August Martin High School Celebrates the Arts

The scholars at August Martin High School sure know how to put on an event. Their Winter Arts Festival on January 8 featured percussion and dance performances set to the backdrop of culinary and fine arts presentations — and everyone in attendance was impressed by the diverse talents on display!

The evening began with hors d’oeuvres and pastry treats prepared and served by the culinary arts department, led by Chef Marie Hayes. Next up was percussion performances by August Martin High School’s “Beat Masters” and “Drumline” troupes, followed by steel pan performances of classical and pop hits such as Friedrich Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” and Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud.”

Throughout the event, guests were invited to peruse the fine arts exhibit by Dr. Sieunarine’s AP Art students from Studio 324 displayed in front of the auditorium, some of which is featured in The Child Center’s 2019 calendar.

The event culminated with an amazing original dance performed by AMHS’ afterschool program, under the direction of FLEX NYC and choreographed by Sci-Fy & Nyte.

Chef Marie Hayes, who heads up AMHS’ culinary arts department, served hors d’oeurves and pastry treats with her students.

Perhaps most impressive about the evening were the crossover talents of students whose skills were showcased across artistic disciplines, such as Jaydah Hewitt-Joseph, a percussionist and culinary student who just received an internship with Magnolia Bakery.

“Cooking is my real passion,” said Jaydah, who said she likes making pasta and grilled chicken for her family. (And, for what it’s worth, her favorite steel drum song to perform is “Good Life.”)

Her proud mama Latoya Hewitt-Joseph pointed out, “I don’t think you all know this, but Jaydah was about eight when she first stepped on this stage through a partnership with another nearby school.” And, evidently, the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. Latoya shared that she herself has performed on Broadway.

Music teacher Gladys Byrd, last year’s recipient of the Association of Black Educators of NY (ABENY)’s Teacher of the Year award, explained the importance of training with the arts, specifically music in her case. While only about five students are quick sight readers she explained, all of her students have some ability to read music by the end of her class. Studies show that such abilities have far-reaching implications.

Ms. Byrd comes from a proud musical legacy herself. Her mother was a classical music teacher, her father a musician, and she was in her brother’s band — She got to riff with and accompany Ben Vereen on the drums once! Ms. Byrd, who has been with August Martin High School for about three years, expressed that while events like these are beyond meaningful for a student’s development, she wants her students to have the opportunity to perform in venues outside of the classroom. “There is more to musicianship than performing for peers,” she said, and the steel drum band is currently under consideration for a featured performance at The Child Center of NY’s annual gala on April 8.

What a perfect testament to the recent successes at August Martin High School. This Winter Arts Festival was certainly an afternoon to remember — and there will be so much more blossoming this spring and beyond for this very talented group of kids.

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