St. John School of the Arts Gets Matching Grant

The St. John School of the Arts has received a matching grant of $25,000 to install air conditioning, which it desperately needs, and here’s an example why:

On the night of January 14, 2017, two exceptional events will take place in Cruz Bay.

One is Light Up the Night, the annual fundraiser for the St. John Cancer Fund that unites the community and raises money for cancer patients on St. John.

The other is a solo piano recital by Harmony Zhu, the extraordinary child prodigy who, by the age of nine, had performed twice at Carnegie Hall.  (She is now 11 years old.)


Both are inspiring events that shouldn’t be missed, and since the cancer fundraiser goes on all night long, it’s quite possible to attend both.

The problem is that Light Up the Night depends on amplified music and exuberant announcements to encourage participants as they circle the track at Winston Wells Ballpark. And this event will take place only a few hundred feet from the School of the Arts where Zhu will be performing.

This wouldn’t be a problem if the School of the Arts could shut its doors and windows to keep out unwanted sounds.  But the school doesn’t have air conditioning, so its sources of ventilation must remain open.  Unless some kind of “sound truce” can be arranged, Zhu’s unamplified piano performance could be drowned out by humungous speakers from across the road.

Conflicts like this are rare, but the lack of air conditioning at the St. John School of the Arts (SJSA) has affected the ambiance. Musicians have to contend with crowing roosters and blaring sirens.  Dance and exercise students have had to mops puddles of sweat from the floors.  Yoga students have had to decide whether to keep their balance in tree pose or swat at pesky mosquitoes that swarm the studio in rainy season.

The situation reached a crisis this past summer when Andrea Green, a New York-based composer, directed a three-week musical summer camp at the school funded by the ASCAP Foundation.

“We know how hot it gets here in the summer.  If you’re from the Northeast, your body can’t acclimate that well, and the heat slaps you in the face,” said Kim Wild, executive director of the STSA.

Wild said that Green was close friends with Peter Strauss, a New York lawyer who had arranged for multiple grants to benefit the school over the years.

“They started thinking about AC for other reasons than cooling students’ bodies.  A cooler environment helps preserve our instruments, and when string quartets perform here, they don’t want fans going because it disturbs the sound quality.  And that’s not always the best thing when you have 130 people in the room,” she said.

Strauss used his expertise to tap the Marcia Speinson Trust for the matching grant to “empower the children of St. John through the arts.”  The school has until February 17, 2017 to raise $25,000 to get the full benefit of the grant.  So far, they’ve raised $3,000.

Two upcoming events will help raise money for the grant.

On Saturday, December 17, the Beach Bar will host a “minimal regatta”—what St. Johnians used to call a “bateau race.” Using plywood, duct tape, a pound of fasteners, and a couple of other items, participating teams must construct a seaworthy craft that can beat the other bateaus.  The entry fee is $50.  Teams will compete for a $300 grand prize.  Contact the Beach Bar for further details.

On Friday, December 23, yoga teacher Jen Endicott will lead a holiday-themed LifePower Vinyasa yoga class at 6:30 pm.  All proceeds will go towards the AC matching grant.