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Putting on a show

Raising a child with a unique talent can be a source of tremendous pride, especially when that talent is performed before jam-packed auditoriums. But it can also be expensive.

Just ask KC Dunlap, mother of Ashland High School sophomore Lily Dunlap. Lily is a gifted violinist who, roughly eight years after bowing her first set of strings as a precocious 7-year-old, already has earned enough accolades to fill an impressive resume. She’s won the Youth Symphony of Southern Oregon concerto competition, represented Oregon on the all-national honor orchestra, represented Southern Oregon at the state solo competition and over the last four years has represented District 8 of the Oregon Music Education Association in the Oregon all-state orchestra.

All the honors, standing ovations and countless hours of hard work that made it possible, however, come at a price. To help ease that burden for Dunlap and young artists like her, Ashland High Arts Advocates holds one major fundraiser a year — the Winter Fine Arts Festival. This year’s version is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Ashland High School Mountain Avenue Theatre, 201 S. Mountain Ave. Tickets ($15) are available at Paddington Station, 125 E. Main St., and at the door.

To help Dunlap reach her potential, AHAA has partially reimbursed the $275 tuition costs for the all-state orchestra in Eugene, and last summer awarded her a scholarship to cover private lessons with Rogue Valley Symphony concertmaster Scott Cole. The lessons with Cole, KC Dunlap said, were very rewarding.

“She was the concertmaster at the Marrowstone Music Festival in Bellingham (Washington),” KC Dunlap said, “so with Dr. Cole’s help, she was preparing for music and leadership strategies for that event.”

Lily Dunlap is one of dozens of young artists who have benefited from AHAA’s fundraising efforts. According to KC Dunlap, an AHAA volunteer, the organization has handed out more than 20 scholarships this year and $9,000 overall — $4,000 in student summer enrichment scholarships, $3,500 in teacher grants and $1,300 in support for district and state events.

“And what’s really great about AHAA is that it supports all the arts across the campus,” she said.

“Last year we had students going to circus camps, theater camps, drawing instruction, music lessons — and one student who applied for a grant to attend Project Up, which is a theater camp for developmentally disabled students.”

The festival raised a little under $10,000 for AHAA each of the last two years. The event’s high-water mark of almost $17,000 was raised six years ago, according to AHAA board member Paul Finwall, who is optimistic that this year’s festival will draw a bigger crowd and raise more money.

This year, the festival will have about 75 items for its basket-themed silent auction, as well as a pre-show meal prepared by Ashland Culinary Festival’s 2016 top chef winner Josh Dorcak of Scarpetta Prima. Dorcak and his assistants — Ashland High’s culinary arts students — will serve soups and bread. While eating in the cafeteria, patrons will be entertained by a variety of musicians, from a jazz band ensemble to soloists.

The doors will open for the cafe and silent auction at 5:30 p.m. The show begins at 7 p.m. Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor and director Christopher Liam Moore will be master of ceremonies.

The festival will open with a performance of “At Morning’s First Light” by Ashland High’s 80-piece combined band.

Band teacher Travis Moddison, who also teaches band at Ashland Middle School, says his class at AHS has benefited from AHAA’s support and has come a long way in the last few years.

“I work at the middle school, so I get to know the kids. And I tell them about the program and say, ‘Hey, you should check it out. If you hate it, you hate it. But you might like it.’ We just keep at it, keep talking to them, keep offering the opportunities.”

— Joe Zavala is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. Reach him at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@dailytidings.com. Follow him on Twitter at @Joe_Zavala99.

Show Choir students perform in a past Winter Fine Arts Festival at Ashland High School. Photo by Steve Werblow