Stealing the Stage at Kidchella


//PICTURED ABOVE: Hockaday Show Choir warms up in preparation for their performance of “Wings” and “Brave” for the guests at KidChella. Junior Chloe Johnson centers the stage, helping to lead their dance. The event took place on April 6 at Gooch Elementary School and was jointly run by Hockaday and St. Mark’s students.

As the winter wanes and sunnier weather pervades, thousands prepare for 2019’s music and arts festival season, equipped with glitter tattoos and memorized lyrics on hand. Coachella, arguably most popular of these festivals housed in southern California, had some Texas-sized competition this April: Kidchella, an arts festival organized by Hockaday’s Community Service Board for students at Chapel Hill Elementary School and Gooch Elementary.On April 6, roughly 30 students from Hockaday and the St. Mark’s School of Texas gathered in Gooch’s hallways to provide an artistic experience for the students Hockaday already tutors. Members of Hockaday and St. Mark’s’ fine arts clubs and activities, such as the improv troupe and Hockaday Show Choir, came ready to sing, dance, improvise, hold workshops for and provide food for the kids at Kidchella.

Bianca Schwimmer, the Head of Hockaday’s Community Service Board, conceptualized and planned this festival along with other members of the board and Director of the William B. Dean Institute for Social Impact Laura Day.

“It was Bianca’s idea at the beginning of the year; she thought it would be cool to do Coachella for one of our partners. It is such a new, cool idea,” Day said.

After meeting with Day to plan over logistics, Schwimmer and the rest of Hockaday’s Community Service Board coordinated with St. Mark’s to plan the event. Artists, Community Service Board members and volunteers from both schools agreed to help plan Kidchella and work with the kids.

“We are going to go to Gooch and tutor in the morning and then provide lunch. Then, there’s going to be a stage that will have productions, sing- ing, dancing and improv that the kids can watch and interact with,” Schwimmer said.

Originally, the Community Service Board planned to hold Kidchella on one of Gooch’s fields,but because of heavy rain and stormy weather on April 6, they moved the festival into the school’s auditorium and main hallway. Grace

Heusinger, a member of Hockaday’s Community Service Board, commented on the abrupt change of plans.

“We had to be a little flexible, but we are all set up and super excited,” Heusinger said at the event.

Kidchella was a completely free event that welcomed the entire families of Gooch and Chapel Hill students to enjoy the chef’s grilling station and booths run by Hockaday and St. Mark’s artists. Kidchella’s roughly 40 guests were also be able to watch performances decorate, do hands-on crafts, make balloons and design T-shirts.

Upon hearing that she’d get to make slime, a six-year-old Gooch student squealed with excitement. “I am going to make pink slime and name it Cosmo,” she said.

The Hockaday Show Choir also performed on stage for Kidchella’s audience. Show Choir member and rising Community Service Board Chair Gina Miele reflected on her excitement about Kidchella.

“We are planning on performing two songs: a bit of a faster one and a little slower one to mix it up. I think that we are going to do “Wings” by Little Mix and “Brave” by Sara Bareilles,” Miele said. “I am so excited because these kids don’t get many chances to get involved with fine arts.”

After Show Choir sang and danced to their two songs, the Improv Troupe played two acting games. During their second game, where they acted out various fairy tale plots under strict time constraints, the improv-ers invited kids from the audience to perform with them.

Roughly 10 little girls excitedly aided the improv troupe members in their impromptu performance of “Cinderella,” playing Cinderella, the fairy godmother and animal helpers.

The kids had one more opportunity to brave the stage: after improv wrapped up, stu- dents sang “Reflections” from “Mulan,” a Spanish song and “How Far I’ll Go” from “Moana.” Their performances were loudly applauded and the happiness in the auditorium in the room was tangible.

Art programs have been systematically underfunded at public schools in America, and many kids from lower-income neighborhoods in Dallas and across the nation do not have access to art-related extracurriculars. Day relayed her excitement about the importance of exposing art and creativity into everyone’s lives.

“I’m most excited to see kids at the public schools doing things they’ve never had access to. They’ve never seen improv games or a show choir. I love the idea of bridging the opportunity gap through art and getting kids who don’t have access to things access to them,” Day said.

According to studies conducted by many organizations such as PBS and, a federal agency whose goal is to promote creativity through the arts, childhood exposure to artistic activities boosts kids’ self-esteem and encourages more advanced childhood development. By giving Kidchella’s guests access to the arts, Schwimmer hopes to facilitate the positive benefits of creativity in those kids.

“Creativity and crafts were some of my favorite parts of growing up and are just important parts of being a kid,” Schwimmer said. “I hope that they’ll be able to use creativity as an outlet to express their emotions and also to use it as a way to further education. I read and believe that creativity goes hand-in-hand with organizational skills.”

Story and photo by Eliana Goodman