SOPAC to host CHS student performances, art work

Photo Courtesy of SOPAC
Columbia High School senior Simone McCrear will receive the Paul Bartick Emerging Artist Award at the South Orange Performing Arts Center on April 3.

SOUTH ORANGE — The South Orange Performing Arts Center will celebrate its arts education programs during the month of April with music, art and dance from Columbia High School students.

“Throughout the years, SOPAC has been diligently working behind the scenes to support the arts education programs offered to the students in our community,” explains Linda Beard, SOPAC’s education programs manager. “Today, I am thrilled to have the opportunity to shine a light on the partnership between SOMSD and SOPAC that has been instrumental in providing support to these programs.”

The first of three events will be the Columbia High School Jazz Ensemble’s Finale Concert on April 1 at 7 p.m. The second is the presentation of the Paul Bartick Emerging Artist Award on April 3 at 6 p.m. The third is a Columbia High School AP Art Showcase in the Herb + Milly Iris Gallery opening on April 10. 

The Finale Concert is the culmination of months of rehearsals where the students studied various styles and genres of Jazz and reinforced essential concepts of advanced musicianship.  

Currently in its second year, SOPAC’s Jazz Residency Program gives students in Columbia High School’s extracurricular Jazz Ensemble the opportunity to learn from expert teaching artists and local Jazz legends including John Lee on bass guitar, Alex Collins on piano, Mark Gross on saxophone, Freddie Hendrix on trumpet, Jason Jackson on trombone, Karl Latham on drums, Courtney Sappington on guitar, and Tim Ries on saxophone. 

On April 3, SOPAC will present the Paul Bartick Emerging Artist Award to Columbia High School senior Simone McCrear. Open to all students who are involved in SOPAC Arts Education Programs, the Bartick Award recognizes the hard work and dedication of young artists who have demonstrated a passion for their craft and outstanding artistic ability.

McCrear is an accomplished dancer in an extensive range of styles, including Modern, Contemporary, Jazz, Tap, Hip-Fop, Salsa, Street styles and Ballet. She began dancing at four years old, taking weekly classes at Inspirational Dance in Maplewood. 

In 2019, she won the High Gold, High Score, Technical Difficulty and First Place awards for her contemporary solo at the National Association of Dance and Affiliated Arts (NADAA) competition.

Then, in 2023, she received the New Jersey Governor’s Award in Arts Education for Exceptional Artistry and Community Leadership in Dance. McCrear has studied in Joffrey Ballet School’s Jazz & Contemporary Summer Intensive and regularly takes Street-style classes at Broadway Dance Center and Brickhouse Studio. 

As a student at Columbia High School, McCrear participated in SOPAC’s Alvin Ailey DanceKids Residency, studying under professional dancer Noibis Licea, from Alvin Ailey Dance Foundation.

SOPAC will present McCrear with the award at the Moving into the Future: New Jersey Choreographers’ Festival on April 3, where she will perform an original choreographed dance.  This three-day festival is co-presented by SOPAC and the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and will include performances from 14 of the 2023 Arts Council Individual Choreography Fellows. 

 SOPAC will host the Opening Reception on April 11 of the inaugural Columbia High School AP Art Year-End Showcase, which will be on display from April 11 to May 4. Having outgrown Columbia High School’s Domareki Art Gallery, the students’ teacher, Alexandra Cappucci, spearheaded the shift to a professional exhibition experience in the Herb + Milly Iris Gallery on SOPAC’s second and third floors. 

“We have amazing students who are going to some of the best art colleges in the country,” Cappucci said. “This year, we have students accepted into Parsons, Pratt, MICA, SCAD, SVA, and more acceptances are coming in every day. These students are the future artists of America, and this showcase is a celebration of them and all of their work.”

All the students in Cappucci’s class will also be encouraged to submit other works to SOPAC’s annual exhibition INSPIRED MINDS, a juried art exhibition featuring work by high school students from across Essex County.