‘It’s what we’re about’

Published 10:58 am Friday, July 22, 2011

Margel Thomas, from Limon, Costa Rica leads area kids through a routine during the Songs of Hope summer performing arts camp at the Paramount Theatre Thursday afternoon.

Performing arts camps teaches tolerance, respect

It wasn’t your ordinary workshop at the Paramount Theatre Thursday.

Members of Songs of Hope performs "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" during a performing arts summer camp Thursday afternoon at the Paramount Theatre. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

The children gathered in circles sang in Turkish first, before moving on to Spanish. Pint-sized performers from Vietnam and Guatemala showed Austin children how to play musical games. Yet despite the different homelands, everyone gathered looked to be having fun.

That’s part of what drives Songs of Hope, the international performing arts camp.

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“It’s part of our mission,” said Jeanne Junge, Songs of Hope artistic director. “It’s what we’re about.”

The camp brings international students together for six weeks to learn songs from all corners of the earth, followed by several touring performances. The St. Paul based group puts on occasional workshops in communities they perform at, and Austin was one of the few towns to experience both a workshop and a performance.

“(We teach) respect, tolerance, that we may all be different in the foods we eat, where we’re from … but we’re really all just the same,” Junge said.

It seemed to work with Kids Corner, as about 40 children listened to and played with Songs of Hope staff and participants.

Olivia Shapinski, from left, Kyra Lubensky, and Anna Brandt go through warm-ups with the cast of Songs of Hope Thursday during a performing arts summer camp at the Paramount Theatre. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

“It’s awesome,” said Abrianna Klingele, a 9-year-old. “I learned how to play the drums. I didn’t know how to play them before. It was cool to learn.”

Exposing children to music and dance is an important part of what Songs of Hope does, according to staff members. Having the lessons come from students around the world is a benefit, too.

“You don’t see 34 kids from 17 different countries in the same room very often,” said Rafael Ortega, Songs of Hope staff member.