Pitti Picks Up The Sticks
by Allan Appel | Aug 3, 2012 12:54 pm
Thalia Pitti picked up her sticks and struck the tenor notes on her steel pan drum to summon the sweet crooning sounds of “Love Me Tender.”
A month ago she’d never touched a steel pan or believed tunes could be played on it. Friday night she performs in an ensemble playing a medley that begins with Elvis and ends with Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.” All on Trinidad-made steel pan drums.
The musical adventure took place for Thalia, her twin Antonio and 50 other middle-schoolers from the Greater New Haven area Thursday as they finished up the inaugural season of the Theater and Arts Summer Camp, which was organized by the Shubert Theater/CAPA.
The camp has been headquartered a block away from the Shubert at Co-Op High. The camp makes use of the magnet arts high school’s fabulous facilities such as the school’s mainstage, where the ensemble was recording a CD Thursday morning. (Click on the play arrow to watch a sample.)
When a reporter asked the name of the ensemble, a polite dispute ensued. “Steel Pan Wizards,” “Steel Pan Stars,” and “Steel Stars” all were offered. The latter prevailed, with a little heavy suggestion from the group’s instructor, St. Luke’s Church Steel Drum guru, Ken Joseph.
In charge of the recording was Kameesha Collins (pictured), a senior at Co-Op, who aspires to be a director. She’s one of seven Co-Op students learning the technical side of theater.
Co-Op teachers staff the camp, which uses all the school’s performance areas in small classes of no more than 11. Each class also has a teaching assistant, who is a Co-Op senior.
The Shubert, which manages the performances and rental spaces for the Board of Ed, established the arts camp, which had a previous edition perhaps 20 years ago, because it accomplishes many purposes, according to Shubert-CAPA General Manager Sheri Kaplan.
It exposes middle school kids to what an arts high school is like and in effect helps recruit. It provides 18 jobs in the arts to high school kids. It also creates a labor pool of trained technicians who will help the Shubert run the tech and manage the house at Co-Op next year, and in the years to come..
The number of rentals of Co-Op space has skyrocketed from 15 last year to nearly a hundred this year, with income of $58,000 all given over to the Board of Ed, according to Kaplan.
The full- or half-day camp is funded by the Shubert and one of its board members David A. Beckerman, with the staffing help of the Board of Ed, and Dwight Hall at Yale. Total budget for the first year: $65,000. It’s not free either, but costs $1,200 for a full day, and half for half. Two thirds of the kids are on some scholarship, said the director, Kjerstin Pugh.
This show also will go on. “Our goal is to grow the program and serve as many as 200 students. The facilities are here,” said Kaplan.
The business at hand Thursday was was not business, but the recording and prep for “Arabian Nights,” the camp’s culminating show. The Pitti twins took their places beside Gabriel Abdul-Karim, and the other players. Gabriel is going to Co-Op next year as a freshman to study visual arts. But Ken Joseph says he always but always carries his drummer’s sticks in his pocket.
They all leaned into the rehearsal. After Elvis and Beethoven, came Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful Life,” and Rhianna’s “Please don’t Stop the Music.”
Tags: Shubert Theater, CAPA
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