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Easthampton ‘Bear Fest’ funds awarded to local schools

The city’s 2012 Bear Fest sculpture festival featured tabletop bears created by students in Easthampton, Southampton and Westhampton public schools, as well as clients at Riverside Industries on Cottage Street.

Students not only benefited from taking part in the event, organizers say, but their schools also received a portion of the proceeds of the sale of those bears to support classroom arts activities.

Easthampton City Arts Plus, which oversees Bear Fest, last month announced a total of $15,800 in funds to area schools. Awards include Center School, $860; Pepin School, $855; Maple School, $965; White Brook Middle School, $2,080; Easthampton High School, $1,990; Westhampton Elementary School, $630; Norris School in Southampton, $2,420, and Riverside Industries, $6,000.

“It will be up to the individual teachers to decide how to use these funds,” said Burns Maxey, coordinator of the city arts group. “We wanted to give the programs some leeway.”

ECA reported that “A-mazing Bear” by EHS student Christianna Gardner, and “Bumble Bear” by White Brook Middle School student Cole Crouch, received the highest bids of $500 of all the tabletop bears at September’s Bear Fest auction — the closing event of the festival.

Trombonist selected

After a series of competitive auditions that began last fall, Easthampton High School junior Brandon Paige has been selected for the Massachusetts Music Educators Association’s All-State Conference, set for Feb. 28 to March 2 in Boston.

This is the first time since 1999 that an EHS student has earned a spot at the conference, according to the high school’s new music director, John Waynelovich, who is a former member of the roots rock bank Barefoot Truth. The event culminates in a performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall.

“Brandon is also one of only four trombone players in the state to make it for the Jazz Big Band,” Waynelovich said. “It’s an exciting time for the program and for Brandon.”

The process began in November, when Paige and six other EHS students auditioned at MMEA’s regional band and chorus competition in Westfield. The others were Leo Fish (jazz trombone), Jessica Katusich (chorus), Ericka Cross (chorus), Claire Douglass (jazz piano), Abigail Edgin (chorus) and Connor Gibbs (chorus).

From there, Paige, Gibbs and Fish earned spots at a second audition in Shrewsbury for the All-State Conference. They also performed Jan. 12 with the regional ensemble at the University of Massachusetts Amherst Fine Arts Center.

Based on his audition in Shrewsbury, Paige was selected for the statewide conference. Waynelovich said a total of 800 students from 50 Massachusetts schools auditioned during the process.

After school program

City schools are expanding after-school offerings for students in the early grades. In addition to an existing after-school program funded by a grant from the Northampton-based Collaborative for Educational Services, a new program for students in kindergarten through fifth grade opened earlier this month at Center/Pepin school.

Robert Orlando, principal of Center/Pepin said the existing after-school program has limited enrollment but the new one “will take as many kids as are interested. And they take kindergartners.” He said administrators are exploring ways to provide programs before school, as well.

Run by Champions Extended Learning Program, the new program is open on school days from 3 to 6 p.m. and for limited hours during school vacations, according to company spokeswoman Jill Leonard-Bouley. Two site teachers will supervise students at five activity centers including crafts, sports and nutrition. There is also homework time and at least a half hour of exercise in the school gym and on the playground.

The program, open to students at all city elementary schools, costs from $30 to $75 weekly, depending on the number of days children attend.

For more information, contact Champions at 529-1545, ext. 139 or online at www.discoverchampions.com.

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