Arts and Entertainment

BMA puts the ‘fun’ in fundraising

The ladies in red weren’t dancing that day, but they were certainly tapping their toes.

For that matter, so were the ladies in green.

As they gathered in a well-appointed Wing Point home for their December tea, the lively members of Bainbridge Music and Arts paid tribute to the season – and their long-standing commitment to the island’s young talent.

“Providing scholarships for the kids is the purpose of the group,” said BMA president Caryl Grosch. “We have the teas and entertainment, but our main focus is the scholarships.”

For more than three decades, BMA has provided scholarship money to hundreds of island youth.

Last year the group gave out some $15,000 to more than 80 aspiring talents in dance, drama, music, arts and creative writing.

Students compete ever March in events judged by local arts professionals. The rewards: a chance to perform in BMA’s annual spring recital, and money to help pay for lessons in their field.

An average first-place award helps with a couple months of lessons, which can cost $50 to $80 an hour.

“I know it is very much appreciated by so many of the parents,” Grosch said.

The group’s monthly teas are another showcase for young talent – like Yoko McCann, the scholarship winner who sang at the most recent gathering.

“The BMA members are a great group of people that really want to build up the arts,” the Bainbridge High School senior said.

McCann would know: Not only was this her second year placing in the the singing competition, she’s also the granddaughter of Marie McCann, one of the women who founded the group in 1968, and the cousin of Michael Baker, another BMA scholarship winner who now has a distinguished career in the theater.

These ties between BMA and the community are the key to the group’s fundraising success, Grosch said.

“At some point or other, (our donors) have been touched by the organization,” she said. “They won a scholarship, or their parents or grandparents did.”

While the spotlight is on the scholarship winners, the group’s gatherings support other community artists as well.

Warming up the audience for McCann was the local group Side by Side, whose jaunty arrangements of holiday tunes made it clear BMA is no bunch of staid ladies.

A Christmas version of “Mr. Sandman,” which implored St. Nick to bring with “every reindeer, a hug and a squeeze,” met with many smiles and applause, as did a flirtatious rendition of “Santa Baby.”

McCann’s performance, a mix of art song, popular music, and the chestnut “The Christmas Song,” also sparked delight – equalled only by the response Grosch’s announcement that McCann would be attending Notre Dame next year.

Like most BMA scholarship winners, McCann doesn’t think she’ll pursue a career in the arts, but she intends to continue singing in college, and beyond.

Knowing that their efforts have helped cultivate young people’s interest in the arts is rewarding, Grosch said. “It’s nice to be told that, on occasion, our scholarship has helped them along,” she said.

McCann agrees that BMA scholarship money has been a big boost.

“It has given my parents reason to let me continue singing lessons,” she said. “And it has helped me mentally, to know that people believe in me.”

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