Kinder HSPVA, founded in 1971, held an event recently at the Miller Outdoor Theater celebrating its 50th anniversary as a HISD integrated school for the arts. The event, “Encore 50,” welcomed attendees of all ages to join the party as Houston’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts celebrated half a century of student excellence, faculty commitment, parent devotion and alumni familyhood.
Every fine arts department at the school—Creative Writing, Dance, Instrumental Music, Theatre, Visual Arts and Vocal Music—had their moment in the spotlight during the celebration. And as part of the introduction to each department, there was an accompanying video with photos from the school’s 50-year history, as well as snippets from various past and current faculty and alumni, including words from Justin Simien (’01), the creator and director of the hit movie and TV series “Dear White People.”
Another evening highlight was when the crowd was addressed by Patricia Bonner, HSPVA Music Department faculty member from 1974 – 2019. Bonner holds the distinction of being one of the few HSPVA faculty members to have taught in all three of the school’s locations, including its original home at Temple Beth Israel (3517 Austin Street) where the campus resided from 1971 – 1982; then in the former Montrose Elementary School building (4001 Stanford) from 1982 – 2019; to its current downtown location at 790 Austin St., Houston 77002.
The poem, “Lights, Camera, Legacy,” was performed by its writer, HSPVA senior (Creative Writing ’22) and Houston Youth Poet Laureate 2021, Avalon Hughes. The iconic song “I am Changing” from Dreamgirls was performed by alumna Samantha Williams (Theatre ’16) and current HSPVA senior Tomi Akinwande (Theatre ’22).
Another iconic song, “Route 66,” was performed by an HSPVA alumni group consisting of Lesley Brotamonte (’87), Sheretta Carmouche (’84), Kermit Childs (’96), Tarnisha Hartsfield (’88), Damian Price (’96), Antonio Carlos Scott (’84) and Kristine Wilson (’86). This ensemble was directed by Anthony Glover (’87) and accompanied on piano by legendary MacGregor Elementary School music instructor Stephanie York Blue (’81).
Audience members were treated to a surprise performance by HSPVA senior, Douglas Mills (’22), who was a contestant on this year’s American Idol. Mills performed the song “Never Enough.”
The evening closed with jazz songs performed by award-winning jazz artist and HSVPA alumna Helen Sung (’89). Sung was accompanied by the HSPVA Jazz Combo I. Their two songs were followed by HSPVA’s Mariachi los Pasajeros, who tore the proverbial roof off the Miller Outdoor Theater with their highly energetic numbers.
In 1971, the Houston Independent School District launched HSPVA as its first magnet program. Since then, the school has become a beacon of equity and diversity, and of artistic and academic excellence. Today, Kinder HSPVA promotes itself as a model for arts schools around the country.
Kinder HSPVA’s stated mission is to cultivate both artistic and academic excellence in a diverse environment, HSPVA builds the confidence and enthusiasm required for an accomplished creative future.