MAPLE PARK – When eighth-grader Chloe Besser moved from Batavia into the Kaneland School District this school year, she wasn’t sure she’d have an opportunity to play her cello in a performing group. Kaneland doesn’t have an orchestra.
Through the efforts of parents, the Sugar Grove Park District and some volunteers, however, it does have a string club. Besser spotted the Kaneland String Ensemble at a recent public appearance, and she showed up for a recent practice, joining the club.
“I had missed playing with a group,” Besser said. “I was excited that I was able to have that experience again.”
The Kaneland String Ensemble will be part of a full day of activities at the Kaneland Community Fine Arts Festival, which runs from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday at Kaneland High School, 47W326 Keslinger Road, Maple Park. Admission is free.
The festival features huge displays of student artwork, with performances going on throughout the day in several locations at the school.
In the auditorium, there will be performances featuring the Maud Powell String Quartet (11 a.m.), Bel Canto (12:15 p.m.), the Waubonsee Community College Steel Band (1 p.m.), Acappellago (2:15 p.m.), Margaret Fox (3:30 p.m.) and the M&M Dance Company (5 p.m.).
The event features artwork, workshops and showcases. There will be refreshments available to buy. And all day, there is a pre-K art experience, with story time provided every hour. Officials from the Sugar Grove Public Library will be on hand to register residents for library cards.
In addition, there will be a square dance band, and the event kicks off with the Chicago Cubs Dixieland Band.
The Kaneland String Ensemble will have two performances – at 12:15 p.m. in the auditorium lobby and at 1 p.m. in the arts pavilion.
The string ensemble was launched this year, as some parents have pushed for an opportunity for youths to perform together, despite not having an orchestra. Understanding that the school district has gone through budget cuts over the past few years, making it unlikely that the district would add such a program, organizers looked to other solutions. Listed as the After School String Club and offered by the Sugar Grove Park District, the group meets weekly in the Kaneland Harter Middle School band room. It is for those in sixth through eighth grade. The cost is $72.
Elburn resident Andrea LaFranzo serves as the director, and she credited parent Sonya Hwang with leading the push. Hwang credited other parents and the students, and she said she hoped it is just the beginning, a step toward establishing an orchestra program in the district.
“The purpose is someday being part of the school program,” Hwang said.
Those in the group are violinists Morgan Goodine, Abbey Heineke, Dallin Hwang and Evangelos Lekkas; cellists Ryan MuckerHeide, Sara Sexton and Chloe Besser; and pianist Seth Anderson.
LaFranzo said the logical next step would be to expand the program to the elementary schools in an attempt to build interest. The group has had two previous performances, including one at a Knight of Performances event at the middle school, and interested youths were invited to take a look at the instruments.
“Our main goal right now is to try to get more exposure to the group, create more excitement in the community about the project and attract additional interest from youth and parents to join the program,” Hwang said.
Attracting interest will be a key, as district officials say community members have expressed interest in adding other activities as well.
Erika Schlichter, the director of educational services for sixth through 12th grade, said there would be two ways of adding such an activity to a district – through the curriculum as a course offering or as an extracurricular activity.
The budget would be a consideration. Superintendent Jeff Schuler said adding it as a curricular offering would involve the cost of a teacher and supplies. Schlichter said adding it as an extracurricular activity would mean having a staff member bring forward a request. And to justify launching such an effort, it would be ideal to demonstrate a strong level of interest.
“I certainly have heard the message from some of the community members and kids,” Schlichter said of the orchestra proposal. But while there are no immediate plans to create an orchestra in the district, she pointed to the arts festival itself as an indication that the district “is a big supporter of the arts.”
“We value that,” Schlichter said. “We wouldn’t have a fine arts festival if we didn’t feel strongly about supporting the arts.”