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Outreach programs gives students insight in the performing arts

Park City Institute facilitates sessions with visiting artists

For information about Park City Institute and its outreach programs, visit parkcityinstitute.org/programs.
Students from Summit and Wasatch counties participate in an outreach workshop hosted by members of Second City on Friday at the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy in Park City. Student outreach programs facilitated by the Park City Institute give local youths a chance to interact and learn from professional artists and performers.
Photo by Stacey Sayers

While the Park City Institute is known for bringing world-class performing artists, musicians and speakers to town for inspiring public appearances, it also facilitates outreach programming for local students.

When the Second City comedy troupe stopped in Park City for its “Second City Swipes Right” performance on Friday, two of the cast took two hours of their time in the afternoon to work with kids and help them develop some improvisational skills.

The session took place at the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy campus on Rasmussen Road, thanks to the school’s principal Allison DeBona, said Stacey Sayers, Park City Institute student engagement coordinator.



“All the places we would normally hold something like this were being filled up with Sundance coming to town,” Sayers said. “We originally thought to hold this in our office at the Eccles Center, and Allison stepped forward, and we are grateful to her.”

The workshop was open to 15 students, and was 120 minutes full of activity, laughs and engagement, according to Sayers.



“It was quick paced and the students were engaged all the time,” she said. “The skills and techniques these two performers taught were some of the same things they did on stage during the performance Friday night. So, it was fun to see that.”

The Second City outreach is just one of many workshops that Park City Institute makes possible for local students. Other participating artists and performers have included So Percussion and Danny Seraphine, the original drummer for the Grammy Award-winning rock band Chicago, said Sayers, who connected So Percussion with Bret Hughes, assistant director of bands at Park City High School.

“They did a student workshop about how to read music in a completely different way, through hands-on experience,” she said. “The students then joined So Percussion on the Eccles stage on the night of the performance.”

Sayers also worked to get Seraphine, whose group CTA does a Take Me Back to Chicago show, with Chris Taylor, Park City High School’s director of bands a couple of years ago.

The students met with Seraphine, rehearsed with him and performed a concert for the community.

“They practiced together and Danny was great at sharing his stories about becoming a professional musician,” Sayers said. “He encouraged students to follow their hearts and do music because they loved to do music, because the industry is challenging. And hats off to Chris Taylor, who had a lot on his plate,” she said. “He recognized the opportunity to work with Danny as one in a million.” 

Sayers joined the Park City Institute staff in 2016, and began working in her present capacity two years ago.

“This is the second full year that our executive director, Ari Ioannides, wanted things to be done,” she said. “The student engagement program is Park City Institute’s way of offering students a way to experience the performing arts with the artists and people who are in the performing arts themselves. There is a real emphasis with conversation and interaction, whether it’s through dance, playing music or doing improv, which we did Friday with Second City.”

Sayers, an educator who has taught elementary and high school in Puerto Rico, Colorado and Washington, D.C., said the biggest reward of facilitating these outreach workshops is seeing the students’ reactions.

“I love seeing the ‘a-ha’ in kids’ eyes when they make connections,” she said. “To work with professional artists and performers and watching that connection with students is bliss.”

The catch, however, is these outreach sessions are essentially additional performances for participating artists, according to Sayes.

“They come in to do the performance, but if we want them to do outreach, we have to pay them an additional fee to do it,” she said. 

The public can help create more outreach opportunities by donating to the Park City Institute or buying tickets to performances, Sayers said.

“Thanks to many donors and grants, we have been able to offer these outreach programs to students for free, because the Park City Institute believes these outreach programs are a critical piece to what we do in making the arts accessible to everyone,” she said.


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