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Countywide creativity

13 school districts unite for showcase of talent at first Bucks County Student Arts Expo

By Samantha Bambino

The Times

Sweet sounds: All 13 school districts in Bucks County joined forces for the first-of-its-kind Bucks County Student Arts Expo, which was hosted in conjunction with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit at Bensalem High School. Above, the Bensalem High School Band performed during the event. Samantha Bambino / Times Photo

It didn’t matter who was an Owl or Warrior, a Redskin or a Falcon. For one night, high school rivalries were forgotten as students, parents and faculty addressed a more urgent issue — keeping the arts within the public schools of Bucks County.

In August, it was announced that TLC Arts, which currently houses arts-focused charter high schools in Bethlehem, Salisbury, Allentown and Easton, has plans to open a fifth location in Trevose for the 2019–2020 academic year. Founded by Dr. Tom Lubben, TLC Arts’ unique draw is that half the school day is devoted to an artistic major, with students able to choose from a variety of subjects including dance and figure skating.

TLC Bucks Arts would be housed at 1000 Northbrook Drive in Trevose. Since this falls under the territory of the Bensalem School District, it is up to the school board of directors to either approve or reject the opening of the charter school.

On the evening of Wednesday, Nov. 7, the board hosted a public hearing at Bensalem High School to learn the community’s thoughts on TLC Bucks Arts, the fate of which it has 75 days to decide. The feelings of the public school population became quickly evident when the board was handed a petition with a hefty 1,000 signatures against its opening.

Prior to the hearing, which lasted until approximately 1:30 a.m., every school district in Bucks County joined forces for the first-of-its-kind Bucks County Student Arts Expo. Hosted in conjunction with the Bucks County Intermediate Unit, the free event, also held at the high school, was meant to prove that an arts charter school isn’t only unwanted in the area, it’s unneeded.

“The event was inspired by the fact that the charter school is looking to come into the Bensalem area, and all of the public schools decided to get together and feature the arts and advancement of arts education that’s already promoted within the public schools,” said Robyn Gross, educational marketing lead of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit. “It’s really turned out to be a very fun thing for the parents and kids to see all the things that are done in the other schools and around the district as far as arts go.”

In a mere 90-minute time span, each of the 13 districts managed to showcase the depth and variety of arts programming available at their respective schools. The event kicked off with a bang at 6 p.m. as the Bensalem, Bristol Township (Harry S. Truman) and Neshaminy bands lined the walls of the auditorium in a stunning display while performing “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

One by one, different groups took the stage to show off their talents to attendees in the audience. Performers included Bensalem High School Dance, Quakertown Community School District Drama, who sang “Spoonful of Sugar” from Mary Poppins, the Bensalem Orchestra with its intense rendition of “The Evil Eye and the Hideous Heart,” Morrisville High School Band, Central Bucks High School East Select Choir and Bensalem High School Band.

“It’s so awesome to see all the other school districts, all the other talent in Bucks County. There is so much talent in Bucks County,” said Wilann Spiccia, music teacher at Valley Elementary and host of the evening. “You are being showered with incredible talent.”

Meanwhile in the hallway, TV monitors displayed student-created digital media, and paintings, drawings, pottery and sculptures were exhibited outside the auditorium. The creative pieces included everything from colorful landscapes to a spot-on charcoal drawing of Kit Harington, who portrays Jon Snow on the HBO series Game of Thrones.

Here, attendees were also able to learn more about the public schools’ artistic class offerings, which include digital photography, poetry, fashion design, classical ballet, musical theater and the works of Shakespeare, just to name a few.

The Bucks County Student Arts Expo concluded on the same high note it began. Chills were felt as the Bensalem High School Combined Choirs and Femineus Vocalis used their angelic voices to sing “No Time” and “Let the River Run.” For the expo’s riveting finale, the Neshaminy High School Marching Band shook the auditorium walls during “Voyage to Valhalla,” which received a well-deserved standing ovation.

Spiccia then took a moment to recognize all of the teachers present, who she said exude a passion for the arts both inside and outside the classroom — something that won’t stop, no matter what.

“We need art and we need to keep it in our public schools,” she said. “That talent is going to keep on coming because we are humans and we love art.” ••

Samantha Bambino can be reached at sbambino@newspapermediagroup.com

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