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Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2007 01:01 am

Helping artists help themselves

How creative individuals get folks to support the arts

Matthew Woodson, 13, has been invited to attend iPOP! in LA in early 2008.
Untitled Document During a recent lively conversation about government spending, a guy told me that we need better bridges before we need to pay somebody to sing. I, of course, agreed wholeheartedly with him — what good would it do if a bridge is out and no one can come hear free music? His obvious delight in my answer was a bit frustrating to me, considering how little support, from the government or any other quarter, many worthy artists actually receive. Why, for example, are art programs in schools slashed while sports budgets soar? It’s the priority of the majority that rules — meaning that warring teams bent on victory outweigh peaceful artistic endeavors of students. I understand that, and so do many others. That’s why private individuals devise creative ways to raise money to support the arts. One central-Illinois community came up with an interesting and fun idea for a fundraiser. Illini Central High School, in Mason City, brought the Count Basie Orchestra to the Arlee Theater last February and drew enough interested patrons to near double the budget of the school’s music department. Now the Mason City folks are at it again, raising cash for budding musicians at a benefit concert featuring the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra with conductor Buddy Morrow at 7 p.m. Oct. 13. For the $25 price of admission you get to enjoy a night of fabulous music, help out a small local school’s music department, and spend time in the historic Arlee Theater (originally built in 1936 as a movie house). For more information, call 217-482-9999. Struggling to make it as an artist is especially difficult when you’re only 13 years old. Matthew Woodson, an eighth-grade honor student at Grant Middle School, is reaching for the stars, but, as he and his parents have discovered, somebody must pay the tab for chasing down a dream. Woodson, who studies at the John Robert Powers School of Acting in Chicago, was one of a select few chosen from more than 700 who auditioned to attend the International Presentation of Performers (iPOP!) in Los Angeles the first week of January 2008. Woodson’s talent is real and rare, and the iPOP event will give him a wonderful chance to display his gifts to movers and shakers in the entertainment industry — but plane tickets and accommodations don’t come cheap. Yes, we’re asking for sponsors to help the kid along toward his big break in show business. If you’re interested in helping out, call the Woodson family at 217-787-1250 or check with any location of the Sangamon Schools Credit Union to make a donation to the Matthew Woodson iPOP fund. Now that we’ve emptied your pockets to support the local arts scene and artists, you can go see that free Celtic-music concert that was originally scheduled for August but postponed in expectation of a rainstorm that never showed up. The event has been rescheduled for 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, in Washington Park. Bring your umbrella and lawn chair.
Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinoistimes.com.
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