Levy Funds Keep Students in the Spotlight

As the saying goes, “The show must go on.” But sometimes that can be difficult without the proper audio, lighting, sets or props. And that’s on top of the cost for royalties, scripts, costumes, and other elements that make the magic happen.

“When I began this job 18 years ago, I did not realize how expensive running a theatre program would be,” said Glynis Calhoun, theatre teacher and head of the performing arts department at Columbia High School. “I am so appreciative of the funds available to us through the district, and especially the levy.” 

Supplemental levy funds help support performing arts like music, dance and theatre. The current levy provides $485,000 per year to fund student activities, athletics and arts. The proposed levy would continue that revenue stream.

At Nampa High School, theater teacher Joseph Bidwell used levy dollars to purchase things such as new microphones, speakers, a soundboard, and lights to update the school’s aging 1980’s-era equipment.

Theatre courses and experiences teach students self-regulation skills, social and life skills and the benefit of performance. Performing arts courses can work hand in hand with other areas of a student’s education. This includes math skills learned through music or building a theatrical set, historical research done during a production of a play or older classical music, confidence in public speaking, and so much more.

“I believe there is value in giving my students a relevant education,” Bidwell said, “which means that we need to constantly evolve.” Students who are interested in a career in the theatre also need to understand current technology and the ever-changing technical side of performances. 

Calhoun agrees. “Some of our students are not as interested in the performing aspect of the craft, but more in the technical side. Our students have been fortunate to have had many real-world experiences in running a production and using up-to-date technology and equipment.”

Thanks to this, students have the opportunity to try out many backstage roles, including stage manager, spotlight operator, light operator, sound technician, set designer and set builder.

When COVID-19 hit, levy funds were utilized in creative ways to allow students to socially distance while still honing their craft. In what could become a new spring tradition, Columbia developed an outdoor performance venue, utilizing their new portable sound system, microphones, lights and portable platforms. They performed a Shakespeare Festival-styled production complete with dinner, a show and social distancing.

“As we move into the future, we have great plans for our programs,” Calhoun said. “We will continue to strive for excellence in our educational instruction for our students and produce wonderful productions and performances. There will always be a great need for curriculum supplies, replacement and repairs, and licensing fees for productions. Things would look very different without the added support from the levy.

For Bidwell, levy funds allow students to explore the ever-growing technical side of performances and develop an increased pride in the work they do in all parts of the theatre. “Our motto is ‘Little Theatre, Big Show.’ Our space may be small, but I have seen that the impact on these students is indeed big.”