Fairfield County’s Art Works program under the direction of Jullianne Neal, arts coordinator for School District 4 and Dr. Janet Mason recently hosted a guest artist in residence, Joy Lynn Matthews-Jacobs.
The program, in its 16th year, enables students from low income families to have a summer enrichment experience.
Mason said the arts program is essential because 90 percent of the students receive free or reduced lunch.
Dr. Janet Mason pointed out that for children in that socioeconomic status if the school does not provide ballet, voice lessons or piano lessons, who will?
Mason described the camp as a fun, intense, three week training in dance, drama, voice and music, and visual art.
The three weeks conclude with a performance where students show off their new skills.
This year that performance will be June 28 at the Fairfield Central High School auditorium, but the time is still being determined.
Art Works Camp has this week off, but it will resume Monday.
The event is a low cost summer activity, with a small fee going towards t-shirts.
Around 90 percent of students take advantage of free transportation which is provided by area school buses.
Camp lasts Monday-Friday each week from 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. and students are served two meals each day.
The Art Works program supports the State Education Department’s Gifted and Talented Program.
This year around 65 third, fourth and fifth graders attended, though in years past the camp has served as many as 100 children.
Students were chosen after auditions at elementary schools. The auditions helps event directors find children with talents in drama, voice, music, visual art and dance.
As part of the dance instruction, Mason’s daughter, Matthews-Jacobs, a dancer in Broadway performances, came to Fairfield County to teach choreography to the students.
Though not a native of Fairfield County, Matthews-Jacobs has spent several weeks over the years as artist in residence in Winnsboro.
“I love the children here,” she said. “They make me laugh and are more interesting to observe and talk to than adults.” Matthews-Jacobs draws upon her experiences dancing, singing and acting on Broadway.
A resident of New Jersey, she believes in challenging the young people so that they can rise to the occasion and receive the maximum benefit from the camp.
She will often preface her teaching by questioning the children as to whether something is too hard for them.
They then set out to prove her wrong, a technique that she said has led to remarkable camps in Winnsboro.
Perhaps they will discover another diamond in the rough Broadway talent right here among this age group.
For Matthews-Jacobs, she first displayed talent in the fifth grade when all students were required to sing “My Country Tis of Thee” each morning.
The children heard Matthews-Jacob’s voice which sounded like someone in an opera and each morning they would stop singing to just listen to her.
At that time, her parents enrolled their daughter in voice lessons though she resisted at first, saying she wanted to be a horse trainer instead.
Eventually the vocal talent won out with Matthews-Jacobs attending Cal State in Long Beach and studying vocal performance.
Following college she paid her dues by singing as a guest artist on a cruise line. After several years doing that work, she finally got the courage to go to New York and audition.
During her first ever Broadway audition, she made the cut. She has performed in “Marie Christine,” “The Music Man,” and in the first national tours for “Ragtime” and “Showboat.”
Matthews-Jacobs also travels the country, singing with 60 to 70 piece orchestras.
She is thankful for the opportunity to help children in the district where her mother still serves to pursue their dreams and to help strengthen the arts in Fairfield County.