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The Journal Gazette

  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette Madison DeSelm, 3, shows off her dancing skills in the New American Youth Ballet booth at the annual FAME Festival at Grand Wayne Center on Sunday.

  • Taquoia Hackbush, 13, tests out a violin at one of the many booths. Thousands of students from northeast Indiana schools participated in the festival.

  • Photos by Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette The Deer Ridge Elementary ensemble sings at the annual FAME festival at the Grand Wayne Center on Sunday.

  • Kennedy Court, 7, with a boost from her father, Patrick Court, points out her painting, named “Warm Africa,” for her family.

Monday, March 21, 2016 3:43 am

Hoosier legacy on display

Jamie Duffy | The Journal Gazette

Summit Middle School eighth-grader Kathleen Simunek and fellow singer Delaney Fosnaugh, a seventh-grader from Maple Creek Middle School, think the Indiana state song, "On the Banks of the Wabash," is "fun."

It’s even "gorgeous," according to Simunek, who was part of the Fort Wayne Children’s Choir, an elite group of singers who participated Sunday in the closing concert at FAME.

FAME, or the Festival for Art and Music in Education, is a megaweekend event at the downtown Grand Wayne Center drawing young artists ages 8 to 14 from northeastern Indiana.

The children’s choir, under the direction of IPFW vocal professor Jonathan Busarow, opened the Celebration of Youth Concert with the state song, a hit tune in 1897 that brought acclaim to its composer, Paul Dresser, a Terre Haute native who found fame on New York’s Tin Pan Alley.

The song fit perfectly with the bicentennial theme of this year’s concert. Indiana’s century was also motif for this year’s FAME event, which has been around since 1988.

An original composition created for the event was also performed at the concert, played by the combined Fort Wayne Youth Symphony and the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Youth Concert Orchestra, under the baton of David Cooke. 

David Crowe, FAME’s composer-in-residence, had spent several months leading more than 20 local fourth-graders through the art of musical composition. The result was "Signature Indiana," an orchestral piece that celebrated Indiana’s open spaces, open sky and quietness, Crowe said, along with its Native American heritage and its pioneer legacy. 

The musicians played and sang against a backdrop of students’ artwork looped through video and projected onscreen. 

One ballerina from the Fort Wayne Ballet Youth Company that danced for the Signature piece was dressed as a cardinal for the theme.

The closing concert was the final event of two days of performances by school choirs, dance troupes and orchestras from more than 70 schools, according to the FAME website.

Wendy Bloom, music teacher and specialist at Haley Elementary in Fort Wayne and a FAME executive committee member, said the event draws about 20,000 people through the doors of the Grand Wayne Center.

For members of the children’s choir, it is one more performance in a packed year. Melissa Lawler, the choir secretary and mother of Jefferson Middle School eighth-grader Elizabeth Lawler, said the choir has given her daughter opportunities.

Those include performing in Chicago, and in Indianapolis for the Bicentennial this May. This summer, the group will travel to Hungary, she said.

Plus, "it teaches them how to read music," Lawler said.

Other musical selections performed by the orchestras to celebrate Hoosier heritage included Hoagy Carmichael’s "Stardust" and "Georgia on My Mind" and Cole Porter tunes from "Kiss Me Kate."

But the real tribute was to Dresser, older brother of acclaimed novelist Theodore Dreiser, whose lyrics were sung as well as his music. The audience was asked to sing it a second time, this time with Busarow singing his heart out as he led the choir and musicians.

Anna Duly, a seventh-grader at Ascension Lutheran School and choir member, found the song "more old-fashioned, but modern at the same time."

Another choir member, Riley Grim, in the eighth grade at Memorial Park Middle School, said it did seem like an older song, "but very patriotic." 

jduffy@jg.net