Michigan Youth Arts Festival. We’re told it’s the only one of its kind – a weekend festival encompassing all of the fine and performing arts. About 1/4 million students participate in events leading up to MYAF, with less than a thousand eventually being selected to participate. All-State Choir, Orchestra, Band; theater and forensics; film, visual art, dance, and of course the outstanding student recitals – soloists and small ensembles. All participants have been selected as exemplifying the very best of Michigan High School Artists.
I suppose it has the potential to be dry or formulaic, but in at least six visits in the last ten years, I have never found it to be so. I leave the weekend so inspired by what passionate teenagers can do with the right guidance. It give me hope for the future of the arts, and it gives me pride to be an arts educator alongside the many represented in Kalamazoo this weekend.
I’ve visited MYAF and seen only the events with my students participating – usually the ensemble recital, though not always – but my favorite thing to do is experience it the way I did in 2004, when my wife had an ensemble selected her first year of teaching. We spent the entire festival there with our students running from room to room, taking in amazing art across many disciplines. I wept at a high school performance of the play “Wit,” every bit as moving as when Emma Thompson did it on film. I experienced joy along with dancers and laughed to creative short films.
This is not even mentioning the Welcoming Celebration, which is my favorite moment. It’s a concert featuring a number of acts selected from all the disciplines represented – truly the best of the best of the best. This year we heard amazing instrumental ensembles, a vocal soloist, the premier Michigan Honors Jazz Choir, an original choral composition, as well as dance troupes, short films, and more.
Everyone ought to see what our creative young people are capable of; I’m fortunate I’ve been able to go so many times and get inspired all over again. And it is such an amazing gift to these students that they get to experience each others’ art. With any luck, they will all leave on Saturday inspired to create even more.