Since Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland first appeared together in Babes In Arms, “Let’s put on a show!” pretty much describes the gung-ho attitude of high schoolers, their teachers and the community support that goes into every high school musical. The connections between community and high school benefit everyone by generating pride of place, generating opportunities for mutual support and, most importantly, reminding everyone that the young can accomplish amazing things.
High school performances, sporting events, academic competitions, and service projects build youth confidence and contribute to the community at large. But have the days of singing in the streets to whip-up a crowd been replaced by Facebook and Twitter? The need for community support has not changed. (Honest Disclosure: I’m going to talk about high school musicals today as an excuse for a ‘proud papa’ moment as well as to participate in a Middle Zone Muzings project.)
Maine South High School in Park Ridge recently produced My Favorite Year. It featured some memorable music, a fun look at 50’s TV and some great sword fights. (The Sword fights were my favorite for a variety of reasons – not least of which young Matthew is the evil swordsman on the left.) And while it is a great show, it is virtually unknown as a musical.
The kids accomplish amazing things. And while they are led and supported by a talented group of teachers, the philosophy has always been to put kids in control of most everything. They worked hundreds (or thousands) of hours designing, painting, sewing, building and setting up the sets, costumes, lighting, sound, props and makeup. Musicians and actors practiced and learned skills and lines over just a few months. The poster and t-shirt design was created by a student as part of a competition where many entered. Everyone learns ‘Lets Put On A Show’ is hard work.
Generating community support used to be a pretty straight forward thing:
- Talk to the paper.
- Put up posters.
- Send home flyers.
- Get business sponsors.
But as these efforts were underway it became obvious we were missing some big opportunities…
- Facebook Event
- Twitter Tweets.
- Ticket Information On Web.
When ticket sales proved sluggish kids, parents and community members got creative. We took ticket sales and communication directly to neighborhood churches, getting announcements in church bulletins and even selling tickets during coffee hours following service. Businesses stepped up with greater sponsorship support. But was it effective?
The kids began inviting their friends via Facebook. We discovered alumni and city groups on-line that were interested in hearing about the musical. Even gave Facebook Advertising a try. The event information was seen by thousands of folks who wouldn’t have seen it before. But was it effective?
Ticket sales flyers were emailed and sent door-to-door to make sure neighbors new about the show.
I tweeted on Twitter.
But was it effective? Well, hard to say. Sales were down this year but maybe not as much as they could have been. The real learning was in the many new ways support from the community at large could be generated. Facebook seemed to help a bit, but outreach to the local churches may have been more effective. However, all the tools, new and old have one thing in common. They depend on the community to succeed. Poster don’t go up without business’s permission. Announcements don’t get made if you don’t reach out to the church. Props don’t get donated if folks aren’t willing to support the high school.
Community interaction is a two way street. The high school kids are regularly developing service projects with various community organizations. In the case of the musical Seniors and Park Ridge 8th Graders were invited to free performances which were heavily attended.
So as time goes on the new technology available will be used to strengthen the links between community and high school. There will be a Facebook group supporting the fine arts at Maine South. And email lists, twitter accounts and blogs. But there will still be kids and parents putting up posters and going to meetings to get business and community support. (We all know the importance of shoe-leather, that will never change – even if it goes slightly virtual.)
Creativity comes in a lot of forms. Community creativity supports connections that give folks opportunities that wouldn’t exist otherwise.Kids learn the visual and performing aspects of creativity back stage and front during the show. But the entire community learns new ways to communicate, connect, and support each other through every high school effort!