Musical production highlights awareness of learning differencesWORTHINGTON — Minnesota Life College (MLC) — and some talented friends — will bring music and a message to the Worthington community on Tuesday.
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota Life College (MLC) — and some talented friends — will bring music and a message to the Worthington community on Tuesday.
Located in Richfield, MLC is a not-for-profit, vocational and life-skills training program for young adults with learning differences and autism spectrum disorders. Its goal is to help students transition to independent living and financial self-sufficiency through a challenging curriculum and opportunities to learn beyond the classroom.
One such opportunity has been putting together a musical show, “Count It All Joy,” in collaboration with Old Friend Productions, a company that showcases Twin Cities jazz and R&B artists.
“Over the years, we’ve done a few charitable events, and we met Kathryn Thomas, director of MLC, about a year and a half ago,” explained Paul Thompson of Old Friend Productions. “She came up with the idea of rather than doing an event for them, doing a show with their graduate students as part of the show. Working with our cast and their students, we put together this show.”
“Count It All Joy” will first be performed Tuesday at Minnesota West Community and Technical College, Worthington campus, for an audience that will include special education students from area schools.
“They describe the show as being about joy and life and friendship and how they can make a difference in their community,” said Le Lucht, coordinator of diversity and multicultural activities at Minnesota West, “When I talked to some of the special education teachers in our area, they said sometimes it’s very difficult to find such opportunities for their students, and they were thrilled to make this opportunity available to their students as well.”
Bringing the production to southwest Minnesota broadens the outreach for MLC.
“What we’re doing is trying to get the awareness of learning disabilities out there and showing what these kids can accomplish,” Thompson said. “During ‘Count It All Joy,’ between the songs, we have a video, DVDs that the students themselves put together, talking about how they got to where they’re at. These are kids who made it through high school and are on the borderline of living in a group home setting or being able to live on their own. Minnesota Life College educates them so they can get a job and live in the community. It’s the only school of its kind in the Upper Midwest.”
An encore of “Count It All Joy” will be performed for the larger community Tuesday evening at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center.
The 35-minute musical and electronic show will be followed by “They Wrote the Songs,” a popular musical tribute also put together by Old Friends Productions and featuring the music of four great American songwriters.
In addition to the MLC graduates, the cast of musicians features vocalists Maurice Jacox and Katie Gearty; George Scott, guitar; David Gonzalez, bass; Jordan Carlson, percussion; and Thomas West, keyboards.
Songs performed during “They Wrote the Songs” include hits from the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s: “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” “On My Own,” “Groovy Kind of Love,” “Midnight Blue,” Rubberband Man,” “How Sweet It Is” and “Let’s Hang On,” to name a few.
Bringing the show to Worthington was made possible through a sponsorship from ShopKo, noted Thompson.
“In my day job, I’m a consultant for ShopKo, and I’ve worked with Mike Hoeft” at the Worthington ShopKo store, Thompson said. “ShopKo has a foundation that works with education issues, and through working with Mike, we were able to get them to underwrite it.”
“Count It All Joy” and “They Wrote the Songs” will be performed at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center, 714 13th St, Worthington. For ticket information, phone 376-9101. Proceeds from the performance will benefit Minnesota Life College.