• Franklin Fall Festival gives middle school singers a glimpse at their future

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     Franklin Fall Festival

    (Photo courtesy Chris Meade)

    When Lent teacher Chris Meade took his middle school choral students to the recent Franklin Fall Festival, he watched in amazement as they entered the fully modernized high school’s state-of-the-art auditorium.

    “Oh man, they were overwhelmed by it,” Meade said. “They thought it was the coolest thing. They’re like, ‘This place is huge!’”

    In some ways, the event served as a convergence of two major initiatives in Portland Public Schools: the modernization of Franklin, thanks to a voter approved bond; and the district’s work on the arts, fueled by the Portland Arts Tax, and the development of the Master Arts Education Plan (MAEP).

    One of the MAEP’s main goals is a create arts pathways in which students can learn an area of the arts – visual or performance – throughout their time in PPS. Karen Bohart, who is in her second year as music teacher at Franklin, is doing early work toward that in her cohort.

    Last year, she took Franklin’s choir out to perform at cohort middle schools. This year, she replicated an event she held during her 17 years in the Reynolds School District and brought Meade’s Lent choir, and the Lane Middle School choir taught by Judy Rose, to Franklin, to perform in front of, and with, the high school choir.

    About 45 middle school students took part in the Fall Festival, getting an opportunity to perform with their own choir and in a mass performance. Performing alongside the high school singers in Franklin’s sparkling venue offered the students a preview of what could be in their future.

    “It was so cool,” Bohart said. “All those middle school kids were walking out saying, ‘I can’t wait for choir at Franklin.’”

    Bohart would like to find ways to include other Franklin feeder schools, especially Mt. Tabor Middle School, which does not have a choir program, but does have a band program. She also wants to show choir students the other performing arts opportunities at Franklin, such as drama, which is preparing for its fall production, “Addams Family, the Musical.”

    “They could be an instrumentalist, they could be a singer, and they could be an actor or actress,” Bohart said. “They can do it all in high school.”

    Meade, who is in his third year at Lent, said the Fall Festival was the first opportunity for his students to leave campus and perform. More importantly, it showed them that music does not have to be an elective that is quickly forgotten after middle school. It can be a part of their future.

    “That’s what I told them, that this is yours, this is here for you,” Meade said. “You just have to seize it.”