An event that breathes new life into a renowned theatre, creates family within community, and opens an infinite hallway of doors for youth, returns live to Swift Current next week.
Maverick High School’s annual Coffeehouse was streamed virtually for two years during the pandemic, but staff, students, friends and family are buzzing with anticipation for its big return on May 3 and 4.
Principal Jayne Nicholson said the event gives students a chance to be the best version of themselves and rise to an occasion.
“And through that, gain a lot of confidence and skills,” she added. “It creates a lot of community within our school for all the students, but it also creates community beyond the school because when we have our sponsors attend the events, they see the students and they celebrate with them. I think that's one of my favourite things about Coffeehouse.”
Scott Hunter, Social Studies teacher, explained how monumental the impact of a Coffeehouse is for everyone at the school.
“I said this to the kids the other day—we do a lot of cool things at Maverick, but to me this is the coolest," he said. “It's really fun for students, but also staff; I look forward to this week every year. I'm excited to be going back live, because there's something very magical about being in the Lyric at night, putting on a show, and that show is young people that you've worked with all year that you care about. I've never been a part of anything like that.
“I think also it helps showcase skills or talents that aren't traditionally recognized in the school system. Of course, there's music classes in school and so on, but this is a very different beast than that; it allows artistic young people, both visual artists and musical artists, to showcase those talents. And that is, in some ways, rare in a traditional school system. So, not only do you have young people learning and practicing, but then they get to showcase those talents in front of a live audience who are very, very receptive and very supportive. It's a safe environment for that."
Along with being an avenue for young community members to express themselves, Coffeehouse serves as a fundraiser for the school.
From purchasing art materials to bringing in instructors for different workshops, the show’s profits allow Maverick to do what it does best.
“Outdoor Ed is a really important part of this school,” Hunter stated. “It allows us to take groups of young people out into the wilderness. A lot of our Outdoor Ed [budget], if not all of it, comes from Coffeehouse.
“Taking young people into the mountains or up into the boreal forest or down to the grasslands and creating memories is really, really important and it's a lovely part of the school that is funded by the community, so we're grateful for that.”
Thursday night sold out in five days of tickets being available, and the debut night preceding that is expected to be close behind, with only a handful of open seats left.
Folks that are lucky enough to snag a spot can expect to see multiple musical performances, an interpretive dance, a short film, and a wide variety of visual arts on auction (from paintings to pottery to epoxy resin, to photography).
Art teacher, Krista Erickson, added that her favourite part is watching the students’ faces light up throughout the night.
“The pride that I see in the kids' eyes; the artists and the team that work and serve, and the musicians,” she said. “Everyone feels good at the end of the night. There's tears and laughter—and pride. When you see a kid’s art piece going up and up in value, and watching their eyes light up, that's what it is for me. It's them building their self-esteem and knowing their value.”
Preparation for the big night can start as early as September, with some students learning new instruments, and others working on art projects to fill up the auction.
However, the final push comes in the few months prior, according to music teacher Stacy Tinant.
“We get back from February break, kids have their songs picked, and basically from March until May all we do is rehearse, rehearse and rehearse and rehearse,” he added. “If a student picks a song that requires a band, it's mine and Glenna Switzer's job to find the other kids to play with them, teach them those songs, make sure we can change the arrangement to fit the needs of the singer, and fit the needs of all the instrumentalists. It's basically two and a half months of just go, go, go.”
He added that being a musician himself and fostering a passion for the art in young people is one of his favourite roles in the school.
“I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the greatest feeling when someone who six months ago had never played the guitar is playing guitar, and it's because of the time that they and I have both spent in this room,” Tinant added. “That's such a great feeling and to see them excited about it and knowing that I had some sort of hand in igniting that is the best because I remember what it's like to be 15, jazzed about learning some song on guitar."
While the teachers and staff are Coffeehouse veterans, not a single student in the school this year has taken part in a live performance of the event.
Dress rehearsals get underway next week, and the teachers can't wait to share in the excitement and rush of the live show with their performers.