Thank You to Third-Year Board Members of HP Arts

Being a volunteer for an organization like HP Arts takes a lot of work. Compensation comes from enriching our children’s education and the opportunity to work and collaborate with like-minded parents. In 2019, we had five Board members who completed their three-year commitment.

A sincere “thank you” to Janese Deitch, Jennifer Murray, Carla Moss, Kelli Miller, and Aimee Cali for their service!

Aimee and Kelli have graciously agreed to stay on the Board for an additional year.

Janese Deitch, Jennifer Murray, Carla Moss, Kelli Miller, Aimee Cali

Arts in Education Teacher Award (AIETA)

Jill Dalton, Lisa Seaman, & Aimee Cali
HP Arts proudly announced English PAP 1 teacher Lisa Seaman as the winner of this year’s Arts in Education Teacher Award.  Nominated by HP Arts board member Aimee Cali, Ms. Seaman is known for incorporating the arts into her classroom.  She has a knack for engaging her students and taking them outside of their comfort zones with creative activities related to their studies. After reading The Odyssey, students wrote a script related to the book and performed it in front of the class. Following the reading of  Romeo & Juliet, they wrote songs related to Capulets Ball and again performed them in class.  English class reimagined courtesy of Lisa Seaman!
The Arts in Education Teacher Award is presented to a teacher outside of fine arts who enriches the educational experience through incorporation of the arts in the daily classroom either by including specific events or by weaving the arts into their curriculum. Award winners are honored with an engraved nameplate on a seat in the HPHS Palmer Auditorium, receive a monetary gift of $500, and are recognized at an HP Arts board meeting.

Arts Advocate Award

Congratulations to this year’s Arts Advocate Award winner, Polly McKeithen.  In the words of HP Arts board member Victoria Steindorf, “Polly was extremely active in the organization of almost everything related to the fall muscial.  She coordinated and scheduled trips and activities, and went above and beyond accommodating the needs of both teachers and students.  She seems to be involved in every aspect of the arts at HPHS. She is a real gem!!”
The Arts Advocate Award is given each year to a patron of HP Arts who has had multiple years of involvement in the arts within HPISD and stands out as a true advocate of the arts. Current HP Arts board members and current presidents of an HPISD fine arts booster club are not eligible. HP Arts Advocates are honored with an engraved nameplate on a seat in the HPHS Palmer Auditorium as well as being recognized at an HP Arts board meeting.
Jill Dalton, Polly McKeithen, Victoria Steindorf, & Megan Lembcke

Senior Art Awards

Not pictured: Amber Main's winning sculptures.

Congratulations to these talented artists who were selected to receive awards from the annual HPHS Senior Art Show held on April 26 hosted by the National Art Honor Society.  The show featured the work of students in Art III and IV advanced level art courses.

(L-R):  Jack Smith, 2nd Place 2D Art; Amber Main, 1st & 2nd Place 3D Art; Zandt Lavish, 1st Place 2D Art; Maddie Ewers, 1st Place Photography; Hayden Blaylock, 3rd Place Photography; Hannah Anani, 3rd Place 2D Art; Grace Adams, 2nd Place Photography

HP Arts Linda Raya Scholarships

Congratulations to this year’s Linda Raya Scholarship winners Lilly Fotopoulos and Ryan Douglass!  Each year HP Arts awards the HP Arts Linda Raya Scholarship to students who have demonstrated a commitment to the same fine art discipline all four years of high school and plan to pursue a fine art major in college.
Lilly, a HPHS visual arts student, plans to study art and graphic design in college.  She will be attending the University of North Texas. Ryan, an HPHS theater and choir student, plans to study theater and vocal performance at Webster Conservatory. We wish them all the best and look forward to following their journeys!
Ryan Douglass receiving his scholarship. Lilly Fotopoulos not pictured.

Take-a-Seat Funds at Work

The wireless body microphones were put to good use in the HPHS production of Footloose. Photo courtesy of Paula Buzenius.

The Take-a-Seat fund has yielded great results over the years and HP Arts has been actively looking for ways the funds can be used to improve the HPHS auditorium. Your support has allowed us to invest in many improvements, from wireless body microphones to stage equipment upgrades to current plans for a new, state of the art projection system, allowing for modern and versatile backdrops on the stage. The HPHS auditorium is moving forward, all thanks to your support through Take-a-Seat!

Funding Spotlight: Music Clinicians

Clinicians: Who they are and why they are so valuable
A clinician is a specialist who listens to performers and helps to improve their technique. They offer new insights and perspective on rehearsal practices, enhancing techniques, polishing performances, and refining repertoires. Clinicians also act as mentors to the music directors, answering questions and helping them to coax the best possible performance out of their students.
Clinicians provide a wealth of knowledge for both our students and directors. We are fortunate to have some of the most sought after clinicians and mentors working with our bands in Highland Park. They are a continual source of information and guidance throughout the year and are truly an invaluable resource to our programs.  Their vast knowledge of the craft and their experience provide us all with new perspectives and ideas that benefit us way beyond the hours they spend in our band halls.
– Lara Whitehouse, MIS/HPMS Band Director
HP Arts recognizes the value of giving our students the opportunity to work with these professional musicians and is proud to be a part of enriching our band, orchestra and choir programs by providing the funding for these clinicians at MIS/HPMS and HPHS year after year.
Brian Merrill, retired professor of music education at SMU and noted band/wind pedagogue
Eddie Green, leading pedagogue and member of the Texas Bandmasters' Hall of Fame (selected Bandmaster of the year and received the Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Houston)
Melodianne Mallow, retired band director and one of the most sought after clinicians in the state for middle school bands

Funding Spotlight: HP Debate Team

Debate Team Members Pictured Above: (Front Row, L to R) Pranjal Rai, Claire Lempert, Alyssa Wang, Jade Harris, Pike Dezurny; (Back Row, L to R) Mark Lamb, Andrew Lind, Evan Wang, Toby Whisenhunt, Ethan Muse, Enayat Kapaolia
HP Arts has funded debate consultant, Collin Quinn, for the Highland Park Debate Team for the last several years. The team, led by HPHS teacher Toby Whisenhunt, has had great success over the years and Mr. Quinn has been an integral part of that success.  
Mr. Quinn works with the team in numerous areas including conducting practice sessions, assisting in argument construction, providing judging, demonstrating techniques, and answering questions over the course of the season. According to Mr. Whisenhunt, Mr. Quinn’s assistance is a direct extension of the class in a more intensive and in depth manner – working on high level critical thinking skills, developing next level research skills, honing advocacy skills, and developing speaking and presentation skills.
The debate season is 9 months long, running from September through May, and they typically compete at 12 tournaments each year.  
 Recent Accomplishments:
  • The team of Ethan Muse and Mark Lam competed at the nationally-acclaimed St. Marks Heart of Texas Invitational and placed 9th overall.  They received a bid for the Tournament of Champions to be held in Kentucky in April.  Ethan was also awarded 5th overall speaker.
  • The freshman team of Evan Wang and Andrew Lind captured 2nd place in the Novice CX Debate at the Hebron High School tournament November 2-3.  Evan was also recognized as the 10th overall speaker.
 Thank you to both Mr. Whisenhunt and Mr. Quinn for creating an engaging environment that continues to lead to success for their students!

HP Arts Gives Thanks

HP Arts would like to give thanks to our generous 2018 donors and sponsors for supporting arts in education this year. Your gifts have helped us fund 32 programs across all six HPISD campuses so far this year, impacting every child in the district.
HP Arts funds enrichment experiences such as Highland Park Literary Festival, debate team, orchestra, band, choir, and visual arts. Since it’s inception, HP Arts has distributed over $1.2 Million in funds given by district families and cornerstone benefactor La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas. HP Arts was founded on the principle that arts education plays a vital role in the overall development and academic success of our students.
Thank you for helping us deliver on this goal! 
HP Arts is celebrating its 32nd year of enriching the educational experience of all HPISD students through arts programming. If you still wish to give year-end funds to HP Arts, become a member, join the Take-a-Seat campaign or just find out more about who we are and what we do, please visit

La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas Check Presentation

Pictured Above (L to R): Anne Boesser (2018 La Fiesta Chair), Carla Moss (HP Arts Programs Chair), Jill Dalton (HP Arts President), Missy Rothwell (Past La Fiesta Chair), Kelli Miller (HP Arts Past President), Jennifer Murray (HP Arts Treasurer), Megan Lembcke (HP Arts Vice President), Elizabeth Gambrell (2018 La Fiesta Chair), Tammy Testa (HP Arts Secretary)

La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas presented HP Arts with a generous donation in the amount of $52,500, which will be used to fund HPISD arts programs, technology and a special project for an upgrade to the sound system for the HPHS cafeteria stage. HP Arts appreciates La Fiesta’s continue partnership and support as it begins its 32nd year of service in HPISD.

Artist Spotlight: Jack Smith

Blue Print Gallery will host an art reception for Highland Park High School senior, Jack Smith, on Thursday, October 4 from 5:00-7:00pm at 2701 Fairmount Street.
The art exhibition will feature a selection of Jack Smith’s paintings and sculptures.  Recognized for his heavy body acrylic canvases with bold colors, Jack has interpreted his subjects and ideas of nature, landscape and objects through abstracts, realism and mixed media.  He has a creative mind with a natural attention to detail.
Jack’s artwork will be available to purchase and a portion of his sales will be donated to HP Arts and the Noggin Foundation, a group dedicated to improving educational opportunities for underprivileged students which is a cause close to the hearts of the Smith household.
Jack Smith began drawing an sketching at a very early age, when unlike most young children, his art took recognizable form and color.  His first painting, PENGUIN, earned him the cover page of the Westminster Preschool newsletter at age four.  A natural artist, his understanding of light, color and form continues to evolve and expand as he explores new mediums.
Jack began formal painting study at Zhen Music and Art Institute in Dallas at age ten and continues to learn and experiment inside and outside the classroom.  His teacher, Zhen Wu, is an advocate of young artists and has helped him grow technically while mentoring his talent and spirit.  The Zhen Gallery featured Jack’s paintings during the 2014 Spring Show.  Jack has been featured in Park Cities People, Art & Seek, White Rock Weekly, and the Dallas Morning News.
Since 2013, Jack Smith has consistently been selling, commissioning and donating paintings. He is a regular contributor to Children’s Medical Center and has donated paintings to benefit the Cattle Barons Ball, Autism Treatment Center, Highland Belles, Dallas Junior Forum, Delete Blood Cancer and the Museum of Biblical Art Education Programs.  Jack’s largest installation is at Legacy in the ABN AMRO Bank offices.
Blue Print Gallery, a fine art gallery in Dallas, Texas, represents artists from around the world. The gallery is dedicate dot bringing established, mid-career and emerging artists to Texas.  Blue Print Gallery features a large variety of artwork from contemporary abstract paintings and works on paper to fine art photography and sculptures.
Blue Print Gallery opened on April 5, 2018 and is a sister company of Blue Print, a fine home furnishing boutique.  @blue_print_store.
For information on Jack Smith, visit his website at

HP Arts Supports the Highland Belles

HP Arts is proud to support the award-winning Highland Belles Drill Team through funding designated for choreography and costuming for their contemporary dance to be performed at regional and national competitions.  We look forward to another successful year for the Belles!

La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas Honors Linda Raya

HP Arts Board Members Pictured Above (L to R): Kelli Miller (past President and current board member), Amy Jent (past President and Community Ex-Officio board member), Linda Raya (HPISD Ex-Officio board member), Jill Dalton (President), Kay Braly (Community Ex-Officio board member), Polly McKeithen (past President and Community Ex-Officio board member), Liana Yarckin (former board member)

Our cornerstone benefactor, La Fiesta de las Seis Banderas, honored Linda Raya’s 45 years of service to HPISD and our community’s fine arts programs with a lovely tribute and the Order of the Flag award at their annual spring tea on June 6, 2018.


Congratulations to Mr. Stevens who was awarded the 'Above and Beyond Director" award for his contribution at the State Thespian Festival held at the Gaylord Convention Center Nov 15th-18th!

The HPHS AUDITORIUM SOUND just got better! On October 3rd, two new digital sound processors were installed to vastly improve the sound in the auditorium at Highland Park High School. The new sound equipment was funded by HP Arts Take-A-Seat Fund! Mr. Ben Stevens (photo below), New HPHS Theater Teacher and Auditorium Manager explains that a DSP or digital signal processor is used to take analog signals and process them into digital data allowing the digital data to be manipulated.  

Because one of the processors was completely non-functioning and the other was out of date, several of the sound outputs (speakers) did not work at all and the rest put out sub optimal sound. The new DSPs allow all the speakers to work and give us the power to balance the sound digitally for a more pleasing sound. There was a noticeable sound difference for Hamlet which showed November 11th and 12th.  Mr. Stevens used a significant amount of music and sound effects!

Take a Seat Funds raised are used for ongoing improvements in the HPHS auditorium areas.  Each $500 donation goes into the fund and purchases an elegantly engraved brass plaque displayed on the arm of an auditorium chair. Plaques typically honor a child, family member, a favorite teacher or HPISD organization in the HPHS Palmer Auditorium! 


HP Arts recently funded an original composition, entitled Boom Bap, written by Nick Werth for the HP percussion ensemble to play at the Percussive Arts Society International Conference (PASIC) on November 11. Werth is an American percussionist and composer from Portland Oregon. Werth surprised the percussion students by showing up to play with them at their concert on October 30. His deeply-rooted connection to nature serves as his primary inspiration for composing.

The Percussive Arts Society International Convention (PASIC) is the largest and most prestigious percussion contest in the U.S., and the Highlander Band percussion section is one of only three high school ensembles selected to perform. They were chosen by a panel of collegiate professors and professional percussionists based on recordings submitted last spring of their most advanced musical selections. Class of 2017 percussionists, Cameron Coffey, Carson Dugger, and Lauren Ghighi, who were the core leaders in earning this prestigious honor are not pictured below but the Highland Band acknowledges their talent and determination and is grateful for their leadership!

PASIC presents a once-in-a-lifetime showcase concert opportunity for these percussion students. The honor reflects the Highlander Band’s growing national reputation and the demanding work of the band’s directors and students.

James LaBrecque, Director of HP Percussion and Nick Werth are shown above after the October 30th concert at HPHS
Front row (l to R): Tyler Sharpe, Reed Smoot, Madison Triplett, Pauline Napier, Lydia Szuwalski, Logan Easterbrook, Sophie Robertson Middle row: Director - James LaBrecque, Taylor Loewe, Daniel Wilkes, Mason Greer, Matthew Schultz, Nicholas Chang, Grant Savage, Gracie Condon Back Row: Mitchell Jackson, Maddox Linder, Cal Leopard, Michael Cochran, Zack Shawver, Peter Zielke, Kristina Richter, Assistant Director - Zach Sherburne

Orchestra Hauncert 2017

The spectacular HPISD orchestras grades 6th-12th played at the annual Hauntcert at Northpark Mall on Tuesday October 24th! Daisy Murphy pictured below is playing a Lyon and Healy Troubadour Harp jointly funded by HP Arts and HPHS PTA at the end of the 2015-2016 school year. We now have the harp and a harpist!

“The harp has a very distinctive sound that is not found in any other instrument in the orchestra”, said MIS/HPMS Head Orchestra Director, Louise Rossi Sklar (zebra costume). The middle school students played Ode to Joy, Au Claire de la Lune, Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down, and It’s the Blues, Man! at the Hauntcert.

When asked about longevity, Ms. Rossi Sklar said about the harp, “They can last forever!”

The harp was purchased to be a shared instrument by both MIS/HPMS and HPHS. The Troubadour harp is the perfect instrument for both beginning and experienced harpists with five complete octaves. HPISD is one of three school districts known to have harp programs in the surrounding Dallas area.

Facts about the Harp:

  • It is one of the oldest instruments in the world dating back to around 3500 B.C.
  • Every harp has three different string colors: red are C strings, black (sometimes blue) are F strings and the remaining strings are white or transparent.
  • A modern harpist plays using only the first four fingers on each hand. They pluck the strings near the middle of the harp using the pads of their fingers. Irish harpists use their fingernails to pluck the wire strings.
  • The rapid succession of musical notes played on a harp is called arpeggio and the sweeping motion of the hands across the strings is termed glissando.

KidArt Gift

HP Arts is excited to announce that Kid Art presented HP Arts with a $5,819 donation to help fund visual arts programs in HPISD. HP Arts is grateful for Kid Art’s generous sponsorship, designed last spring as a percentage of summer class and camp tuitions.

Stay tuned for announcements of specific programs supported by the gift from Kid Art in the coming months. Find out more about Kid Art classes and workshops at Thank you to Kid Art!

Pictured below are 2017-18 HP Arts board member Molly Pieroni, Kid Art owner Tori Webb Pendergrass, and HP Arts board members Dana Manley and Steve Gruber.

Combat Workshop

“But guys, don’t really stab your partner!” exclaimed instructor Jeff Colangelo during his stage combat workshop in the HPHS Advanced Theater Class this October.

The beginning theater class had unarmed stage combat lessons where they were taught to punch, hair pull, sell a punch, dodge, block and choke! They reviewed these techniques along with choreography to get a tactile learning experience.

The intermediate theater classes worked on the same techniques as the beginner level class but had additional emphasis on building choreography.

The advanced theater class reviewed the techniques from the intermediate class and were instructed on sword fighting using dowel rods all three days. Sword fighting instruction included foot work, blocks, attacks and how to blend it all together to make a believable piece of choreography.

Mr. Ben Stevens, first year HPHS Theater Teacher and HPHS Auditorium Manager will have several of these stage combat techniques incorporated in the upcoming production of Hamlet. Hamlet is showing at HPHS on Saturday, November 11 @ 7pm and Sunday, November 12 @ 2 pm!

"I Do"

The HPHS band theme this year is ‘I Do’! This fabulous and creative group plays and dances to numerous wedding songs related to this theme. The two Color guard girls in their bright yellow flowing bridesmaids dresses are forming a heart with their arms. Their songs include the very popular Wedding March, Marriage of Figaro, Gabriel's Oboe, and The Bartered Bride. Last Year, HP Arts funded a new PA system for marching practice and provided funds for a percussion marching instructor as well as sectional coaches. Photos by Stephen Luk

La Fiesta presents donation check to HP Arts

La Fiesta de la Seis Banderas presented HP Arts with a $60,000 donation to fund HPISD arts programs, technology and new lighting in the MIS/HPMS auditorium. HP Arts is grateful for La Fiesta’s continued partnership and support as it begins its 31st year of service in HPISD.

2017 La Fiesta Co-Chair Nancy Monning, HP Arts Past President Dana Manley, 2017 La Fiesta Co-Chair Rebecca Gregory and 2017-18 HP Arts President Kelli Miller. 
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