A poor life without the arts

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, August 29, 2007

When I was younger, my ambitions were quite small. I wanted to become an artist/singer/musician/writer/actress - that's it.

Interestingly enough, I have managed to accomplish all those things in some way in my life. OK, I've just acted in church dramas and on cable television commercials - not on the Great White Way or in movies - but I had a good time, and I learned a lot.

Likewise, my singing has been at churches, festivals, convocations, weddings, et al. (and once on an area radio station, singing a duet of &#8220Silent Night” a cappella), but the thrill of putting something of your own heart and soul into a song to share with others, well, that's a joy, whether your audience is 3 or 3,000.

I've actually made money from my writing and artistic skills. Those talents haven't made me rich, but they have certainly enriched my life, and hopefully the lives of others along the way.

The arts have always been an important part of my life. I knew I wasn't cut out to be a nurse, like my mother, oldest sister and niece. I'd never make it as an accountant (numbers and I often disagree) or working an assembly line (I'd be bored to tears).

The good Lord made us all different, with varying strengths, talents and skills tucked away inside, just waiting for someone to discover and help develop them.

My parents always found a way to supply us with the things we not only needed - three square meals a day, clothes on our back and a roof over our heads - but also those things that further enhanced our lives. We three girls had good books to read. We studied piano and had a reconditioned Wurlitzer upright for our daily practice sessions. For budding artists Sara and I, there were sketch pads, drawing pencils and art instruction books.

We all remember Mrs. Johnson's music classes at the elementary school in Greenville, singing tunes like &#8220Catch a Falling Star” and &#8220Easter Parade.”

Debbie and Sara enjoyed the band and glee club at the high school.

Sure,  it was typecasting when I was chosen to play Gretel in a classroom production of &#8220Hansel and Gretel” - I had the requisite blue eyes and long blonde hair worn in braids - but shy little me gave the part my all, I assure you.

 When Sara studied drama with Miss Bobbie Gamble, I was enchanted. Imagine me, at the tender age 10 or 11, feeding my big sis her lines for the high school drama festival. I thought I had arrived!

 Later, I studied art for three years in high school with the wonderful Priscilla Davis, who inspires me to this day.

Today, art teacher Stacey Edwards carries on the great legacy Priscilla established. Wendy Smith is rebuilding the school's drama program and took those first tough steps toward a full-scale musical production last year with the students' delightful &#8220Winnie-the-Pooh.” And the legendary Millie McDonald - the Energizer Bunny of music &#8220profs” - works with award-winning music programs at both Greenville High and FDA. I should also mention the talented T.K. Lee, who has established a fine art program at FDA, and Nonie Taylor, who has directed several top-notch shows at the very same school.

 The arts have often been the last programs to be added and the first to go when there are budget constraints in schools.

That's why I am personally thrilled to read about and hear about the plans in place to continue, add and expand programs in our county's schools for music and art.

Everyone isn't an athlete; everybody isn't a great academic student.  For some, the moment to shine will be with paintbrush or musical instrument in hand, or in front of the microphone, or in costume on stage. Perhaps it will even be behind the scenes, creating props, controlling the sound or giving cues to the performers.

And the joy of the arts doesn't end when we leave school - just look at the GAAC's spectacularly successful production, &#8220Puttin' on the Ritz”!

The arts enrich, enliven and invigorate our lives.

Take it from someone who has been there.

To paraphrase my beloved Priscilla, &#8220You gotta have the arts!”


Angie Long is Lifestyles reporter for The Greenville Advocate. She can be reached at 382-3111 ext. 132 or via email at angie.long@greenvilleadvocate. com.