DeSales welcomes kids, arts - Catholic Courier

DeSales welcomes kids, arts

GENEVA — Friday, May 11 was all about appreciation for many Catholic-school students in the Finger Lakes region.

That day, students from five Catholic elementary schools and one Catholic high school came together to show their appreciation for both fine arts and for all that Catholic schools have to offer. Students from St. Mary School in Canandaigua, St. Michael School in Penn Yan, St. Francis-St. Stephen School in Geneva, St. Michael School in Newark and St. John Bosco School in Seneca Falls descended upon Geneva’s DeSales High School for Fine Arts Day.

“I’m so proud that you’re here. I’m proud that you’re part of the Catholic-school system, and thank you for coming,” DeSales Principal Father Joseph A. Grasso, CPpS, announced in the high school’s gymnasium after most of the busloads of students had arrived.

After welcoming the students to DeSales, Father Grasso turned the microphone over to Bart Dentino and Kevin Huber, a pair of professional songwriters and performers from Elba in Genesee County. Dentino and Huber work with Young Audiences of Rochester, and each year they perform more than 250 shows at schools, libraries, festivals and private events.

“We’re going to keep it light, we’re going to keep it breezy and we’re going to start out with this tune,” Dentino said and he and Huber opened their set with “Celebration.”

Within seconds, dozens of the elementary-school students started clapping along with the music. Their enthusiasm grew as the song progressed, and soon they were jumping up and down and dancing with their classmates and even with the high-school students, some of whom had siblings in the younger grades.

Dentino and Huber have been frequent performers at DeSales over the years, noted Kathy Peters, who volunteered to organize this year’s Fine Arts Day. Peters organized the first Fine Arts Day while she was principal at St. Michael School in Newark, where she served from 1993 until 2002. After retiring from the Newark school, she joined the staff at DeSales and spent several years as the school’s director of recruitment, retention and public relations, and she continued to organize events that brought students from the Catholic elementary schools into DeSales.

“Show them what’s going on so they have an interest and know we’re here. When you start bringing them in kindergarten, they’re used to coming to DeSales three or four times a year,” Peters said, explaining how the younger students used to visit the high school for Fine Arts Day as well as basketball nights, daylong retreats for fifth- and sixth-graders and an annual oratorical contest, which is still held.

“You have to start when they’re in kindergarten. If you start at seventh or eighth grade, it’s too late and they already know where they’re going to go to high school,” Peters added.

“The intent is to obviously feature fine arts and different things that the kids aren’t normally going to see,” said Charlie Evangelista, DeSales’ development and recruitment director. “It’s a way that we can showcase the school and also provide all the students that attend a chance to see some things that pertain to fine arts.”

After Dentino and Huber finished their set, a handful of DeSales students came out dressed as characters from the musical “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown,” which they would be performing later that weekend. They performed one song from the musical and encouraged the younger students to bring their families to see the complete show.

The Peanuts characters had barely left the gymnasium before Colleen Hendrick came out with her Bush Mango Drum & Dance Ensemble, and the energy level in the gymnasium immediately rose once more. The ensemble’s five performers encouraged students to stand up and learn several of their dances. They even convinced Father Grasso to join them on a set of bongo drums, which caused a few students to whip out their camera phones and start snapping pictures.

DeSales seniors Erika Smith and Nicholas Batson said they remembered participating in Fine Arts Day when they were students at St. Mary School in Waterloo, which in 2005 merged with St. Patrick School in Seneca Falls to form St. John Bosco School. They said they enjoy Fine Arts Day as much now as they did when they were elementary-school students.

“It brings all the schools together,” Batson explained.

When Bush Mango Drum & Dance Ensemble finished its performance, Father Grasso again took the microphone and encouraged the elementary-school students to stop in and visit the school the next time they were in the area.

“See, there’s something special in all our schools. Besides God, the most special gift we have is you,” Father Grasso said. “The only way our Catholic schools will survive is if you come, and your friends come. Stop by. We’re here every day.”

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