Is it possible that a full-time accredited arts high school, like the one in the movie "Fame," could exist on the Gold Coast? One that would attract students from three counties? That is the goal of MAC, the Music and Arts Conservatory of Santa Barbara, which now meets on Saturdays at the Garvin Theater Complex at Santa Barbara City College.
Classes in solfege (sight singing), theater arts, creative writing and poetry, art history, music history, studio art, chamber music, and jazz are attended by 30 students ages 13 to 17 who come from as far away as Santa Maria and Ojai. MAC would like to have more students from the Ventura area.
Modeled on the European philosophy in arts education, MAC is the brainchild of Russian-born Lana Bodnar-Horton, a member of an illustrious music family and for 15 years an adjudicator for the American College of Musicians.
At a recent party at Marymount School, which kicked off MAC's second year, Bodnar-Horton said: "An example of the European approach is that students are not required to declare a final goal and sign on the dotted line when they enter a conservatory. They are thought to be in the process of becoming. They are taught from a broader base than specialization. At MAC we've discovered that the musicians can draw, the singers can write and the artists can sing!"
"We don't separate them, and this is how creativity really thrives," said Patricia Halloran, MAC art history teacher. "Also, it's hard to become a creative artist, just taking lessons. The atmosphere of the school builds a rich dynamism, instead of having each child isolated in his specialty."
True to MAC's integrative approach to learning, last semester the students read the text of Goethe's "Faust," listened to music with the "Faust" theme, looked at slides of paintings about "Faust" and saw "Faust" films. All this was within the context of studying the Romantic period in art, music, and literature.
Saturday classes are interspersed with frequent field trips, performances and research projects. Last semester featured a theater trip to Los Angeles to see "Phantom of the Opera"; the next goal is a theater trip to London.
How is all this funded, with tuition only $50 per semester? "We take students regardless of finances. We have a broad base of backgrounds and economies. Our emphasis is on fund raising outside the school," said studio art instructor Karyn Young.
The school has a major anonymous donor, and this Sunday will hold an auction-dinner fund-raiser titled "Autumn Sonata" at SBCC, where MAC students will be performing with the City College Symphony.
Having students sing and play at a fund-raising event seems an appropriate approach for a school that stresses performance and for Bodnar-Horton, who originated the annual "Children for Children" concerts, held at the Music Academy of the West.
The popular concerts, which have been selling out for nearly a decade, will now be presented under the auspices of MAC. This year they will be taken to area schools as a special "outreach" project.
With all the goings on generated by and around the school, will MAC's conversion from part-time to full-time arts high school be a reality soon? "Anything is possible," Bodnar-Horton said. "If there is clearly a need for this kind of education in this area, and we know that there is, then people will come forward to help with their expertise and with funding."
WHERE AND WHEN
"Autumn Sonata," an auction-dinner fund-raiser for the Music and Arts Conservatory, is part of the annual fund-raising event of the Foundation for Santa Barbara City College. The event begins at 3:30 p.m., with cocktails and a silent auction. At 6:30, MAC students will sing with the City College Symphony, performing all the songs from "Phantom of the Opera," as well as singing a world premiere of "Unicorn," written by Lessia Ben Sasson. The dinner and auction will follow. Tickets are $100. For more information, call (805) 965-0581, Ext. 601.
FOR PIX SLUGGED SCHOOL