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Have the time and experience? Give back to the arts community

 There's no use in sitting alone on a shelf. Agreed? Certainly those who contribute their time and talent at Segerstrom Center for the Arts in Costa Mesa couldn't agree more.

The Center is known for its Broadway, dance, jazz and chamber music series as well as hosting performances by seasoned performers like Frankie Valli and Yanni. These events not only appeal to those 50 or better, it is this same generation that is a vital part of the engine that makes Segerstrom successful. We spoke with three of these passionate folks who have also made their own lives more vibrant by working at the Center.

A master storyteller

James Cogan, 65, has been a treasure at Segerstrom for more than 26 years as a paid performer in special events like the "The Nutcracker," and "Imagination Celebration." He calls himself a storyteller, but to his audiences he's a craftsman. His ability to weave a tale with sound effects, facial expressions, and cool characterizations has ignited the imaginations of child audiences, and brought him national recognition with hundreds of public engagements every year.

"Since childhood I have been enthralled with the creativity and diversity that the arts have instilled in me," he says. "Now, more than ever, our youth need the individuality and imaginative process that are kept alive by storytelling, and all the arts."

Cogan says, not only is keeping the arts alive a goal, but performing also keeps alive the child in himself. Of course, not everyone wants to perform. For those who want to be part of the arts, Cogan encourages them to find their niche —helping to raise funds, working as an usher during a performance, or sharing knowledge by being a docent. Wherever you fit in, Cogan says, "If this doesn't keep you young, nothing will."

Tour de force

When longtime docent Arlene Steinert talks about her volunteer work at Segerstrom her enthusiasm is infectious. "For anyone who has a love of the arts and a love of people, this is a great way to take part in the community," she says.

After retiring from a career in public relations and in human resources, she has enjoyed 17 years sharing her knowledge and "people" experience by leading tours.

When tours lead visitors onstage to see and hear what the performers see and hear, Steinert enjoys watching their faces light up. One tour attendee brought his guitar and asked if he could play onstage to get the true performance experience, Steinert relates. "The sound of him playing in the concert hall was breathtaking," she says.

Keeping the arts accessible

For docent William Moodie, leading tours allows him to meet people from all over the world, including a group from Hungary. "Foreign visitors love our theaters because they are fresh and new, and that's something they are not used to at home," he says. Moodie, 84, is no stranger to the theater. He spent 50 years selling theater lighting and control equipment and still does theater consulting.

Like the visitors, Moodie appreciates theater architecture. Sometimes he likes to stand outside the Segerstrom Center at night, when the concert hall is lit up, and just take in the sheer beauty of it.

Moodie also appreciates the benevolence. "Most public schools can no longer afford to teach the arts," Moodie explains. For awhile the schools sent busloads of kids to Segerstrom to hear concerts. When that became unaffordable, Segerstrom stepped up and paid the cost to bring kids in for symphonies. The Center also pays to have artists go out to the schools, he says.

--Tribune Content Solutions for Primetime

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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