San Diego Unified students ready for their holiday close-up

Posted: Thursday, December 13th 2018


Choir students in Thomas Waczek's class at E.B. Scripps Elementary

There’s something about the holiday season that shines a special spotlight on the San Diego Unified community – showcasing exceptional performing artists throughout the district.

Students have been representing the district well throughout the city – on television, and on stages large and small.

Students from E.B. Scripps Elementary School were selected to perform with Barry Manilow this week for the “A very Barry Christmas” concert at Viejas Arena. Weeks of rehearsals helped stir excitement at the school and throughout the Scripps Ranch community, even though some students were not exactly sure who they would be singing with on that big stage.  

Fourth-grader Mariana Nevarez Martinez may not have known many of Manilow’s hits, but her relatives did.

"I really like singing.  I am really excited to sing with Barry Manilow,” Martinez said. “My relatives were shocked when they heard that I get to sing with him.  They all knew him and my uncle said that he is the guy who sang the song, ‘Mandy’."

Principal Liz Sloan said the whole E.B. Scripps community has rallied around the choral students who were selected to sing with Barry Manilow.

“This experience has been so exciting, and it will become a lifetime memory for our singers and their families,” Sloan said.

“We all know that music enriches us as people, and that learning music can motivate students, improve self-esteem and personal discipline, and help develop leadership skills,” Sloan said. “But performing with an iconic musician takes this to a new level. Who knows what our students will be inspired to do next?”  

Across the district at Cadman Elementary, that same inspiration has taken hold in Katie Ryan’s dance class, where dozens of students have been busy preparing for their Winter Performance.

“Part of what makes dance great is that it teaches kids how to enjoy exercise,” Ryan said. “We can tell them, ‘It’s OK to get up and move around, it’s OK to have fun and be silly sometimes.’”

While fun is a constant theme for Ryan’s dance students, the holiday season brings an added sense of excitement. Next week they will take the stage with an all-school performance of “The Cadman Nutcracker: The Land of the Sweets,” a whimsical twist on the Tchaikovsky classic.

The same students will also be taking part in a school-wide flash mob before the performance, where they will put on a unique choreographed dance for the community to see.

“The whole school is involved, and every grade has their own part to play,” Ryan said of the upcoming performance. “The kids have gotten very excited.”

Ryan, who majored in ballet and performed professionally for years, is just the person to lead a dance class of eager students: “I think I’ve done every role in ‘The Nutcracker’ over the years.”

Ryan also teaches P.E. and splits her time between Cadman and Sequoia Elementary, both of which are designated Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA) schools. By bringing her expertise and enthusiasm to the classroom, she aims to provide lasting lessons that go beyond just keeping students on their feet.

“My favorite thing about dance is the extra character traits it instills in kids, like compassion, work ethic, and time management. Teaching kids about the arts at this age is very important… I’m very happy to see VAPA present here in our elementary schools.”

VAPA has been on full display in higher grade levels as well. Just last week, students from nine San Diego Unified schools recorded songs to appear later this month on KUSI TV. Hoover High School’s new choir has a whimsical “Stocking Stuffers” performance next week, and the Serra High School band performed live at December Nights in Balboa Park last weekend. Schools in the Mission Beach cluster will also be getting in the holiday spirit with several live performances, which are listed here.

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