Dis­tin­guished alumni lend a hand to Arts Alive

Orlando Sentinel - - People & Arts - By Matthew J. Palm

Artis­tic alumni of Osce­ola County schools are step­ping up to make sure this year’s Arts Alive schol­ar­ship win­ners get a spe­cial show­case — even in the face of the coro­n­avirus pan­demic.

Why is Arts Alive im­por­tant? Just ask Broad­way’s Ge­orge Salazar, a 2004 grad­u­ate of Gate­way High in Kis­sim­mee and win­ner of the off-Broad­way Lu­cille Lor­tel Award, who was in­tro­duced to per­form­ing at school.

“The arts pro­grams in Osce­ola County gave me the out­let I needed to bring that tal­ent out, bring that pas­sion out and gave me the courage to dream up some­thing truly in­sane and work to make that dream come true,” he tells his 188,000 In­sta­gram fol­low­ers in a video pro­mot­ing the Arts Alive schol­ar­ships.

An an­nual vis­ual and per­form­ing-arts show­case for Osce­ola high school­ers, Arts Alive each year shines a spot­light on out­stand­ing stu­dent work. It’s pre­sented by the non­profit Osce­ola Arts for a Com­plete Ed­u­ca­tion Coali­tion, which with the Ed­u­ca­tion Foun­da­tion of Osce­ola County awards col­lege schol­ar­ships to artis­tic se­niors. The stu­dent show­case also raises money for fu­ture schol­ar­ships.

Salazar, who starred on Broad­way in “Be More Chill” and ap­peared on NBC’s “Su­per­store” and The CW’s “Nancy Drew,” was a schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ent. So was Evan Todd, who played the lead­ing man in Broad­way’s “Beau­ti­ful.” And so was Xavier Cano, who per­formed in “Grease” on Broad­way and toured the coun­try in a 50th-an­niver­sary pro­duc­tion of “West Side Story.”

Then there are Juan Ber­rios, a horn player with Dal­las Brass; record­ing artist En­rique Sanchez; and An­gelique Rivera, an ac­tor who has ap­peared in TV shows, such as “Amer­i­can Crime.”

When the coro­n­avirus shut­down meant the cur­rent Arts Alive stu­dents wouldn’t get an in-per­son show­case, or­ga­nizer Deb­bie Fah­mie knew she had a group of alumni at the ready to lend a hand.

“My heart just broke for th­ese stu­dents,” said Fah­mie, who helped cre­ate the Osce­ola ACE Coali­tion 26 years ago. “I wanted to, in some way, make Arts Alive spe­cial for them.”

At 7:30 p.m. June 18, an on­line Arts Alive show will be streamed at Face­book.com/ Art­sAliveACE. In recorded seg­ments, the pro­gram’s alumni will in­tro­duce this year’s stu­dents, whose per­for­mances were also recorded.

“The Arts Alive schol­ar­ship fund pro­vided me the op­por­tu­nity to pur­chase a new flute on which I per­formed in Eastern Europe, South Africa and the U.S. while in col­lege, won con­certo com­pe­ti­tions, fin­ished a mas­ter’s in mu­sic de­gree and gained some of my first pro­fes­sional jobs as a per­form­ing mu­si­cian,” said An­to­nio Her­bert, a 2009 win­ner, of the pro­gram’s im­por­tance.

For Jor­dan Green, a new grad­u­ate of the Osce­ola County School for the Arts, the on­line event pro­vides clo­sure to a se­nior year in which her fi­nal high school play, “To Kill a Mock­ing­bird,” had to be can­celed.

“This way, it doesn’t end so trag­i­cally, with COVID,” she said. Along with writ­ing an es­say and be­ing in­ter­viewed, the Kis­sim­mee res­i­dent per­formed mono­logues from Ge­orge Bernard Shaw’s “St. Joan” and Neil Si­mon’s “The Odd Cou­ple” to earn her schol­ar­ship. She’ll study act­ing at Shenan­doah Univer­sity in Vir­ginia in the fall.

“As a stu­dent pur­su­ing a ca­reer in the arts, it’s an added as­sur­ance that, yes, I’m on the right track,” she said of her win. This year, 11 schol­ar­ships in fields such as in­stru­men­tal mu­sic, mu­si­cal theater and vis­ual art were handed out. Through the years, the Osce­ola ACE Coali­tion has awarded more than $225,000 to stu­dents.

It’s free to watch the stu­dent show­case, but do­na­tions to the schol­ar­ship fund are en­cour­aged.

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