Stories come to life onstage to create better outcomes for all students

To Sonoma County students, there’s almost nothing like the magic of one of LBC’s School Shows. Thanks to ongoing support from donors, members, and sponsors, this year, LBC is presenting 27 of them – up from 22 last year– signaling a post-pandemic comeback welcomed by our 40 school districts and another 60 in surrounding counties, all of which depend on them to enrich classroom curriculum. And while School Shows do put a feather in our cap as Sonoma County’s predominant and far-reaching nonprofit arts education resource, several of the adjunct programs, including From Page to Stage, Set the Stage, Art Talks, and Master Classes & Student Clinics, play equally important roles by extending the enrichment potential of this critical classroom connection.

In its commitment to elevate the lives of children and families in the North Bay, in the early ‘80s, LBC’s arts education experts joined other leaders in Sonoma County to address the increasing need for arts education to boost academic, cultural, developmental, and emotional outcomes for local school children. LBC’s expertise in arts education and the capacity to gather large audiences made it a natural solution. In 1984, we began bringing local classrooms to the theater for matinee shows of live performances by national touring theater companies for youth – because educational outcomes deserve high quality experiences.

School Shows are daytime performances programmed and affordably priced for school groups, accessible for grades PK through 12. School Shows highlight a wide-range of genres and cultural experiences, from traditional dance and drama to a variety of music—world, contemporary, and classical. Many of the performances align with and support state-mandated curriculum in all core subjects.

Long-time support has been provided by the Ernst L. and Ruth M. Person Finley Foundation and Exchange Bank, allowing School Shows to provide students with more than just a lineup of great performances. The program also subsidizes 25% of the ticket cost for every student, offers scholarships that cover all costs for qualified students, and provides additional scholarship support for chaperones and qualified transportation needs.

LBC presents from 25 to 30 School Shows a year, enriching and inspiring the lives of 25,000 to 35,000 students. And not just in Sonoma County’s 40 school districts, but in the more than 100 districts in a five-county radius, that also include Marin, Solano, Lake, and Napa.

“Students living in the North Bay shouldn’t be left out of quality cultural and creative arts because of where they live,” said Melanie Weir, Associate Director of Education and Community Engagement. “Our founders believed this region deserved a world class arts center close to home. They knew it would elevate the quality of life here, and, more important, break barriers to arts education through exceptional ongoing programming.”

This year, LBC is presenting 27 performances throughout the school year. In Giraffe’s Can’t Dance – The Musical, for example, puppets, African rhythm, and dancing help convey Gerald the giraffe’s journey of discovering that his differences are what make him special. Tomás and the Library Lady is a bilingual musical, based on the beloved book and true story of the Mexican-American author and educator Tomás Rivera, who became the first minority Chancellor in the University of California system.

Many School Shows are based on historical events or literary works, such as The Magic School Bus and Call of the Wild, providing a unique way for children to connect with and understand history and literature. Some bring science to life in a fun and memorable way, like Super Scientific Circus and Doctor Kaboom. Most also expose children to different cultures, traditions, and worldviews, like Posada Navidena and Hālau Hula Ka No‘eau, to foster an appreciation for diversity.

School Shows also include several of our main programming performances discounted for schools, like Parsons Dance and Posada Navideña, as well as Dinosaur World Live and Pete the Cat’s Big Hollywood Adventure from our Clover Sonoma Family Fun Series.

“Overseeing School Shows on performance days is the best part of my job,” said Melanie, who selects the year’s lineup of school shows with the help of a network she has built up over the past 18 years, from relationships with national touring agents to conferences, national arts organizations, and her current role as president of California Presenters. “Every show is special. Every kid is special. I feel beyond lucky to be able to be part of this work for our community.”

“All the shows get their messages across through entertaining characters, exciting stories, dynamic music and/or dance to inspire and delight children, fostering unforgettable learning experiences.”

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