Kids’ Performer and Yoga Instructor Kira Willey to Perform at Donegan Elementary Benefit
Renowned Lehigh Valley kindie artist, yogini and singer-songwriter Kira Willey is teaming up once again with Donegan Elementary School in Bethlehem. This time, it is for a CD release celebration intended to provide the school with much-needed funding for its endangered summer school program.
The Kira Willey & Friends Benefit Concert, scheduled to take place Sat., Mar. 14 at 3 p.m. at Lehigh University’s Zoellner Arts Center, will feature Willey playing songs from her new album, “How to Be a Cloud,” alongside other favorites. The album features an updated version of Willey’s song, “Colors,” which features 75 Donegan students on the track. Willey and her student collaborators will be performing the song and premiering its new music video at the benefit.
The event will also feature singer-songwriter Key Wilde as an opening act, as well as youth performers, an Irish dance troupe and a guest appearance from Alison Gillespie, fiddle player for Celtic music group, Blackwater. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for children.
Working together for the children
Willey, whose kids’ program Fireflies Musical Yoga has been featured on PBS39, first connected with Donegan Elementary School more than a year ago. Willey performed at an assembly for Donegan students shortly after the school became a Community School, which led to a strong working relationship with the school’s principal, Sonia Vazquez.
“She has been so welcoming. (The partnership) started off with her yoga, and then spiraled into so much more,” Vazquez said. “She’s very child-oriented and, when we started with her, yoga was not something our kids were exposed to. She brought it in with a different spin – with music and engagement – and the kids loved it.”
That working relationship took on an entirely new meaning when, after 21 years, the state funding that supported Donegan’s five-week summer school program was eliminated.
“Specifically, that funding targeted kids who need more time in school,” Vazquez said. “We had it one day and, with no notification, it was gone the next. Our children definitely need this extra time (in school), whether it’s after school or in the summer.”
Willey, who had already been brainstorming ideas to work with the school on a CD release benefit, saw an opportunity to turn the school’s dilemma into a positive.
“I was already in the planning stages of CD release event that would benefit children in some way,” Willey said. “(Performing at a benefit for the school) was just a natural fit.”
Involving the community
“We expect a good crowd,” Willey said. “We have word out all over the place; the word has gone out to all Bethlehem schools, and we’ve been doing other grassroots promotion.”
Vazquez called upon the school’s parents and teachers to pitch in, spread the word and sell tickets. The benefit will also feature raffle items and a 50/50, both of which are intended to give the event an economic boost. Vazquez estimates that, to operate its five-week summer school program at full strength, the school will need to raise $80,000 or more.
“We’re just hoping for as much as possible,” Vazquez said. “That’s why we’re not only selling tickets.”
Many other community partners have stepped up to provide services and other assistance to help the school reach its goal. These include: PBS39; Center for Development of Urban Educational Leaders; Townsend Insurance Agency; Christmas City Studios; Taggart Associates; Adams Outdoor; Freckles and Dimples Photography; Hillary Murphy Photography; Sue Lurie Creations and Working Dog Press;
Following the Mar. 14 benefit, Vazquez indicated that the school is open to doing similar events in the future.
“I think the idea of working with community partners has been very successful, especially within the district,” Vazquez said. “The district has several schools that are Community Schools. It’s a different way of thinking, and it is working. It’s a lot more work, but it brings a lot of opportunities and experiences back to the kids.”
Vazquez hopes that the rest of the community can take something forward from next Saturday’s benefit – and that more willing, generous community members will step up as Willey has.
“It takes a special kind of person like Kira to do something like this. This is so huge, and it’s very generous of her to give us 100 percent (of the proceeds),” Vazquez said. “There are many schools that have needs, but when you have someone to work with like Kira, the possibilities are endless for the kids.”