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Choir tour

Faculty grow arts partnerships

For two nights in May, young thespians from La Salle High School regaled audiences with performances of Shakespeare’s tragic tale of ambition, “MacBeth,” at Yakima Valley College’s Kendall Hall Auditorium.

With support from students in YVC’s drama program, the performances are among recent efforts by faculty members to ramp up off-campus outreach efforts to help grow arts programs whose enrollment suffered in the wake of the pandemic.

Drama Instructor Ray Pritchard helped facilitate the performance by La Salle High School, which needed a suitable venue for its long-anticipated student production.

The cast consisted of La Salle students, one of whom is planning to attend YVC next fall. It also gave students enrolled in YVC’s Drama 116 Technical Theatre class the opportunity to learn about the gain hands-on experience in the technical aspects of theatrical production.

“It is our hope that this will be a good way to strengthen our connection to La Salle [High School], so that more of the La Salle students will consider YVC as an option,” said Pritchard.

Faculty and staff like Pritchard and Steven Slusher have long played a key role in developing and fostering partnerships within the Yakima Valley. These partnerships can serve to strengthen, support, and even transform individual organizations, resulting in improved program quality, more efficient use of resources, and better alignment of mission and goals.

Their efforts have helped foster new partnerships with K-12 schools, engaging students and, in cases such as the “MacBeth” performance, provided additional opportunities for YVC students.

Pritchard noted this was a huge benefit given that YVC’s drama program is still in the process of rebuilding and reopening after the COVID pandemic prevented in-person performances until this past March.

Music Instructor Steven Slusher also made it a priority to focus on collaboration this spring. Slusher took his outreach off campus, providing clinics and visiting schools throughout the Yakima Valley including West Valley middle and high schools, Eisenhower High School, Cle Elum High School, Highland High School and Selah High School.

“​It is important to give their current students feedback on the work they are doing with their directors, as well as inform them on potential future decisions on post high school options for music and academics at Yakima Valley College,” said Slusher.

Slusher also noted how the pandemic has impacted YVC’s music program and provided opportunities for current students.

“Pre-pandemic, every spring quarter YVC Choir students would take a tour and visit as many area high schools as possible,” said Slusher. “We would visit many in one day, spend an hour or two, share singing and then move on to a bigger city.”

Those visits helped YVC’s choral students hone their performances and recruit future students.

He is excited to create future opportunities for high school and college students to establish relationships and creative shared experiences, furthering the mission of Yakima Valley College.

Video Performance

The music department also worked with community music groups — the Yakima Symphony Chorus, Canticus, Camarata and Bel Canto — to produce a video performance of “Sing Community, Sing Peace” by Mark Hayes.

“Participating in this video has given YVC Choir students the opportunity to meet singers in the community,” said Slusher. “They are now aware of multiple choirs in the Yakima area they can continue to sing in when their time at YVC is through.”

Slusher said building community through outreach and performance is crucial to the success of YVC’s programs.

“YVC being a part of the community is something we must always strive to achieve,” he said. “Whether it be for attendance at future concerts or providing future opportunities at performance venues or possible recruitment, it is all worthwhile and will benefit myself, my program and our education institution at large.”

The video performance will be released on YVC’s YouTube channel this summer.