The Festival of Fine Arts continued at Rockingham Middle School Tuesday with a series of performances that aimed to entertain, educate and inspire students and staff alike.
“I believe it is so important to continue this tradition,” explained RMS Principal Dr. Theresa Gardner. “Fine Arts Festival allows our students the opportunity to experience things they may not ever get a chance to experience. I know that I have seen performances, myself, that are new to me. This festival serves to educate, motivate and inspire students to think of their passions and their futures beyond the classroom.
“Who knows,” Gardner continued, “we may have a storyteller among us … or an aerialist. We may have a band director or a chorus director. We may have a budding painter. How will our students know unless we bring these things to them and provided a well-rounded education?”
Speed painter Stephanie Burke was first to the stage, immediately proving Gardner’s points with her messages of perseverance and resilience.
Before masterfully painting a 6-foot portrait of magical mogul Walt Disney, Burke shared a heartfelt message with the students about the lies they are fed by society. Referencing a national study of adults, as well as surveys she has conducted herself with school-aged children, Burke revealed that the most common lies people are told include “you’re not big enough,” “you’re not tough enough,” “you’re not thin enough,” and “you’re not smart enough.”
“The problem with lies is that over time, they turn into fears,” Burke said. “Fears that get in the way and make it harder for us to pursue our dreams.
“You will respond to a fear in the way that you have prepared,” she continued. “If you respond to those fears in the wrong way, even the simplest goal becomes impossible.”
The UNC graduate further reiterated her themes of resilience by presenting background information on the upbringing of NBA great Michael Jordan, focusing on his failure to make the varsity basketball team his sophomore year of high school and the spark of motivation that followed.
Burke concluded her performance by speed painting a 6-foot portrait of the famed basketball player.
A plethora of local talent was next to grace the stage, showing that people of all ages and all career paths are capable of artistic expression.
This section of the festival’s performances began with two Disney-inspired dance numbers by contestants from Richmond County Hospice’s 2018 Dancing with the Stars. Performed to “Let it Go” and “Under the Sea,” each number captured the attention of the audience and had many singing along.
These performances were immediately followed by a small troupe of dancers from Dance Sensations. All four dancers, who currently attend the Ninth-Grade Academy, are former RMS Rockets.
Gardner even got in on the performance action, showcasing her ventriloquism skills with her puppet, Tony. A fan favorite, Gardner and Tony’s comedic performance poked humor at several school programs and initiatives implemented this year.
Their performance was then followed by Kaitlin Chin, a first-time visitor to RMS.
A seasoned aerialist and director of Cirque Du Nuit, Chin captivated the audience with her high-flying silks number, performed on a rigging that she custom-designed herself.
Twisting, flipping and turning high in the air, Chin introduced students to an art form most had never seen before.
However, Chin did not simply use her time to showcase her talents, but rather to share an inspirational message with the students about the importance of finding their passion in life.
Drawing on personal experiences, the aerialist spoke passionately about feeling forced into a set role by societal expectations, but realizing each time that such a role was not what she wanted for herself. Sharing her story of self-discovery, Chin explained the courage and sacrifice it took to get her to where she is today.
Hoping to motivate students to find their own passion, Chin concluded her performance by saying, “Please, whatever you do, go out there and find that thing that brings you joy. If you don’t do that, the rest of it will be hard.”
An intermission was held at the conclusion of Chin’s performance, allowing an opportunity for the final performers of the festival, the Tim Clark Band, to begin setting up their equipment.
In true Fine Arts fashion, the final performance of the festival rocked the house and allowed audience members the chance to let loose as they sang and danced along to the music. Known for beach music, the Tim Clark Band played a wide range of tunes including “Funky Cold Medina,” “Mary Jane’s Last Dance,” and their award-winning number, “This Love.” A full-scale lightshow timed to the music completed the ambiance of the performance and allowed students to experience a professional-grade live concert from the convenience of their own auditorium.
“Maybe in Math, the teacher might bring up how an aerialist calculates the strength of the band according to the weight of her body and the speed of the drop she is going to perform,” Gardner said.
“Maybe in (English Language Arts), a teacher might be able to relate something from a novel to the painting or story that we saw/heard in this program. Maybe, just maybe, a student will have heard a message through a song or a dance or a story that keeps them from making a poor decision about their life.
“With so many maybes, I say, how can we not continue this tradition?”