One of Del Norte County’s highly talented high school age students has been chosen as a participant at the 28th session of the California State Summer School for the Arts (CSSSA), one of the nation’s leading summer arts programs.
Attending CSSSA this year is Glenn Duncan, a junior at Del Norte High School, for music. The summer school will be held from July 12 through Aug. 8 at the California Institute for the Arts
CSSSA was created by the California Legislature in 1985 and held its first session in 1987. Each year, approximately 500 students attend from all around the state; this year, that number was chosen from more than 1,600 applicants. Del Norte County attendees last year were siblings Josiah Wise and Mariah Wise (both for theater), who at the time were attending Castle Rock Charter School. Since 1987, more than 67 local high school age students have attended this rigorous, month-long residential training program after demonstrating artistic excellence in one of the seven CSSSA disciplines: animation, creative writing, dance, film, music, theater and the visual arts.
Acceptance is by a competitive process. In addition to having to complete a full application, “I had to turn in one or two paragraphs stating why I wanted to attend,” said Duncan in a recent interview, “and videos of me playing two different styles of music.” He chose to include a classical piece he played on the viola and a jazz trombone solo from one of his stage band performances. In addition, Duncan was required to submit written recommendations from two of his teachers. For one of the recommendations, he asked high school music teacher Dan Sedgwick, whom Duncan has played with in the marching and stage bands for three years, and he asked Sybil Wakefield for the other. He has been studying viola with her since age 8.
CSSSA is funded by a unique public-private partnership between the public summer school and private sector contributions to California State Summer School Arts Foundation. It provides a supportive environment staffed with professional artists. Students hone acquired skills and explore new techniques and ideas for an overall in-depth arts learning experience.
“It was unforgettable; I can’t stop thinking about it,” Mariah Wise said of her experience at last year’s summer school. She is currently in Modesto, where she is soon to graduate with a degree as an esthetician.
“I wouldn’t trade it for anything,” she said.
Mariah was immersed in theater studies “nonstop.” Her day of classes would start at 9 a.m. with Tai Chi or voice.
“Every day was different,” she said.
After lunch were her acting classes, predominantly with one teacher, in which she learned many different concepts of theater, including floor pattern, architecture (how you use your surroundings), and spatial relations and sharing weight (with other actors). After dinner were lectures to attend and special performances galore.
Very importantly, “it was a great group of kids,” said Mariah, “I made a ton of friends” (which she is still talking to regularly via Facebook).
“If I could, I’d do it all over again!” she enthused.
“It was spectacular,” said Josiah. “It was really easy to make friends; everyone there has the same interests and passion.”
The electives he chose included musical theater, stage combat and clowning. His favorite subject was vaudeville/physical comedy.
“There were lots of exercises that seemed bizarre to me at first,” Josiah noted. But then he came right home from CSSSA to perform in “Young Frankenstein” in Brookings. “I suddenly realized: oh, I’m using that method; that’s cool!” he said. “I’m taking theater more seriously; before it was only a hobby.”
Josiah is currently in Medford, rehearsing a part in “Les Miserables” for that upcoming production by the Camelot Theater.
Del Norte County’s recognition event, as hosted by the Del Norte Association for Cultural Awareness (DNACA) with support from the CSSSA Foundation, will be held at 5:30 p.m. on Friday, June 6, at the Del Norte Senior Center, 1765 Northcrest Drive. California arts scholar Duncan will receive recognition from local dignitaries and a special medallion emblazoned with the state seal and will also perform a musical piece of his choice. In addition, Josiah Wise will be attending the ceremony and will perform a theatrical selection for those present.
Those who wish to attend the CSSSA reception and have not yet received an invitation should contact