Broadway professional Rhonda Miller leads KICK IT campers during a run through of the group’s dance moves.
Singing, dancing, writing lyrics, playing music and acting has filled the days of 17 St. John youngsters for the past three weeks and they couldn’t be more excited about it.
“My favorite part has been the dancing and acting, but it’s all been really fun,” said John Ovcina, a 13-year-old Gifft Hill School student. “The best part is that you get to take part in all these different things you didn’t know how to do before.”
Ovcina is one of 17 St. John students between the ages of nine and 15 who have been taking part in St. John School of the Arts’ Kids Impacting and Connecting with Kids through Informative T.V. (KICK IT) summer day camp program.
“We are trying to show other kids that there is a better choice and a positive choice out there,” said Kim Wild, SJSA director. “There are so many positive things kids can do after school and do with their lives and that is our message.”
Not only are the students in KICK IT embracing that message, but they are poised to share that positive sentiment with their peers through a professional, three-minute music video.
Starting off with the traditional Caribbean music “Hold ‘Em Joe,” several students learned the tune on steel pan, while others chimed in on the horn and rhythm sections. Still other KICK IT students composed lyrics to go with the music, while other students helped create a story board for the video shoot, explained Wild.
“Every single student took part in multiple aspects of the project,” said Wild. “Either through playing instruments, writing lyrics, creating the story board, and then dancing and acting, all of the students worked on different facets of the video.”
Students were in charge of the entire video making process through KICK IT, from conceiving the idea for the song and video, writing the lyrics, performing the music and singing the words, acting and dancing in the video, and they even learned about production and editing, explained Wild.
“I don’t think the kids realized how much work goes into the videos they watch on TV,” said the SJSA director. “They’ve all been pretty wiped out by the end of the day.”
KICK IT also incorporated basically SJSA’s full staff from director of music Eddie Bruce, who taught drumming, Mike Sorzano, who led steel pan instruction, and Luba Dolgopolsky, who taught voice class, to Jeune Provost and Bill Stelzer, who both taught the students about producing and editing the video.
After students perfected the song, Carlie Powell recorded the number so the KICK IT campers also experienced a professional recording session, Wild added.
“This was a really an entire staff effort,” said Wild. “There are so many different facets of the project, which is why it’s so amazing, but it’s also taken a lot of work from a lot of people.”
SJSA’s KICK IT camp students also enjoyed instruction from Broadway professionals Michael Shawn Lewis and Rhonda Miller, who are no strangers to SJSA or St. John. Both Lewis and Miller were part of the four-person team who brought the beloved SJSA fundraiser “Broadway Comes to St. John” production to the Westin for the past two years.
This time, Lewis and Miller spent several days creating and teaching choreography as well as leading the dance and shooting footage during live taping last week at Cinnamon Bay beach, the Catherineberg ruins, Dolphin Market and SJSA.
The interdisciplinary aspect of KICK IT — from story conception to final production — is exactly what makes students work together so well, Wild explained.
“What this program does is give the kids a sense of responsibility for themselves as individuals and a sense of responsibility as a group,” said the SJSA director. “They know that if one of them goofs up, it will make the entire shoot messed up and they will all have more work. So they are really looking out for each other and working together.”
For Wild, the camp is also the realization of a dream she has been fostering for years, she added.
“It has been a dream of mine for years to put all of the arts together in a project like this,” said Wild. “This is really a dream come true for me.”
Judging from the smiles on students’ faces during the video shoot at Cinnamon Bay beach last week, they were enjoying the camp as much as Wild had dreamt.
“My favorite part has been learning to play steel pan,” said Maia Ginther, 13. “It was my first experience playing steel.”
“It’s been so much fun,” said nine-year-old Lilly Schutt. “I loved the acting most of all.”
KICK IT camp wrapped up on Friday afternoon, July 13, and the students performed a live version of their song before an audience at SJSA on Saturday afternoon, July 14. SJSA officials are hoping to have the video completed by the end of July and will plan a screening in the future.
Registration for fall classes at SJSA begins on September 4. For more information about the arts school, check out www.stjohnschoolofthearts.org.