Arts Give back

A holiday tradition comes to IU South Bend

By Kate Luce

 oriely discovery school

A holiday tradition for Discovery Middle School’s Piano Lab will continue at a new and welcoming place: IU South Bend.

Discovery Middle School students are set to perform their holiday recital at IU South Bend this December. The students will perform in the Grill on Dec. 16, 17, and 18, from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. In total, 150 Piano Lab students will be traveling to IU South Bend to perform.

Raclin School of the Arts developed a great relationship with Discovery Middle School during their first outreach performance this past September in the Piano Series. Before Christopher O'Riley performed at IU South Bend, he traveled with Cory Iwaszewski, Media and Community Outreach Manager, and Ketavan Badridze, Interim Martin Endowed Chair of Piano, to Discovery to perform for fifty minutes. During the performance, he held a Q&A with the students. The kids were excited to have Mr. O’Riley visit their school, which led to a very engaging presentation, and around 150 thank you letters from all the students involved.

“Christopher O’Riley was our first pianist for the piano series. The kids ate him up. They even wrote him thank you notes,” Dean Marvin Curtis says.

After the cancellation of the Discovery School’s previous engagement with University Park Mall, Tammi Bilotta, Piano Lab teacher at Discovery, got into contact with the Arts to propose the idea. Iwaszewski immediately agreed to have the piano lab students perform on the campus during the holiday season.

“We had a wonderful experience with [Christopher O’Riley], and I was hopeful that we could partner with IU South Bend again for my students' December performances. Cory took my request for the performances to other key people at IU South Bend, and to my delight, they all loved the idea and worked with me to create a plan for how we will hold the event. I feel like IU South Bend and the Raclin School of the Arts rolled out the red carpet for us, and I am very excited and thankful for the opportunity that my students will have to perform at the University Grill in December,” Bilotta says.

Piano students will work together in duets and perform holiday and winter classics such as Jingle Bell Rock, Rockin' around the Christmas tree, Sleigh Ride, Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, Carol of the Bells, Deck the Halls, The Little Drummer Boy, and many more.

For the sixth grade piano studio students, this will be one of their first times performing. These students, however, are hard at work practicing the songs in sections both independently and with their partners. They will practice their songs until the date of their performance.

“This duet project is an annual event for my students, and they love it! Getting to work on a song with a partner is a treat for them as most of what they do is very individualized. They are highly motivated to learn their songs independently because they love getting to work at the same piano with their partner and put their parts together,” Bilotta says.

The Piano Lab students are looking forward to coming to IU South Bend to perform. The day of performances will be filled with support by the music department and music students. After the performances, students will have the chance to eat lunch in the Grill, something these students are equally excited about.

“The students are going to play at a college campus, which is their request. Mom, dad, grandma and grandpa can sit for the performance. At the mall you can’t really sit. The students will also be able to eat lunch in the cafeteria,” Curtis laughs.

Attendees are asked to donate a non-perishable food item in exchange for coming to watch the students perform. All proceeds will go directly to Titans Feeding Titans, IU South Bend’s food pantry.

“We’re going to be there to receive the food, and what we are going to do is be available to talk to people about food insecurity not only in the city, but on campuses. I am excited to be involved in it,” Anne Drake, Disability Support Services, says.

This concert will be a way for students to perform in a space better suited for the attendees, showcase the new relationship between Discovery Middle School and the Raclin School of the Arts, and have students show off their talents to their school, parents, guardians, and the IU South Bend Community. With these concerts happening during finals week, students are encouraged to also stop by for a break; donate a non-perishable food item and get into the holiday spirit.

“Our goal is to showcase the students and give them an opportunity to show off what they have learned throughout the semester, as well as bring our campus together. It’s called the Arts Give Back because we are saying thank you. Every week, we have events or a performance, it almost seems like every night actually, and we are always inviting people to come to these events and support us and our students. This is kind of a way for us to give back to the campus and the students,” Iwaszewski says.