BY RUSSELL CLEPPER
PHOTOGRAPHS BY MARTHA McCARTNEY
Whidbey Life Magazine Contributors
December 3, 2014
The first-ever South Whidbey Schools Foundation Talent Show, presented last Sunday, Nov. 23 at WICA, featured a wide variety of talent both young and, well, younger. From perennial island favorites, the Rural Characters, to middle school jazz musicians to a very polished second grade garden project presenter, the show offered a well-paced mix of music, comedy and information.
Producers Jean Shaw and Tom Walker drew upon the island’s deep well of multi-generational talent to put the SWSF fundraiser together. In addition to fine performances by a number of student groups and ensembles, the show featured appearances by past and present South Whidbey School District teachers and personnel. Money raised from the event will help SWSF fulfill its mission of supporting educational projects that are outside the scope of the school district budget.
One of those projects is the school farm and the Fresh Food for Lunch program that Cary Peterson is overseeing. During her presentation, Peterson said that SWSF support through recent years has culminated in a mandate from South Whidbey School Superintendent Jo Moccia to develop a K-12 garden curriculum. Students are already eating lunches featuring produce from the half-acre garden behind the old primary school. The program is the first of its kind in the nation.
Other funded projects include underwater robotics, salmon raised in the classroom, professional musicians visiting school music classes and various art projects. More than $23,000 in funds raised by the organization last year are contributing to more than 20 projects this school year.
Shaw not only co-produced the show but served as the single emcee when Jim Freeman had to stay home for the evening due to illness. She also participated in some of the performances, including a lively and well-executed rendition of “Fugue for Tinhorns” (from “Guys and Dolls”) with Mike McInerney and Bill Humphries.
“I can’t say enough about Jean Shaw,” said Susie Richards, an SWSF board member. “It’s amazing to watch her weave her magic.”
Shaw helped start SWSF in the 1990s. She taught art, drama, journalism and English “off and on” for 30 years in South Whidbey schools and continues to contribute through volunteering and substitute teaching. She currently serves as secretary of the SWSF board.
Her co-producer, Tom Walker, is a newcomer to the role, although he has deep experience in musical presentation. Walker is the spokesperson and perhaps the most prolific songwriter in Whidbey’s well-loved Rural Characters, who wrapped up last Sunday’s show. He adapted a Bob Dylan tune, “Ring Them Bells” to express the spirit of the evening’s mission and performed it solo. He performed his version as “Ring THE Bells,” perhaps as a nod to the English instruction local students receive.
The Rural Characters continued their English lesson a couple of songs later with a song, “That Is the Way to Spell Chicken,” that they penned in response to errors they noticed in a local news publication.
More information about the South Whidbey Students Foundation is posted on their website at http://southwhidbeyschoolsfoundation.org.
Image at top: SWSF Talent Show co-producer Jean Shaw, dressed for her performance from “Guys and Dolls,” shares a moment on stage with South Whidbey School Superintendent Jo Moccia.
Russell Clepper is a singer-songwriter who plies his trade locally and around the country. He is also a substitute teacher for the Oak Harbor School District.
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