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IGNITE sparks passion for the performing arts

June 22, 2023

From world drumming to show choir to a cappella groups, the Pinellas County Schools IGNITE arts camp was bigger and more diverse than ever this year.

Held at the Pinellas County Center for the Arts at Gibbs High School, IGNITE is a two-week performing arts camp open to all PCS middle school students enrolled in an art elective.

Beginning Monday, June 5, hundreds of band, chorus, orchestra, dance and musical theater students converged on the Gibbs campus to learn their repertoire for the end-of-camp performance. With only a handful of days to perfect routines and pieces, the work began immediately.

“Seven days is a very short time to put together a whole performance,” said Maverick Plaxton, a seventh-grade dancer at John Hopkins Middle School. “But it’s a really awesome experience to be able to put all of this together and see this whole piece we’ve made.”

According to camp director Sarah Mohesky, the chorus director at Thurgood Marshall Fundamental Middle School, in just five years since its inception, the camp has grown exponentially. She credits the Referendum for providing the funds to make the entire two-week experience free for campers as one of the reasons.

“We’re super lucky to have the opportunities we’ve had here in Pinellas County to grow with our students,” Mohesky said. “We choose to come here over the summer because the kids are amazing, and we love working with them. They make it so worth it.”

After working within their respective disciplines in addition to their chosen electives throughout the week, campers performed for parents and friends last Thursday. The show started with chorus and ended with a theater production.

Austin Hatton, a saxophone, flute and piccolo player in the band, is headed to Osceola High School next year and hopes his experience at IGNITE will help him transition into the marching band.

“It’s helped me grow because I’m able to get more experience with more advanced pieces of music,” he said. “I’ve also made a lot of new friends.”

Friends, connection and community are three of the main components that make the camp so special. Many campers return as high school student volunteers and mentors, she said.

“I love the community we’ve created at IGNITE camp,” Mohesky said. “We have students who have come all three years of camp and are now back as volunteers because they just love being here.”

Michaela Conard, a sophomore trumpet player at Osceola Fundamental High School, is one of those volunteers. She wants to play in the Florida State University marching chiefs and pursue music education as a career.

“I feel like music programs really help you make connections to people,” Conard said. “The teachers I’ve had here at (IGNITE) camp really push you and want to see you succeed.”

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