Cony­ers Kids keep­ing the arts alive

The Covington News - - The second front -

My mid­dle child Eli, is the the­atri­cal one in the fam­ily. You know the type — al­ways telling jokes, craft­ing dra­matic sto­ries, re­act­ing pas­sion­ately to ev­ery­thing. He cracks me up and has quite the rep­u­ta­tion among our friends as be­ing a real ham.

So when I first heard about Cony­ers Kids, a per­form­ing arts school that meets at Cony­ers Pres­by­te­rian Church in Olde Town, I thought he’d be a great can­di­date to au­di­tion.

But when I told him that the classes were three-fold — not just act­ing, but singing and move­ment, too — he went all “deer-in-the-head­lights” and said, “No way, Mom!” I didn’t want to push him, so I just let it go and de­cided we’d wait an­other year to try out.

When I got word about last Au­gust’s au­di­tion, I started en­cour­ag­ing Eli to give it a shot. He still hemmed and hawed and dragged his feet a bit, but I knew that even if he de­cided he didn’t want to join the class, the au­di­tion would be a good ex­pe­ri­ence for him. I’m a cun­ning mother, not above bribery to mo­ti­vate my chil­dren, so I dan­gled an af­ter-trip to Dunkin’ Donuts in front of his nose. With vi­sions of choco­late frost­ing and sprin­kles danc­ing in his head, my sweet boy glee­fully took the bait.

He was so ner­vous on the way to the au­di­tion and he held back quite a lot dur­ing it. I felt a lit­tle dis­cour­aged be­cause he hadn’t re­ally shown what he was ca­pa­ble of. But I was im­me­di­ately im­pressed with how di­rec­tor Joey Far­gar worked with these kids. He is en­gag­ing, yet firm, and has a real gift for coax­ing the best out of chil­dren.

Joey called the next day and asked if I felt that Eli re­ally wanted to be there. I ex­plained how Eli’s al­ways en­ter­tain­ing us at home and that he just felt in­tim­i­dated by per­form­ing in front of strangers. Joey of­fered to give it a trial run and see how Eli felt af­ter a few classes.

Well, it only took one class be­fore Eli was to­tally hooked. And over the year, I watched him blos­som from the boy who blush­ingly mum­bled a joke at his au­di­tion to a boy who ac­tu­ally vol­un­teered to sing a solo at the year-end per­for­mance. All of his per­form­ing strengths have been strength­ened, and the ar­eas he could use some help have re­mark­ably im­proved in just one year of Cony­ers Kids.

He’s been nag­ging me all sum­mer, won­der­ing when the classes will start back. When I asked why he was bug­ging me so, he said, “Be­cause the whole thing is so fun, Mom! Es­pe­cially im­prov. I love it!” And I just smile be­cause, at least this time, Mama’s in­stincts were right.

You hear this state­ment so of­ten that it al­most sounds corny, but the arts saved me when I was a kid. Painfully shy, draw­ing and paint­ing was all I did well.

Hav­ing that one thing I could do, that one form of self-ex­pres­sion, gave me what lit­tle con­fi­dence I had — it val­i­dated my worth. And by high school, I was pres­i­dent of the art club and ap­ply­ing to study graphic de­sign at the Art In­sti­tute of At­lanta.

That’s one rea­son I feel sad­dened when I hear that arts pro­grams are nudged a lit­tle fur­ther out of our schools ev­ery year. Chil­dren need to act, to sing, to dance, to draw, to dream. I get that there’s pres­sure to per­form aca­dem­i­cally, but the arts just plain make kids bet­ter peo­ple. Ac­cord­ing to Amer­i­cans for the Arts, chil­dren and teens who par­tic­i­pate in theater arts are four times more likely than other students to par­tic­i­pate in math or sci­ence fairs, four times as likely to win awards for writ­ing es­says and po­ems, and three times as likely to win awards for school at­ten­dance.

There are so many chil­dren — like me, and my son — who drown when all the beauty of ex­pres­sion is re­moved from life. That’s why I feel so pas­sion­ately about Cony­ers Kids and Joey Far­gar’s com­mit­ment to keep­ing the arts in our community. If you share our be­lief, visit cony­er­skids.com for more in­for­ma­tion about the au­di­tions be­ing held this Thurs­day, Aug. 2. I hope I’ll see you there.

KARI APTED

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