Two category five hurricanes, lost equipment, damaged buildings and a burning desire to help the St. John community. This was the challenge that Kim Wild, Executive Director of the St. John School of the Arts faced in September. What did she do? She reached out to the school’s Board, recruited amazing performers and together they took the first steps to aid in restoring the services offered by St. John School of the Arts (SJSA).
Join the Rescue! Benefit Concert for SJSA was held on October 27 at the Professional Children’s School in New York before a full audience of 200 guests and raised $132,000, surpassing their fundraising goal. “The kids are the reason,” said Wild. “We want to continue the mission of giving the precious gift of the Arts to the community of St. John. We want parents to get back to work and rebuilding and not have an added expense and we want to bring people together and help our children heal.”
One of the original SJSA concert series groups, the acclaimed Ahn Trio, performed along with St. John’s own Victor Provost, Sage Buchalter, Luba Dolgopolsky with her daughter Naima, and Terre Roche. Board member, Ronnie Lee’s granddaughter, Darby Lee-Stack wrapped up the show with “Tomorrow” from the Tony Award-winning musical Annie.
With the Guy Benjamin Community Center in Coral Bay completely flattened by Hurricane Irma, SJSA lost all of its tumbling equipment, two donated pianos, and other musical equipment. Sections of the ceiling and roof over the stage of the main campus building, located in Cruz Bay, were severely damaged. The school’s keyboards, speakers, and stage lights were also lost. “We’re fortunate that our grand piano was not destroyed.-We’re fortunate for a lot of things,” said Wild.
The funds from the concert will assist with financing free art programs at the school, equipment repairs and purchases, site repairs and new programs. Currently, over 100 children from pre-K to 8th grade participate in the 72 classes offered at the school ranging from music, movement, acting, visual and language arts. The classes are currently spread between the main campus, the annex behind Mongoose Junction and the Catholic Church.
SJSA is also offering an extended day program which benefits the Julius E. Sprauve School. During the mornings SJSA opens their doors to students in 6th to 8th grade and in the afternoons, elementary students are welcomed for jazz, music and dance classes.
This past week marked the first full week of programs post hurricanes. Each hour-long class is an opportunity for the kids to heal and to have fun. “If one of us is in need, then all of us are in need. It is an honor to do this work and it’s great to focus on the children in a time where the basic things in life (like a home and electricity) are not a given. Kids can sometimes get lost in the recovery efforts. This experience affected them profoundly and it will stick with them. Art programs allow them the chance to process what happened,” said Kristen Carmichael-Bowers, an SJSA instructor.
SJSA currently has 10 teachers and two aids, but more volunteers are needed to assist in the office and teaching classes.
For more information on volunteering at SJSA or to donate, please email [email protected].