More than 800 students twirled and shuffled across the stage at Memorial Hall in downtown Raleigh throughout a Tuesday afternoon, rehearsing their much-anticipated performances in Pieces of Gold, an annual celebration of arts education in Wake County.
The students began auditioning in November and have been perfecting their songs, dances and instrumental pieces all winter for the show on March 12, which will be the 30th anniversary for Pieces of Gold and its visual-arts companion, Gifts of Gold.
“It makes you feel good inside because you’re performing, which you love to do,” fifth-grade student Sydney said at a recent rehearsal with her Fuquay-Varina Elementary School classmates. “And you just feel like a rock star.”
The annual show and visual art display is a collaboration between WCPSS and the Wake Education Partnership, with the support of additional sponsors including PNC bank. Proceeds from the event go to Teacher Leadership Grants and other programs in the Building Leaders initiative of Wake Education Partnership.
“We greatly appreciate the overwhelming support of the local community in helping us celebrate our 30th year of the Pieces of Gold arts performance,” said Steve Parrott, president of the Wake Education Partnership. “By recognizing and supporting arts education in our schools for three decades, Pieces of Gold is a true testament to the talents and hard work of our teachers, students and parents who participate in this outstanding program for Wake County.”
The performance this year is among the largest ever, with 45 participating schools. Thousands of students have been part of the celebration over the past 30 years, including impressive alumni such as past American Idol contestant and Leesville High School alum Clay Aiken, and actor Lauren Kennedy, who graduated from Broughton High School and has appeared on Broadway and launched a Raleigh theater company.
In addition to all of the students who perform, there are 50 students backstage and across the venue who manage the production down to its finest technical details.
“I’m most proud of the number of young people who’ve gotten an opportunity to be on that stage,” said Liz Droessler, director for Pieces of Gold and senior administrator for arts education for the district. “This event opens doors, giving kids an opportunity for something really special.”