Young performers storm the Palace stage

At the core of our mission at UPCA is to provide the space for young people to have life-changing experiences through the arts. Over the past few weeks we have witnessed the the impact that we have made through the first year of our community arts programs as all of the arts organizations that we have partnered with have performed on our stage.

On June 4 the Harmony Program offered its first recital on the Palace stage. The 20 4th and 5th graders who first picked up violin, viola, and cello in October performed several selections, culminating in "Barcarolle" From the Tales of Hoffman by J. Offenbach, with backing from students in the United Palace Cathedral's after school West African drumming class.

The next night People's Theatre Project corralled 130 kids from its school-based programs to perform a variety of pieces that channeled Shakespearean classics to explore contemporary Washington Heights issues of bullying, joblessness, and absentee fathers.

Finally on June 14 we had a night of nights under the banner of "Young People's Performances" featuring our West African drumming program, an encore performance of the "Voices Program" jointly operated by People's Theatre Project and Word Up Community Bookshop, a blistering electric violin performance by Harmony Program instructor Filip Pogady, and a recital by the kids in the WHIN Music Project Youth Orchestra, ages 7 to 17.

To cap off the night, and underscore the importance we place on cross-pollinating the arts, the finale was Beethoven's "Ode to Joy," the anthem of the El Sistema movement from Venezuela that inspires our classical music programs. But we added a signature Palace twist: our young classical musicians were backed by both a youth choir and our West African drummers. It was magical hearing the art forms play off of each other and watching the excitement of the children who knew they were creating something new, personalizing a performance like no one else ever had.

For all of these events we also provided a preview of the future as Keith Fasciani, a professional actor and circus performer, showcased his clowning, juggling and acrobatic skills while warming up the audience before the shows.

It was a great conclusion to our first year of arts programs, stoking our enthusiasm for what our young people will accomplish next.