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York gives students opportunity for self-expression through Fine Arts Week

Guitarist Peter Scoville plays with Modern Vices, all York Community High School graduates, as they return to play for York students as part of the 2015 Fine Arts Week.
Guitarist Peter Scoville plays with Modern Vices, all York Community High School graduates, as they return to play for York students as part of the 2015 Fine Arts Week.

ELMHURST – York Community High School will celebrate the creative and performing arts from Feb. 26 to March 1 in an event that has joined students and professional artists for more than 30 years: Fine Arts Week.

Chris Gemkow, a music and English teacher at York, said one of the goals of the week is to expose the student body to careers in the arts and show them how to express their artistic voices.

"I'm constantly just impressed by all the talent that's in the school but also just...the fact that they have this opportunity to get up in front of their peers on a stage and sing a song or dance or whatever it is they do and share that artistic side and express that artistic voice with the student body," Gemkow said.

A volunteer student committee, under the leadership of Gemkow, makes the week happen with student participation including a stage crew, sound crew, light crew and emcees.

"It's really orchestrated all by the students. ... I just say, 'Here's what we're going to do. Follow me.' ... A lot of things could go wrong, but we seem to somehow manage to pull it off every time," Gemkow said.

Jenin Teleron, a York senior, is a stage crew member and a stage manager for the talent show. She said even though she tried many clubs and activities at York, she never felt she found her "niche" until she joined the preparations for Fine Arts Week. She said she has learned how valuable her voice is as a leader, and that knowledge will translate into other parts of her life, as she had previously "never really felt" like her voice mattered.

"I feel like people really trust me," she said about her leadership role.

Teleron said there is a lot of excitement about the week at York, especically in the art and theater departments.

"It's really humbling to see what the final product is... It's really nice knowing you helped create that," she said.

Senior Chris Rieger is participating as a committee member and a performer in the talent show the evening of March 1 by singing, playing guitar and drumming in various acts. Rieger said the talent show gives his friends and him a "time to shine" in front of their peers. After learning a lot through music classes and recording a few albums, he has decided to major in music business at Illinois State University in Normal.

He's also performing with his band Disciples of Rage, a cover band of Rage Against the Machine, to open a public Modern Vices concert from 6 to 9 p.m. Feb. 28 at Brewpoint Workshop and Roastery, 617 N. York St., Elmhurst. Modern Vices is composed of York alumni, and it will follow current student bands Disciples of Rage and Sleeveless Jacket.

Other alumni coming back to York for the event include Emma Ohm and Clark Pavlik, who both graduated in 2015 and will talk about their career journeys in the music industry. Ohm, who has made a career in Nashville, said she is excited to return.

"I really love the environment at York. ... It was a community of people who love music just as much as I did," she said.

Pavlik said he wants to show students it's possible to have success without going to college. After high school, he moved to Chicago and worked his way up at Second City, where he now is a production coordinator and box office associate.

"Fine Arts Week was definitely my favorite part of high school," he said.


If you go

WHAT: York Community High School Fine Arts Week

WHEN: Feb. 26 to March 1

WHERE: York Community High School, 355 W. St. Charles Road, Elmhurst

COST: $10 donation for York talent show, $5 donation for Brewpoint concert


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