St. Joseph schools to enact Performing Arts Hall of Fame

By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium

ST. JOSEPH — A trio of former staff members has found a way to honor St. Joseph High School’s performing arts program.

The high school will introduce the inaugural class of its new Performing Arts Hall of Fame toward the end of the school year. The hall of fame will recognize school alumni who have distinguished themselves in one or more performing arts fields. These fields include vocal, instrumental and theater.

St. Joseph High School Principal Kevin Riggs said the number of people inducted annually will vary, based on the committee’s selection.

Among the selection committee will be Dennis Bowen, director of choral activities for the high school from 1960-87. Bowen pitched the idea for the hall of fame to the district’s board of trustees, along with Dave Ratajik and Steve Reed. Ratajik is a former E. P. Clarke Elementary principal and Reed served as orchestra conductor.

The hall of fame idea got started when Ratajik called Bowen and Reed, who met with Riggs for approval.

“We’ve turned out a lot of distinguished members in the performing arts community,” Bowen said. “Kent Marshall starred on Broadway in ‘West Side Story.’ Many people have gone on to play major parts in orchestras, too.”

Ratajik said the school already has its Athletic Hall of Fame and the St. Joseph Public Schools Foundation has done a good job by honoring distinguished alumni. However, Ratajik said there seemed to be one portion of alumni not receiving enough recognition.

“I greatly admire the skills and the abilities of athletes. In high school there is all-state recognition, and so on, and so on,” he said. “At the same time, we have some very talented musicians who are recognized nationally and internationally. Sometimes the arts are overlooked.”

Any individual can be nominated for induction as long as they fall under one of three categories.

As a contributor, the nominee will be a person who has given their time, talent or resources to the performing arts program, its staff and students.

As a mentor, an individual will be nominated for being a current or retired St. Joseph performing arts staff member or administrator, who has provided guidance and innovation to the performing arts program.

The third category will be as an alumnus who participated in the SJHS performing arts program and graduated at least 10 years prior to nomination. Nominees will be chosen by the committee this January.

Ratajik said the committee will look as far back as the 1920s to recognize some of the artists and musicians who came up through the district.

“We tried to model it with the Athletic Hall of Fame at St. Joseph High School because it’s been so successful,” Ratajik said. “It’s going to be great for the kids going through high school to go to the auditorium and see the pictures and plaques.”

The rest of the committee will be made up of St. Joseph educators who teach in the fine arts or advise fine arts-related school groups, district administrators, and community members who have been or are actively involved in fine arts.

Seed money for initial costs on the plaque will come from the foundation.

Riggs said the hall of fame plaques will be displayed in the performing arts lobby and recognized during a concert in April or May, depending on scheduling.

The selection committee may choose not to induct someone new in any given year. However, a new inductee is expected to be honored at least every other year.

“I think it will be great to honor for the students, teachers and others who have made a great contribution to the high school,” Bowen said. “This is going to be a really nice for the performing artists that go through here.”

Contact Tony Wittkowski at twittkowski@TheHP.com or (269) 932-0358. Follow him on Twitter: @tonywittkowski.

(Author’s Note: This article was originally published on Sept. 16, 2015)

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