NB|AZ® supports foundation’s work to empower children through the arts
As the lights fade in the Little Theater of the Higley Center for the Performing Arts, a hush sweeps over the audience. Children, who have come from all over the East Valley, wait in excited anticipation for the show to begin—a show filled with music and song and, most importantly, life lessons. A show lovingly designed for them.
For FACE (Foundation for Arts, Culture, and Education), the show is the primary focus of the Building Bridges program, and a culmination of the dedication and passion its board members and supporters have for the arts and its impact on children.
“FACE began as an advisory board to the Higley Center for the Performing Arts,” says Gil Honeycutt, the foundation’s president. “We eventually moved out on our own as a foundation for arts, culture and education for students. Building Bridges has been our focus and we hope to continue to develop it, as well as add other children’s programs.”
Based on the music of three-time Grammy award winning artist Tom Chapin, the program teaches lessons about diversity, healthy choices, tolerance, respect and environmental responsibility. Since it launched in 2008, it has brought music and social education to nearly 22,000 students from 40 elementary schools in the East Valley.
“In Arizona, the arts have been seriously defunded. There is a gap and Building Bridges is designed to help bridge that gap,” says board member Laura Barnes. “It’s not only an arts education program. At its core, it addresses important social themes, such as learning about being kind to each other, being respectful, and being caretakers for the environment. That part of it is really important.”
In the program, children are taught the music before the live show performed by Chapin. Then during the show, they are encouraged to actively participate by singing, moving and even signing—any way to express themselves. The “sensory” concert is also designed for the children on the autistic spectrum, and features lighting and sound levels designed for a low-intensity sensory experience.
“Music is a very powerful teaching tool,” says Debbie Rubenstrunk, who created Building Bridges with Chapin 25 years ago. “For instance, if children are learning about Martin Luther King Jr. in the classroom, Tom has a song called ‘My Town is a Salad Bowl.’ The whole concept of the song is that the tomatoes need to appreciate what the artichokes bring to the party. We’re not a melting pot and we shouldn’t be assimilating to be like each other. Rather, we should appreciate each other for what we bring to the table.”
Rubenstrunk adds, “It’s one of those goose bump moments when you hear 1,200 children break into song that their town is a salad bowl. It gives you hope for the future.”
The classroom materials and concert, which Chapin performs once a year, are provided to schools, teachers and students at no cost, thanks to the fundraising efforts by FACE and its grassroots efforts to create awareness of the program.
“We want to expand and extend the program to reach deeper into the community,” she says. “We invite people to be involved and join the party by becoming an ambassador or sponsor. It truly takes a village.”
Board member Paige Modlin, who is also a National Bank of Arizona® branch manager, was so inspired by Building Bridges, she immediately became involved when the Gilbert branch opened in 2008.
“I live, work and play [in the area], so it was important to me to find a connection with the community and a way to give back,” she says. “I met Debbie, who asked me to be on the advisory council and from there, it just grabbed me and never let go.”
With FACE’s status as a nonprofit, it was a natural fit for NB|AZ to not only be a sponsor, but to also provide the organization banking and financial services designed specifically for nonprofit organizations. In 2014, FACE opened an account with the bank’s nonprofit banking division, which is committed to serving the financial needs of social services, cultural and professional organizations.
“NB|AZ and I are passionate about the path FACE is going and we want to continue to strengthen our relationship with them,” Modlin says. “We are so fortunate to be able to help an organization whose mission is so rewarding.”