Juilliard group works with Southwest Kansas school

GARDEN CITY, Kansas – A Garden City High School alum is bringing her talents back to her hometown to help others.

It’s been eight years since Kristen Doering graduated from Garden City High School, determined to liver her musical dream.

First, KU. Then the prestigious Julliard School in New York City.

But even after all her successes, she found herself thinking of home and how she could leave an impact on the community that gave her so much.

“First and foremost the mission is about creating collective community that explores our humanity through the arts,” Doering said.

Together, Kristen and several fellow Juilliard graduates traveled to Southwest Kansas to partner with Garden City High School and Steps Dance School.

“Because of our remote location in Kansas, our students don’t have the opportunities to go and observe performances of this caliber,” said Jane Vanderhoff, a vocal music instructor at Garden City’s USD 457.

The group, known as the Arts Fusion Initiative, organized 10 days of workshops with the school’s theater, theater tech, orchestra and choir students, with a final performance combining all of them and dancers from Steps, scheduled for Friday.

“To work with all these Juilliard students really opens up how good you have to be and how you have to carry yourself to actually make it into Juilliard, because that’s one of my biggest goals,” said Abbigayle Ramirez, a student at USD 457.

Ramirez is preparing for the performance by learning about the creative process and combining poetry with music and theater.

“It gets them to open up to what’s happening inside. It allows them to understand through our creative process and how we’ve built the workshops, that it’s better to have a different point of view and that can be very difficult in high school,” Doering said.

The Arts Fusion Initiative wanted to benefit the entire community, so in addition to working with the high school they made time for several performances and a preschool workshop in Garden City.

“It’s key for our students to come back and share what they’ve learned and give the hometown students the inspiration they need to pursue that for themselves,” Vanderhoff said.

“They understand without having to understand what we do as artists, what we’re trying to do for the community,” Doering said.

For more information on Friday’s show, click here.

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