Barbara Lawlor, Nederland
When Nederland Middle Senior High School senior Luke Harrison graduated from Nederland Elementary School, he attended middle school in Boulder. In the next couple of years, he discovered he had a gift for music and acting and wanted to continue to be on stage, to pursue and polish his talent.
His parents Dan and Marylou had heard nothing but praise for Liz Evans’ music and theater programs: the Loquations choir, the orchestra and bands, the spring musicals, the fall one acts. Over the years, they had taken the kids to the programs and were very impressed with the performing arts programs.
“Coming back to Ned for high school was an easy choice for us. We knew that Luke would be working with Liz and that would be a huge benefit for him. Over the last four years, we have seen Luke’s vocal abilities an his acting skills grow more than we could have imagined.”
In a fund raiser to support the NMSHS performing arts program on Friday night, Marylou talked about her family’s experience. The fundraiser was held at the Salto Coffee Works where the Snyder Street Stage showcased the Luke, Ben Rubio and Sam Churches trio as well as the Loquations, Ned’s premiere acapello choir.
Marylou said Liz Evans performs the magic of bringing out confidence and talent in students of all levels of experience, bridging the typical cliques and boundaries. Her casts include athletes, academic achievers, introverts and extroverts and many students who are trying to figure out what they are interested in, wanting to try something new.
Take, for example, senior Jake Aquilar, who has been involved in sports and other clubs and organizations at NHS. He decided to try out for the spring musical, the 25th Putnam County Spelling Bee and was cast as one of the contestants, one of the quirkier contestants. Never having acted or sung before on stage, Jake stole the show with his antics. He may not have had the best voice but that fit in with his character. At a bigger school, he might not have gotten past the auditions, but at Ned he found something within he didn’t know he had: he is a ham at heart.
Josh Lake who was the technical director for the past two musicals took the stage saying he wished he was a teenager again. He attended Ned schools 19 years ago and says that for six years he worried about disappointing Ms. Evans.
In Lake’s first performance in seventh grade, he played a duck. He was in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers and says most of the males in the cast were football players.
“The performing arts at Ned is an amazing opportunity for our kids. The program was a haven for me and I found a place there that gave me self worth that was not tied to clothes or popularity, whether I nailed it on stage or not. You can sing and fail over and over again and then get on the stage and show amazing talent.”
At NMSHS, if a student has the desire and work ethic to be a part of the performing arts, they are accepted and nurtured and applauded.
Throughout the evening, the Salto staff kept the appetizers coming and the Loquations sang the songs and members of the cast performed a scene from Bee. Liz explains that the name Loquations came after a contest, in which the two favorite choices were the Temptations and the Loquacious, because they talked a lot.
Loquation member Tyler Pelkey thanked the audience, past and future contributors to the program, “Thank you for working so hard for us.”
Musician/actor Ben Rubio said, “The music department saved my life. I almost left Nederland when I was a freshman and the Loquations kept me here. I have had amazing experiences and have found this passion. I know who I am and what will make me happy.”
In the last decade, the music and theater programs have felt a decrease in district funding and most of the money it needs comes through donations from parents and the community.
Liz Evans says that in the six years of middle and high school, 100 percent of the student body will have participated in theater, band, choir or orchestra.
She tells the story of a director from Fairview who asked her why she has stayed with Nederland for so many years and told her she should go to a big school. After watching the Ned kids perform at a competition, he came up to Liz and said, “Oh, that’s why. Those kids are phenomenal.”