Arts for the Schools salutes music, founders passion | SierraSun.com

Arts for the Schools salutes music, founders passion

Andrew CristanchoSierra Sun

Andrew Cristancho/Sierra SunGrammy-nominated vocalist Perla Batalla, center, gets rowdy Wednesday with 200 grade-schoolers at Tahoe Lake Elementary School in Tahoe City. Batalla will perform a benefit concert in Squaw Valley Friday on behalf of the nonprofit Arts for the Schools.

More than 200 enthusiastic students gathered Wednesday in the gym of a Tahoe City grade school for the first assembly of the school year, but this would be no lecture.Instead, the Tahoe Lake students were greeted by a Grammy-award nominated singer, who entertained the young audience with a selection of songs. Perla Batalla, world music vocalist and composer, was performing the second of five concerts no admission charged for children at local schools before hitting the stage at Squaw Creek for a benefit concert Friday evening.Terry Yagura and the nonprofit Arts for the Schools she founded invited Batalla and her ensemble of professional musicians to perform for five different elementary school assembles this week. Fridays finale will include an evening of food, wine and prizes followed by a two-hour Batalla performance in the ballroom of the Resort at Squaw Creek.This school concert series was not a first for Arts for the Schools. Yagura and company have been bringing music and art into the Tahoe Truckee Unified Districts classrooms for the past 24 years.This fundraiser is a tribute for Terry, who started Arts for the Schools, said Katy Carmen, the organizations educational director.Yaguras own children went through the local school district and that is when she decided to contribute her time and energy to promote the arts that she felt were under-supported. She said many arts and music programs were cut as a result of Proposition 13 in the 1970s and have never rebounded.Without Arts for the Schools we would be very limited, Yagura said. Because of [it], we have a richer program than many other school districts in California.Principal Danny Hyde of Tahoe Lake Elementary School said events like Wednesdays offer a rich cultural experience to schoolchildren.You would have to go to the city to get the kind of diverse programs they bring, Hyde said. Its been great for the community.Batalla said the community owes Yagura a lot because of her promotion of the arts.I hope people realize the importance of music in their education, Batalla said before the assembly concert. Next to food, music is the most important thing you can give your kid music is food for the soul. Terry is so selfless, the community should show up [on Friday night] to celebrate her. Who is going to do this work for the next generation?The singers question was timely because Yagura said she plans to retire, but not until the Arts for the Schools board of trustees finds a suitable replacement. She said she is not worried they will be unable to replace her.Ive done this for over 24 years, Yagura said. The board formed itself in order to perpetuate Arts for the Schools.Yagura said she is proud of the artists the group has recruited over the years.They have to be very special artists, Yagura said. The have to be masters of their craft and know how to talk with children.She has high praise for Fridays headliner.Perlas a beautiful person inside and out; she always sells out, Yagura said. Ill always remember her message to a group of children in Southern California: Believe in yourself and your dreams work hard and you can accomplish anything.Yagura said the nonprofit sponsors more than 400 workshops, group performances and community performances a year within the school district. Arts for the Schools won high marks from one music fan Wednesday sitting on the floor of Tahoe Lakes gymnasium.I like this because singing is neat and I like assemblies, said third-grader Savannah McMorrow.

Grammy-nominated vocalist, composer and arranger Perla Batalla will bring her Spanish language classics to Hearts for Arts, an evening of wine, music and exquisite food on Friday, Oct. 5 from 6 to 10 p.m. at The Resort at Squaw Creek in Squaw Valley. The event will also feature a silent and traditional auction with great prizes. A fundraiser for Arts for the Schools, the event pays tribute to Terry Yagura, the woman who founded the North Lake Tahoe/Truckee non-profit organization in 1984 when the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District lost funding for art programs. Thanks to Yagura and her volunteers, the non-profit organization Arts for the Schools brings up to 30 arts assemblies annually to the 6,000 students (kindergarten through junior high) who attend North Lake Tahoe/Truckee schools. In addition, the organization hosts teachers and parents workshops, exhibitions, master classes and public performances featuring artists from around the world. Past programs have included a troupe of Brazilian dancers, an opera singer and an African American historian/storyteller. Benefits such as Hearts for Arts are needed to ensure the organization can continue to bring similar programs to area school children. Perla Batallas performance at this fundraiser for Arts for the Schools will be the highlight of an event meant to celebrate Terry Yaguras successful efforts to connect kids with artists from around the world. Batalla is an internationally renowned singer who first gained international attention as a backup singer for Leonard Cohen. Batalla released her debut Perla Batalla on the Warner/Discovery label in 1994. The critics called her singing sublime and her talent stunning. She released her second album, Mestiza, in 1998 on her own Mechuda Music label. An immediate favorite on Public Radio shows throughout the U.S., Mestiza was selected as Best Independent Release of the Year by Amazon.com. Heaven and Earth followed in 2000, along with a nod to Batalla as Amazons Emerging Artist of the Year. Her most recent project, the Discoteca Batalla is a compilation of original compositions interspersed with traditional Spanish language classics. Discoteca Batalla has appeared on best of lists throughout the country.In addition, four of the regions best of and most popular chefs will provide a culinary medley to accompany Batallas performances.Mark Estee, co-owner and executive chef of Moodys Bistro & Lounge in Truckee, has a culinary credo that involves the philosophy that food should be fresh, seasonal, local, and simple. Estees philosophy and contemporary American cuisine have landed him in the spotlight of the national culinary scene from New York to California. Hes appeared twice at the James Beard House in Manhattan, an invitation only culinary foundation co-founded by Julia Child, and has become a regular at the Ahwahnee Chefs Holidays. Gordon Drysdale, award-winning San Francisco chef and Pizza Antica partner, has been a longtime fixture in the San Francisco Bay Area dining scene with a reputation for modern, seasonal cuisine with classic roots. It was this approach to cooking that earned him Esquire Magazines Best New Restaurant Award in 2000 for his celebrated Gordons House of Fine Eats. Drysdale also was actively involved in the opening of acclaimed restaurants such as the Buckeye Roadhouse in Mill Valley and Caff Museo at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco. Nationally, he assisted in the openings of the Buckhead Roadhouse in Chattanooga, Tenn., and Ajax Tavern in Aspen, Colo.Percy S. Whatley, the executive chef of the Ahwahnee, Yosemite National Parks four-diamond, historic national landmark hotel, graduated with honors from the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, NY in October 1997. Prior to becoming executive chef at The Ahwahnee, he served as executive chef at Yosemites Wawona Hotel, where he developed a high degree of wine and food pairing expertise. In 2003, he accepted the position of executive sous chef at the Ahwahnee, where he became known for his use of organic and sustainable ingredients. Jacques Cornelis, who oversees all food operations at The Resort at Squaw Creek, has more than 40 years experience in food service. He began his career serving a four-year apprenticeship at the De Watermolen in Belgium. He worked in Belgium and France before he became chef de cuisine for Le Cordon Bleu in Dania, Fla. Recently, Cornelis was corporate food and beverage director with JC Resorts in Southern California, where he spent 21 years overseeing three resort properties., holding such positions as executive sous chef, executive chef and general manager. Cornelis has served on the national board of directors of the American Institute of Wine and Food (AIWF) and was chairman of the organizations San Diego chapter.Tickets for the Hearts for Art event are $80 in advance ($85 at the door). All proceeds from ticket sales and the auctions will go to Arts for the Schools.Reservations are strongly encouraged and may be purchased by calling 530-546-4602.