Schooled in the Arts


Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens may have chased away the blues in "The Sound of Music," but students in Fullerton's Academy of the Arts need sturdier stuff to face real-life challenges.

Stuff, says program director Scott Hedgecock, like commitment, hard work and a willingness to give up some short-term fun for the sake of long-term goals.

"The arts experience gives you so much," he said. "Confidence, self-discipline, the ability to work in a group. . . . All those things make you an all-around better person."

A member of Fullerton Union High School's arts faculty since 1980, Hedgecock established the academy under the school's auspices in the fall of 1996. Students attend the same core classes as their peers, but also take arts classes tailored to their individual interests and goals, including choral music, instrumental music, drama, dance and visual arts.

Academy students at all levels are encouraged to try out for productions that blend various disciplines, like the upcoming staging of Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Sound of Music," which opens Friday and runs through March 28 at Plummer Auditorium in Fullerton.

The musical, directed by Alberta Strey and Vicki Schindele, features a 100-voice choir, a 40-member cast and a 28-piece orchestra, much of it drawn from academy enrollment.

The performers, along with visual-arts students helping to refurbish the loaned sets and technical theater students working behind the scenes, have worked from three to six days a week on the production for 10 weeks, over and above their regular class and homework time.

A schedule like that doesn't leave much time for hanging out at the mall or the skate park, but Hedgecock thinks the kids--including those who aren't considering a career in the arts--are reaping benefits that will stay with them for life.

Students participate in public performances or gallery showings in each of the disciplines, and advanced students must attend outside shows or exhibits on their own time.

As they near completion of the four-year program, students meet with guidance staff to review their post-graduation options, whether community colleges, universities or arts conservatories.

The academy is among a handful of specialty training programs at the high school level in the area; others include the South Orange County School of the Arts in Dana Point, the Huntington Beach High School of the Arts and the Orange County High School of the Arts in Los Alamitos (which is doing a show of its own, "First Ladies," Wednesday through March 29).

"Sound of Music" co-director Schindele said she explained to the students that the story line "is about people having to make choices that are noble and good in the face of evil and threats. "The other night, we were running the scene when the family is hiding in the convent garden from the Nazis," Schindele said. "I said to them, 'Remember what's ahead [for the family] if they're caught.'

"You could see the fear on their faces," she recalled. "They really connected."


"The Sound of Music" will be presented by Fullerton Union High School's Academy of the Arts at Plummer Auditorium, 201 E. Chapman Ave. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 7:30 p.m. March 27 and 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. March 28. $8. (714) 671-1084.

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