CREATIVE MINDS OF OUR YOUTH
by Stefanie Funk
The Flagler Auditorium brings wonderful professional shows to Flagler, but also does so much to promote the young performing artists in Flagler County. The following is an Interview with Lisa McDevitt, Director of the Flagler Auditorium; Commentary by members of Tony Kenny’s “Christmastime in Ireland” act. December 8th, 2016.
Flagler County Family and Friends, Christmastime is certainly here! Most everyone in our beautiful community are getting ready for the Holiday’s by checking off their Christmas lists, practicing good ol’ Christmas cheer, shopping, decorating, crafting, traveling, singing, dancing, baking and attending holiday parties! This time of year brings with it the amazing opportunity to spread love, peace, joy and hope to our families and our community. Nothing compares to being near to our loved ones, reminiscing old times, celebrating the years that have past, and the new year approaching.
For a vast number of our Flagler County families, Christmastime means being part of the local HOLIDAY EXTRAVAGANZA. This event is unlike any other “Holiday Party” that you are likely to attend. For the friends and families that are part of this Extravaganza, getting ready for the Holiday’s means working and rehearsing in overtime, offering one of a kind performances, shows and inspirational acts to the people of Flagler county.
For this same family, this time of year means volunteering to decorate and beautify a bundle of Christmas trees and wreaths, then sell them to small local Businesses and Individuals, in effort to fund our local need for Arts in Education.
The Flagler Auditorium along with the local Fine Arts Department, encourage all members of our community to GET INVOLVED and HELP make sure Flagler County will always offer the Arts in Education to our youth.
Upon the opportunity to Interview Lisa McDevitt, I was kindly invited to stay and watch Tony Kenny’s “Christmastime In Ireland”. To my grand surprise, I was blessed to spend 20 minutes talking with the famous and creative, Irish minds of Tony Kenny, “The Don Ho of Ireland”, Victoria Kenny (Daughter of Mr. Kenny), George Casey (Comedian), and Vince Mitchell (CMI Entertainment). With the money raised during the annual Holiday Extravaganza, the Flagler Auditorium provides grants and funding for the Local Schools and Art Department, “creating a way” for our Flagler County youth to explore and express the talents of their creative minds. Shows like Tony Kenny’s Christmastime in Ireland, among others that the Auditorium provides, support the cause by performing during the extravaganza. Tony Kenny, Victoria Kenny, George Casey, The Dublin Trinity Band, and The Dublin City Dancers all collaborated to produce a brilliant Christmastime show with beautiful instruments, favorite songs, hymns, and comedy from Ireland.
All the money made on admission for the shows during the extravaganza, goes toward the Arts in Education program. “It is a team effort…” said Lisa McDevitt, about the students that perform at the Flagler Auditorium, “They Help, like this month, doing something for me… for years I’ve always wanted to see the band and the chorus on stage together. So, part of the Holiday Extravaganza was to collaborate the band and the chorus, and for the first time this year we collaborated the band, chorus and elementary choir. We recorded it, I think they will be playing it on the Radio on Christmas Eve.”
During the annual Holiday Extravaganza, the students who perform at the Flagler Auditorium, consisting of various local school bands, chorus and choir; will provide holiday concerts to help the cause. The last event this year is on December 22nd with the Palm Coast Community Band.
“Even if they don’t become stars, if they are in those fine art programs, its giving them confidence and discipline… even when you look at our engineers, I guarantee they have an arts background and are theater goers.”
- Lisa McDevitt
If more of the Flagler County Community were to come forth during this time of year and for other fundraisers throughout the year, to see shows and step forward as sponsors, they would be supporting the local cause. “The only thing this program does is promote the arts in education in Flagler County Schools,” said Lisa McDevitt. The Flagler Auditorium would like to encourage all locals to check out their website www.FlaglerAuditorium.org to learn more about the Arts in Education program.
“I do it because of the passion. Last night seeing 200 kids on stage, singing and playing their hearts out… it was so enlightening, and we do invest a lot in our kids and they have a beautiful stage to grow up on. We have a superior band, a superior dance team,
superior tech team…“
AND THEN CAME THE SURPRISE IRISH GUESTS...
Tony Kenny, Victoria Kenny, George Casey and Vince Mitchell joined in on the interview with Lisa McDevitt and I, and really brought their joyful and inspiring energy to the room! What was a formal interview about the importance of arts in education, became a talk amongst friends, telling stories about show business, family; and discussing why having arts in education and in our daily lives is so crucial to the development of our youth.
It is so important for the arts, music and performance to continue to exist for our children in school. Victoria Kenny has been a teacher of song, dance and drama in Ireland for the past 10 years. “Me and mom teach 400 students over 5 days… My grandmother had the very first stage school in Ireland. So we're kind of carrying on tradition.” Tony Kenny met Victoria’s mother at a theater in Ireland, and eventually “married the teacher’s daughter.” Show business is a strong family trait for the Kenny family.
“Especially as a teacher, I always say to the parents of the kids I teach… it’s a wonderful hobby, some people will excel at singing, dance drama and the arts; but I feel it’s really good for confidence building. There’s no competition...” Victoria went on, “if they can walk into a job interview with their head held a little bit higher and a little more confidence and self-discipline, I don’t think you can buy that.”
I turned my next questions to Tony Kenny and George Casey, whose act has been known to the Flagler Auditorium for about eight years. Mr. Kenny and Mr. Casey have been friends for 10 years. “When you went to Ireland, it was on everyone’s brochure, you saw Tony Kenny. We all hoped we were taken along after working with the Don Ho of Ireland.” Said George Casey about how he came to know Tony Kenny.
The entire act has taken a liking to our Flagler County Area. “It’s happened over years, we were taken by our friend here (Lisa McDevitt). And there is a group of Irish people that live around this area… I love it here” Said Mr. Kenny.
Being in the arts and investing in his talents and creativity, has helped Tony Kenny to be a better person. “I started singing and working at church back in Ireland, they taught me everything and that’s how I started to do everything...” Tony Kenny agrees that cutting music and arts in education would have mostly a negative outcome on our youth, “It’s a very good thing that people decide what they want to do… decide that this is what they want to do, for one reason or another.”
George Casey (above), who has been a comedian for the last 44 years, now resides in the Orlando area. The meaning in George Casey’s life is better defined by his dedication to being a comedian. “It’s like a drug… the enjoyment you get out of a good night... to have that enjoyment and laughter come back at you, knowing you brought someone a little bit of happiness in their life and make them forget about their problems for 20 minutes or half an hour, it makes it all worthwhile.” Even the shows that don’t go as planned leave George Casey with a positive result. “Those are the ones you remember… the ones that just didn’t quite go right. You ask yourself, what did I do wrong? What can I change? What can I do better? You give everything you’ve got.”
I was able to ask one more question before my three Irish friends went back stage to get ready for the show.
If you could reach today’s youth with one message about exploring their creative ability, what would your message be?
George Casey: “To believe in themselves. You’ve got to go out there, try, keep trying and FAIL. You have to fail to be good at anything. You really have to. You pick yourself up and learn from that one little time and say, YES! Whether you be a poet, or a writer, just do it. Believe in yourself. If it’s meant to be, its meant to be. But you’ve got to try.”
Victoria Kenny: “I think my dad will agree with me, but our slogan for our stage school back at home is Dream. Believe. Achieve. The Dream is to be in the arts, whether that’s front of house, on the stage or back stage. The Believing is having confidence that you can do it yourself with any knock along the way. We always say it at home, Dream. Believe. Achieve.”
BELIEVE IT OR NOT … There was one more surprise guest! Vince Mitchell brought to the conversation a slightly different outlook on the importance of arts in the community. Vince Mitchell resides in the Bay area, but “books shows” from coast to coast, running CMI Entertainment with his business partner Shawn Casey.
Vince Mitchell explained to me that “Show business is two words. Show and Business. I’ve always been the business end, from a record business for 15 years, and this business for 20 years. So I have no artistic talent… I never took an instrument in school”. Not being a performer himself, Vince Mitchell shared that it is still very important for our youth to explore their creative ability. “It’s very important because it makes them balanced… in their life, there is only so many hours you can study algebra or chemistry. Try the arts because it might be your passion. You only know if you try. And you only fail if you never try.”
“I’ve traveled this country, and I say this most sincerely. But I have not found an auditorium, that is affiliated with a school, that has such a great student tech program. There students are courteous, respectful and hardworking. They obviously have found their home here. A Program like this gives them their oasis and something they can belong to. I’ve seen this theater blossom under Lisa and Jacks leadership. It’s wonderful to see.” – Vince Mitchell of CMI Entertainment
The Flagler Auditorium believe that it is extremely important for students to “Learn and Grow” in the arts. “I can’t think of any greater importance,” says Lisa McDevitt, “statistics show that kids score better on tests, learn discipline and confidence. If I had my way I would have every student participate in the arts.”
“An Investment in the Arts is an Investment in your Community” says Lisa McDevitt. “There are five major players in the contribution of our success, which are the school board, the governing board, the staff, the students and the community.”
If our youth were to explore their creative abilities more, we might see a decrease in crime and violence in our area. “When they are involved in the community, it does hold them accountable and teaches values...” Exploring one’s own creativity could even help students who have emotional issues or deal with a sense of misplaced purpose. “I’ve heard students say that they had a sense of nothing, and then they became part of a family…” - Lisa McDevitt.
The Flagler Auditorium is gearing up for 2017, practicing, rehearsing and getting ready to offer our community, events and performances that will bring Flagler County back to life!
Upcoming shows that are part of the Holiday Extravaganza and help fund arts in education are as follows…
12/13/16 – 7:00PM
An Evening of Improv
By the Flagler County Drama Dept.
12/15/16 – 7:00PM
By Matanzas High School Band & Chorus
12/17/16 – 3:00PM
Dance Around Flagler
12/19/16 – 7:00PM
ITMS Band Concert
12/22/16 – 7:00PM
Palm Coast Community Band