What a moment, what a time!

Sure, it was a hoot watching Cher belt out the national anthem at the Super Bowl - a destiny I'm sure she never imagined for herself in the 60's - but the real fun and fireworks were right here in little ol' Ashland on a recent Saturday night as Briscoe Elementary School parent Leslie Kendall Worked her magic with a sold-out crowd for the Ashland Schools Foundation benefit concert, "Stepping Out." To say that Leslie held the crowd in the palm of her hand is an understatement. "Is this Carnegie Hall?" she asked at one point, recognizing herself the magic spell which held us all enchanted for that brief moment in time on a chill evening in the dead of winter.

Events like "Stepping Out" are of increasing importance, as our public schools struggle forth valiantly, even as their already minimalist budgets are threatened with new cash shortfalls (see cover article, Tidings, Feb. 4, "Ashland school officials worry about state's spending plan"). PTA Bake dales no longer do it in this day and age, when schools are losing or cutting back on all sorts of curriculum and services that we adults grew up taking for granted. And once you've already amputated art, music, physical education, or library services from the body literati, and then you discover you're being handed a proposed budget with a decrease of $75 million, how do you choose what goes next? What do you do?

Well, at least for us in Ashland, we have the Ashland Schools Foundation, which since its inception has taken the art of fund-raising for the schools to a new high of professionalism and panache. In the face of daunting and distressing circumstances, people from all walks of life have rallied to the ASF's call and helped with their many projects, which turn out to be fun as well as profitable.

It is time now to celebrate some of these individuals. "Stepping Out" owes its tremendous success to many professionals who provided their time, talents, and expertise free of charge to help raise revenue in support of quality education in the Ashland public schools. Leslie Kendall's voice and stage charisma could, indeed, take her to Carnegie Hall, but she chooses to spend her talent for our benefit. The electrifying music of Jim Church and the Jefferson State Orchestra and the infectious dancing of the Jessup Jazz Dancers and Craig Faulkner and the Southern Oregon Swing Dance Society kept right up with Leslie, each group a complete act unto itself.

The people behind the curtain work just as hard, but never get to come on stage for their well-earned applause. So join me now in thanking these professionals: Lynn Reynolds (technical coordinator), Denise Lanusse (production coordinator), Paul James Martin (set design), Voris Sound and Randy Voris (sound design), Christopher Burkhardt (lighting designer), Ron Boardman (assistant lighting), Claudia Everett (stylist), and the Ashland High School technical crew: Russ Otte supervisor and Terrence Connolly, technical advisor.

In addition, the cooperative efforts of the staff from Ashland schools, many Ashland businesses, the countless everyday people helped in this one night's astounding success. Congratulations to the Ashland Schools Foundation on a job very well done. And especially, once again, thank you Leslie Kendall for being the catalyst for "some enchanted evening." It was indeed, the moment, the time.

Addendum: Saturday night's concert was also a showcase for the plaques on the seats in the new Mountain Avenue Theater. In support of its endowment campaign, the ASF offers individuals and businesses the opportunity to inscribe a name on a plaque.

For information, call Katherine Danner at the ASF office at 482-2897 - Polly Greist lives in Ashland

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