Eight local student artists named 2019 JMArts Scholars

SILER CITY, N.C. — Eight students have been named JMArts Scholars by the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation, all receiving scholarships to pursue intensive fine arts study this summer.

They are Laci Burt, Paige Colborne, David Gonzalez Hernandez, Myriah Pettitt, Conrad Suits, Jennifer Trejo Benitez, Jackie Vasquez and Jose Zendejas.

Scholarships are funded through individual contributions to the foundation and income generated from ticket sales for the annual fall musical, fundraising projects and admission from a few major concerts during the academic year.

“I'm excited to see our students' enthusiasm about deepening their learning in the arts,” said JMArts president Rose Pate. “They return ready to raise the bar for everyone in the fall.”

Five will study vocal music. Burt, Suits and Trejo Benitez will attend the UNC Music Workshop in Chapel Hill. Vasquez, a JMArts Scholar for the third consecutive year, will attend the ECU Summer Choir Camp, and Colborne will travel to Texas for the Septien Teen Music Crash Course 2.

The other three artists will study instrumental music. Zendejas will return to the ECU Music Camp to study jazz for the second straight year. Gonzalez Hernandez will attend the NC State University Drum Major Leadership Camp in Raleigh, while Pettitt attends a similar program, the Drum Major Academy at UNC Charlotte.

"A week of immersion in the life of a college campus is critical to students who are considering majoring in the fine arts," said Pate. "There's no better experience we can give students as they are facing that big decision, and I'm proud to share the best of Jordan-Matthews with the rest of the state."

Since creating the awards seven years ago, JMArts has presented 62 scholarships to 40 students, with some receiving awards to study for more than one summer. The initiative was designed to help young artists develop their talent, explore artistic options before making their college decisions and bring what they learn back to share with other Jordan-Matthews students.

Businesses and individuals interested in contributing to the JMArts Scholars program or other projects for high school artists may contact Pate at 919-742-2916 or rpate@chatham.k12.nc.us. Checks can be mailed to JMArts, PO Box 395, Siler City, NC, 27344.

More information about JMArts, including details about JMArts Scholars and upcoming events, is available at jmarts.org.

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JMArts Scholars preparing for intensive study this summer are (standing from left) Jose Zendejas, Paige Colborne, Myriah Pettitt, Jennifer Trejo Benitez, Laci Burt, Jackie Vasquez, David Gonzalez Hernandez and (in front) Conrad Suits. (Photo by Chip Pate)

JMArts Scholars preparing for intensive study this summer are (standing from left) Jose Zendejas, Paige Colborne, Myriah Pettitt, Jennifer Trejo Benitez, Laci Burt, Jackie Vasquez, David Gonzalez Hernandez and (in front) Conrad Suits. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Free Scene X Scene acting showcase highlights JM actors and their training

SILER CITY, N.C. — What happens in an acting class?

If you’d like to see for yourself — and be entertained by high school actors — be sure to attend the free performance showcase for Jordan-Matthews High School's Scene X Scene Acting Intensive. The 45-minute showcase will be held on Thursday, May 2, at 7 p.m., in the JM Auditorium.

Students will perform scenes, monologues and acting exercises to provide a window into how actors begin training for the stage. A reception for the audience and cast follows in the JM Media Center, where guests can speak with the actors and talk with creatives involved in creating the annual fall musical — including director Jessica Nunn, musical director Matt Fry and producer Rose Pate.

Fry said he encourages anyone interested in drama to attend, especially elementary through high school students who might want to venture onto the stage.

Weekly evening sessions in Scene X Scene acting intensive began in February and were conducted by Nunn, who is founder of The Phoenix Theatre Company, a theatrical company based in Chatham County that performs mystery dinner-shows throughout central North Carolina.

Nunn is pleased with the enthusiasm and growth of the almost 20 participants in the program. “The students have been all in — even the more reserved ones have jumped in and given everything a good go,” she said. “They are beginning to realize that the more initial work they put into a character, the more they get back in ease of performance.”

Studying acting can develop more than stage skills. “I've tried to link what they're learning to 'real life’ in terms of how our own memories can make it possible to relate to a character and, ultimately, other people,” said Nunn. “Any sort of character study, even in the small ways we've been able to do with this workshop, can be translated into the way we think about our own lives and the characters we encounter.”

Rose Pate, who also is president of JMArts, the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation, is delighted with the students’ response to the workshop. “We have a thriving musical program, but we get to spend very little rehearsal time building basic acting skills,” she said. “I’m looking forward to the showcase and seeing what our students have learned about performing on stage.”

Scene X Scene is produced by JMArts and made possible by a Grassroots Grant from the Chatham Arts Council. The project was supported by the North Carolina Arts Council, a division of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

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Laci Burt, from left, Natalie Santiago and Hannah Redding “freeze” during their devised fight scene. Students will create similar improvised scenes as part of the free Scene X Scene performance showcase on May 2 at Jordan-Matthews High School.

Laci Burt, from left, Natalie Santiago and Hannah Redding “freeze” during their devised fight scene. Students will create similar improvised scenes as part of the free Scene X Scene performance showcase on May 2 at Jordan-Matthews High School.

Zy’kiuh Marsh, left, and Gisselle Aleman Moreno threaten Corrine Collison as part of a small-group exercise during the Scene X Scene acting intensive at Jordan-Matthews.

Zy’kiuh Marsh, left, and Gisselle Aleman Moreno threaten Corrine Collison as part of a small-group exercise during the Scene X Scene acting intensive at Jordan-Matthews.

David Gonzalez Hernandez warms up at the beginning of a weekly Scene X Scene session.

David Gonzalez Hernandez warms up at the beginning of a weekly Scene X Scene session.

Local students take prizes in second-annual "Sing and Play"

SILER CITY, N.C. — Several local students took top prizes last night at “Sing and Play ’19” during a spirited musical competition at Jordan-Matthews High School. The second-annual showcase was a benefit concert for JMArts, the Jordan-Matthews Arts Foundation.

Audience members voted Jack and Jillian Dixon of Silk Hope School as best performance in the elementary division on the strength of their performance of the bluegrass favorite “Old Rattler."

Buck and Maggie Thornton of Chatham Middle School received the most votes among middle schoolers for their rendition of “When Will I Be Loved,” a song written by Phil Everly and recorded by The Everly Brothers.

And in the high school competition, Jennifer Trejo Benitez of Jordan-Matthews High School came out on top thanks to her vocal performance of “Consequences,” made popular by recording artist Camila Cabello.

In all, 17 students competed for prizes with the winner of each age-based competition receiving a $50 award.

“It’s so wonderful to see these students honing their performance skills in front of a live audience,” said Greg Burriss, who directed the competition. “And we love the enthusiastic support our community is giving to arts education at Jordan-Matthews.”

“Sing and Play ’19” was hosted by Sydney Suits, a senior arts student at Jordan-Matthews. It was her first-ever gig as an emcee, though the talented visual artist has appeared on stage many times with the Jordan-Matthews chorus and in musicals — most recently as Flounder in the school’s fall production of “Disney’s The Little Mermaid.”

Rose Pate, president of JMArts, said plenty of people came together to bring this second-annual musical competition to life. “I couldn't be prouder of how our school community has worked together to make this event a success,” she said. “We've had parents, staff, community volunteers and especially our students pitching in for a great evening for a great cause!”

"Sing and Play" was organized as a benefit for JMArts. All money raised by the competition will be used by JMArts to provide opportunities for high school artists, including its second-annual New York Arts Adventure. That trip scheduled over spring break gives upperclass musicians, actors and visual artists an opportunity to explore one of the world’s great cities, experience the very best in the arts, and gain new perspectives and experiences that will influence their lives and work.

The students will enjoy the opportunity to meet and learn from Broadway actor Andy Grotelueschen, noted graffiti artist JCORP and Washington Post Chief Theater Critic Peter Marks.

Musicians from Chatham County and beyond were eligible to audition for the showcase concert. About 40 musicians auditioned in early February with showcase contestants selected by Burriss and musician Joseph Walden.

Pate expects “Sing and Play” to return next year with registration for auditions opening sometime around December 1. JMArts is already looking at possible dates for next year’s competition, which is likely to be held once again in mid- to late-February.

More information about  “Sing and Play,” including photos from this year's auditions and showcase concert, is online at facebook.com/JMHSArts. Details about JMArts and other events scheduled for this season are available at jmarts.org.

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Winners of Sing and Play ’19 were, from left, Jennifer Trejo Benitez of Jordan-Matthews High School, Buck and Maggie Thornton of Chatham Middle School, emcee Sydney Suits, and Jillian and Jack Dixon of Silk Hope School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Winners of Sing and Play ’19 were, from left, Jennifer Trejo Benitez of Jordan-Matthews High School, Buck and Maggie Thornton of Chatham Middle School, emcee Sydney Suits, and Jillian and Jack Dixon of Silk Hope School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

High School Winner: Jennifer Trejo Benitez of Jordan-Matthews High School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

High School Winner: Jennifer Trejo Benitez of Jordan-Matthews High School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Middle School Winner: Buck and Maggie Thornton of Chatham Middle School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Middle School Winner: Buck and Maggie Thornton of Chatham Middle School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Elementary School Winner: Jack and Jillian Dixon of Silk Hope School. (Photo by Chip Pate)

Elementary School Winner: Jack and Jillian Dixon of Silk Hope School. (Photo by Chip Pate)