions. All were originally written in English, and span from the 14th century to modern times. The County-Level competitors have all had opportunity to work closely with Foster, who coaches them on memorization techniques, delivery, interpretation and performance. He also reminds them to stay within Poetry Out Loud’s rather strict rules. “Since this same event is taking place all over the United States, it’s important that everyone is using the same rules of engagement,” he points out. The national contest is a project of the National Poetry Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, which recruits state arts councils to present the program in each state.
“We do two rounds of poem recitations,” Foster continues. “If necessary we will break any ties with a third round.” At the end of the night the judges will have chosen the Poetry Out Loud First Place Winner. That student will go on to Sacramento to be Tuolumne County’s Poetry Out Loud delegate for the March 25th and 26th State Poetry Out Loud finals. With a strong performance, he or she might be chosen to compete at the National POL event, which is held in Washington, DC, in mid-May. “Many of these poems are deeply moving,” says Foster. “Some are tragic; others are lightly comedic. These final competitors have worked hard to polish their performances and bring their deepest understanding to these profound poems.”
Judging the local February 15th event will be Columbia College English professors Jim Toner and Rick Rivera and Sierra Repertory Theatre’s Sara Jones. The accuracy judge will be Dr. Brenda Chapman of Jamestown School. Keeping score will be Bridgett McCarthy, who helped bring Poetry Out Loud to Summerville High and Connections Academy in 2007. Central Sierra Arts Council’s Board of Directors will host a dinner for the judging and scoring team prior to the evening’s events.
This year nearly 500 local high school students participated in Poetry Out Loud, beginning first in their English classrooms. “Locally we have about ten dedicated English teachers, who truly recognize the value of this program,” notes B.Z. Smith, the Tuolumne County POL coordinator. “Many of those teachers build the project in as a required assignment for all of their classes. This pushes each student to explore the Poetry Out Anthology, which is an excellent collection of classical poems.” From there each class sends a delegate to their School-Level Poetry Out Loud Competition, where they perform before a panel of at least three judges. “Teachers tell us that they see the students learn greater confidence, poise and strength as public speakers through Poetry Out Loud,” comments Smith. “In addition, the kids have told us that this challenge heightens their understanding of literature and has even given them greater abilities in logic and interpretive thinking skills.” One teacher noted that the search for the perfect poem exposes students to a wide array of poems written in varied styles.
Normally the top three School-Level competitors go on to the Tuolumne County Poetry Out Loud Final Contest. But in the event of a tie, additional students are invited to attend. This year Central Sierra Arts Council also hosted a special competition for the students of Summerville High School/ Connections Academy’s Jazz@8 choir. “We held their School-Level event while these kids were performing in Washington, DC, for the lighting of U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree,” explains Smith, the county POL coordinator. “It just didn’t feel right to eliminate the Jazz @8 kids from the POL experience. After all, they went to DC to represent the entire Tuolumne County community at an incredible national event!” When the choir came home, the county’s POL committee set up a small competition to give those students a chance to compete. As a result of this decision, Jazz@8 member Adria Britton joins the cadre of Connections Academy students for this year’s county poetry recitation event.
Each year Central Sierra Arts Council receives a $1000 mini-grant from the California Arts Council to help provide the program’s coach with a small stipend. “Of course, Rick Foster is not only incredibly talented as a director, dramaturge and published poet, he is also one of the most dedicated individuals we know at CSAC. He puts in countless hours coaching these students and traveling to their schools,” notes CSAC’s executive director Connie O’Connor-Gahagan. “We make sincere effort to augment this small allowance.” Locally many businesses, organizations and individuals now recognize the value of this program, and offer their help, as well. This year’s sponsors include Front Porch, Inc, Blue Mountain Minerals, Sonora Staples, Sonora’s Umpqua Bank, Mountain Bookshop, The Sonora PEO Chapter, Dodge Ridge Ski Resort, Columbia Candy Kitchen, the members of Central Sierra Arts Council and a number of private donors. Local funding helps support every aspect of Tuolumne County’s involvement in POL from the classroom to hosting the final event to giving support for the family of the county winner to attend the State Finals. “We work to honor the hard efforts of these students,” Smith comments. “We provide the students with a few nice gifts to thank them.” But she adds that many generous local people have made a commitment that no student will be turned away from the State competition because of his/her family’s financial situation. “We offer the First Place winner a travel stipend to make sure that there is funding for the parents and their talented student to go represent Tuolumne County.”
To learn more about Poetry Out Loud, visit www.poetryoutloud.org. This year the California Arts Council has launched a “Check Off the Arts” campaign on the 2011 California State Income Tax Form to urge every Californian to make a small donation to CAC for support of local arts councils and Arts Education programs, including Central Sierra Arts Council and its Poetry Out Loud. Central Sierra Arts Council, Tuolumne County’s designated public agency for the arts, is a 501c3 nonprofit organization. For more information on CSAC’s many local programs, visit www.centralsierraarts.org or call (209)532-2787.
From B.Z. Smith on behalf of Central Sierra Arts Council