An Arts Hall of Fame for Reynolds High
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By Kim Underwood
Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
SEPTEMBER 11, 2017 – Years before it become an magnet school that focused on the arts, Reynolds High School was nurturing talented students who went on to noteworthy careers in music, writing, art, and theater.
On Saturday night, 13 of them will be honored by being named to the first class of the R.J. Reynolds Arts Hall of Fame.
Ben Brantley wrote for Vanity Fair and the New Yorker before becoming the chief theater critic for the New York Times. Howell Binkley became a lighting designer who won Tony Awards for Jersey Boys and Hamilton. Endia Beal became internationally known for her photographic narratives that explore the lives of minority working women.
Singer/songwriter Ben Folds tours internationally. George Hamilton IV, who began performing in the late 1950s as a teen idol, switched to country music in the early 1960s. Phil Morrison directed such movies as Junebug. Wilton Barnhardt wrote such novels as Lookaway, Lookaway. Joe King painted. Sculptor Earline Heath King’s legacy includes statues of such people as R.J. Reynolds.
Minnie Lou Raper taught orchestra at Reynolds and played with the Winston-Salem Symphony. Trumpet player Leonard Foy has played with noted musicians throughout North and South America and Europe. Theater director Michael Wilson Broadway projects include The Trip to Bountiful, which won a Tony for Cicely Tyson. Composer and sound designer Lindsay Jones has scored more than 30 movies.
The Hall of Fame grew out of something that retired teacher Roby Walls said a couple of years ago to Karen Morris, the Arts Magnet Director Reynolds had a Sports Hall of Fame to recognize graduates who excelled in sports. Doesn’t it also need an Arts Hall of Fame to recognize graduates who have excelled in the arts?
Great idea, Morris thought. So, under the leadership of Morris and Principal Leslie Alexander, the school has done that.
“I really appreciate all the work that the committee did to organize this event,” Alexander said. “It took a great deal of work and dedication and it is going to be a very special event.”
“Many people know that R.J. Reynolds is an arts magnet but few people realize how many successful artists attended our school. It is definitely something to celebrate."
On the night of Saturday, Sept. 16, everyone – you don’t have to be a graduate of Reynolds – is invited to come to Reynolds Auditorium to celebrate the induction of the thirteen members of the first class of the R.J. Reynolds Arts Hall of Fame.
Some of the inductees will be there in person. Brantley will be there on Saturday night and is sticking around to talk to Reynolds students on Monday. Wilson is coming early so that he can meet with theater students on Friday. Others planning to be there on Saturday night include Binkley, Foy, Beal, and Wilson.
George Hamilton IV’s family will be there.
Some inductees cannot make it. Barnhardt, for instance, is in Russia, and Folds is on tour. Some such as Hamilton, the Kings and Raper are no longer alive.
Some of those who cannot be there will appear at the celebration by Skype or visit with students by Skype on Friday or Monday.
Everyone who comes to the celebration will be treated to a slide show that, while incorporating the artists being celebrated, covers the history of Reynolds since it opened in 1923. Reynolds is also celebrating the 60th anniversary of becoming an integrated school.
The night will also include live performances.
“The intention is to connect to the future and to honor those impressive, important people while inspiring students through their experiences,” Morris said.
During the ceremony, a student band will honor Hamilton by playing “Abilene.” The members of the Reynolds student orchestra will perform Folds’ song “The Luckiest,” and the students in the a cappella class will sing Folds’ “I’m Not the Man.”
Students will have talked with Folds the day before. He is scheduled to visit with them by Skype on Friday afternoon.
Barnhardt is scheduled to visit with students by Skype on Monday.
The 13 people in the first Arts Hall of Fame group were chosen from among 58 nominations of people who attended Reynolds over the years.
“We wanted to the first group to be across different graduation years and different arts disciplines,” Morris said.
The school has much to celebrate. It is in its 10th year as a magnet school, and, in August, it was one of only 55 schools throughout the country to be named a Nationally Certified Magnet School by Magnet Schools of America.
To do that, Reynolds had to show excellence in five categories: diversity and equity; innovative programs and curriculum; academic excellence; high-quality instruction systems; community and family engagement.
Magnet School of America had already named Reynolds a School of distinction in 2014, and, in 2015 and 2016, Reynolds moved to the next higher level by being named a School of Excellence.
“We have also been named a Kennedy Center School of Excellence,” Morris said.
In 2017, Alexander was named Magnet Principal of the Year for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. In 2016, Morris was named Magnet Teacher of the Year.
The school has 62 classes that focus on some area of the arts. Certainly, all high schools in the district have arts classes. Reynolds also has some not available elsewhere such as stage management and a cappella singing.
At its outdoor performance stage during the fall and spring, professional and student groups regularly perform during the school day so that students can enjoy them during their lunch periods.
Over the years, the school has collaborated with a number of local and national organizations. The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting – executive director Jon Sawyer is a Reynolds graduate – has been bringing journalists and photojournalists to the school and has paid for students to create documentaries.
In conjunction with the partnership with the Pulitzer Center, Reynolds students visited the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art (SECCA) to see an exhibit with work by 34 artists and photojournalists that illustrated the ways they responded to news throughout the world.
This year, students have gone to Reynolda House Museum of American Art to see a traveling exhibit of art by Georgia O’Keefe.
Through a partnership with RiverRun Film Festival, students are able to see movies being shown at the festival. Radio station WFDD has a class at Reynolds in which students can learn the skills necessary to interview people and to operate their own podcasts.
This year, three students from the University of N.C. School of the Arts have started coming to Reynolds two days a week to work with students. The UNCSA students are participating in ArtistCorps – an AmeriCorps program that places artists in public schools and community organizations.
Following the celebration at Reynolds Auditorium, a VIP reception is scheduled in downtown Winston-Salem at the Milton Rhodes Arts Center at 209 N. Spruce St. Tickets are $75. Reservations need to be made in advance. Checks should be made out to Reynolds High School. They can be dropped off at the school’s main office or brought to the reception.
To reserve a ticket or for more information, send an email to Karen Morris.
Sponsors for the reception include:
Friends of Minnie Lou Raper donating in her memory
The Parker family
The MacMillan family
The Arts Council of Winston-Salem & Forsyth County
The Morris family
Winston-Salem Kiwanis Club
Kristin Ranson and Toni Phillips
Those being inducted into the Arts Hall of Fame will receive at hand-blown glass trophy produced by The Olio. You can find out more about The Olio at The Olio.
After the celebration, the slide show will be posted on the Reynolds blog at Reynolds Arts.
People who want to make a day of it can attend the second annual George Hamilton IV Memorial "Folksy Music Festival," which will be held from 3 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday in Salem Square in Old Salem. Admission is free. Bring blankets or lawn chairs.
Musicians performing include:
Big Hope & The Dog
Stephen Corbett & the Three Fifths
Soprano Laura Ingram Semilian & Ensemble
Country Dan Collins & Friends
The Salem Shindiggers
George Hamilton V & Friends with a "George Hamilton IV Song Tribute"
Information about the festival is available at the Moravian Music Foundation.