KPC Showcase, Kenai Peninsula College's award-winning lecture, entertainment and arts series, has just begun its 20th season. Originally known and still often referred to as the Sunday Showcase, it was begun in 1984 by longtime vocal instructor Jean Brockel and KPC's English professor Dave Forbes, who died in 2002.
"Dave and I started it because there was simply no place for theater and music classes to perform," Brockel said.
Their inaugural concert was a three-person voice recital to commemorate the purchase of the college's first piano. In the intervening years, word of the Showcase program grew, and it became a popular venue not only for students, but also for local writers, artists and musicians. On many a snowy, Sunday afternoon, poetry, music and theater could be heard wafting through the halls of KPC, while an audience took in the sights and sounds as they sipped hot chocolate and coffee.
In the early days it was a fly-by-the-seat-of your-pants operation, relying mostly on community support to pay for lighting, stage equipment and limited advertising. In recent years, Showcase has had the added support of the Damon Foundation, which has partially funded the series with a grant through the Anna Fossett Goodrich Humanities Program.
While the Showcase program continues to feature local talent, the additional resources have allowed the program to expand, including performers from around the state, country and world. In past seasons, Showcase has also teamed with other campus groups, such as the Multi-Cultural Consortium, which each spring brings musicians from Ireland to the local stage. KPC Showcase also has worked with the college's student union to kick off its annual Winter Arts Extravaganza, which each December gives student artists a place to show and sell their work and last year featured a trio of Anchorage singer-songwriters.
Over the past couple of years, Showcase has had a talented and diverse guest list, including a New York comedian, an Anchorage-based filmmaker and a nine-member marimba band from Homer.
This year, Showcase organizers hope to continue this trend with a new slate of events. On Nov. 6, comedian Ben Bailey will return to the college after having made appearances in various network television shows as well as in the summer films "Bad Meat" and "Spiderman 2."
On Nov. 14, Showcase will stage "Blu-Grassical," featuring Soldotna vocalist Judy Russell. She will be joined by a group of local singers and musicians, accompanying her in a program that combines bluegrass, opera and classical music.
And in February, author Pam Houston will pay a visit to KPC for a book signing and craft talk. Houston's first collection of short stories, "Cowboy's Are My Weakness," was praised by literary critics, and she has since had stories selected for the Pushcart Prize, the O. Henry Award and the Best American Short Stories of the Century. Her collection of essays, "A Little More About Me," was published in 1999 and her first novel, "Sighthound," will be released in January.
This article was submitted to KPC Community Relations by KPC Showcase coordinator Dave Atcheson.
glad to be onboard
KPC has a new bookstore manager who is happy to be back in a role she is comfortable with. Gwen Gere spent the last 10 years in various positions, from personnel manager at Kmart to assistant manager at Fred Meyer. This fall, the opportunity arose to make a career change from retail box stores back to her first love, a bookstore.
An Alaska resident since the early 1950s, Gere has lived on the peninsula for 21 years. Books, magazines and reading have always been a part of her life since her family owned The Book Cache stores and was the wholesale distributor known as the Alaska News Agency. Being around this literary environment, it's not surprising that Gere has had a lifelong involvement in literature.
"We were encouraged to read everything," Gere said. "It made for some pretty animated dinner discussions."
Gere attended Colorado State University, the University of Valencia and Alaska Methodist University (now Alaska Pacific) in Anchorage. Her children Scott and Michelle graduated from Kenai Cental High School. Her husband of 35 years, Curly, has encouraged her to look ahead wherever her career takes her.
"He's my biggest fan, so when he hears about all the excitement, he knows it's been a great day," Gere said.
"Kenai Peninsula College is small and it's a great place to work. You can't help but become a part of what goes on here." Gere already has made her mark on the store it's laid out with the consumer in mind and the displays she has put together show she has retail experience. Right now, the store provides textbooks for students and faculty, gift items, course supplies, snacks and a variety of music. Gere has called the store "small, but mighty," and it has stuck as the theme.
"We have some remodeling ahead and we'll continue to tailor the store so that it best fills the needs of the student body. I'm looking forward to a dynamic partnership with the campus and the community. We may be limited by our size, but certainly not by our commitment," Gere said.
Attention teachers: courses offered
Ed A563A Digital storytelling for educators, two credits;
Ed A565X Technology learning tools for the classroom, two credits, started Monday and continues Monday and Nov. 5, 6, 8, 11 and 12;
Ed A581G Science Education Consortium field trip training, one credit, Nov. 5 and 6 at the SeaLife Center in Seward;
Ed A558L Praxis preparation: curriculum, instruction and assessment, one credit, Nov. 5 and 6; and
Ed A582J Earth e-mission workshop,one credit, begins Nov. 13 at the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska.
For more information about these courses, contact Sherril Miller, KPC education coordinator, at 262-0390 or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This column is provided by Suzie Kendrick, community relations coordinator at Kenai Peninsula College.
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