Talented teens show skill

Davis & Elkins College is getting a visit from some very talented teens this month.

As the Governor’s School of the Arts enters its third year at D&E, it is welcoming 113 students from all over the Mountain State who will showcase their talents by singing, sketching, dancing, designing, creating and performing with experienced faculty and guest artists from all over the area.

West Virginia students ages 15-16 entering their sophomore year of high school have the opportunity to apply and audition for the program. Applicants must be a resident of and attend school in West Virginia and have a 2.5 cumulative grade point average. They must also be recommended by their school principal and have an acceptable attendance and discipline record.

Applicants then submit their applications, including an essay and two letters of recommendation, and attend one-on-one interviews or auditions for their respective fields of study, which may include digital media, visual art, vocal music, instrumental music, creative writing, acting and dance.

The program is entirely sponsored by state funds, which cover the cost of housing, food and supplies or materials needed for academic use for each of the students attending.

Tom Hackman, dean of D&E’s School of the Arts, recently discussed the experience of coordinating the program.

“It’s a great experience for the kids,” Hackman said. “As an educator, it’s rewarding to see young students so talented. It’s good that driven and focused students have such a strong outlet for those talents.”

Students log four hours of study time with instructors in their respective fields everyday, as well as alternating to other areas to learn what each field has to offer.

“It’s important that they get to experience the full spectrum of the arts,” Hackman commented. “GSA gives them exposure to things they may have never experienced or thought they would be interested in.”

The program also includes many guest speakers and artists from diverse backgrounds and areas of expertise who come to lecture, perform or work with the students throughout the week, including the West Virginia Dance Company; the West Virginia and Civil War historian, Hunter Lesser; Chuck Johnson, an electronic musician; and even a nutritionist who teaches dance students about how to take care of their bodies in the long term. The students also take two day-long trips to Beckley and Charleston to check out Tamarack, West Virginia Public Theatre, the Culture Center and the West Virginia State Museum.

“This year’s theme is about statehood and West Virginia culture, and these venues really illustrate that to the students,” Hackman said.

The Governor’s School for the Arts, which began June 30, wraps up July 20 with a showcase of all the students’ work during the course of their stay, including a wide variety of pieces from slideshows and exhibitions of visual art to live performance and public readings of original work.

Michael Mihalyo, president of D&E and a studied pianist himself, taught at GSA years ago. He said it’s important to emphasize the arts to young people, and noted that GSA was part of the inspiration to inaugurate a new dance program.

“We are very proud and honored to have the Governor’s School for the Arts here at D&E,” he said, adding he is pleased to see his GSA experience come full circle. “It has helped us reinforce our institution’s relationship to the arts. It’s great for the kids and a nice fit for the state.”