Center Celebration benefits educational programs


The Center for the Performing Arts is renown for bringing a variety of entertainers to Carmel each year.

Yet just as important to the Center’s mission is educational programming.

The Center Celebration, the Center for the Performing Arts annual gala fundraiser, is set to begin at 5 p.m. Sept. 23 at the Palladium. Headlining the gala is six-time Grammy Award winner Amy Grant.

Julia Shildmyer, the Center’s director of education and community engagement, said fundraising is vital to the programming.

“We keep our education program affordable and several of them are free to attend,” she said. “We couldn’t do that without the money that comes in from the gala. If we don’t have a sponsor for the program, then the money we raise from the gala goes to covering the cost of the education program. The education program in a nonprofit is never a big income generator. It really is mission-driven.”

Some of the educational programming includes Child & Adult Music classes.

“We have programs that range from babies all the way to the elderly,” Shildmyer said. “We had a gentleman a couple years ago who was 91 who participated in our Group Vocal Coaching class. It was a bucket list item to sing in public and he did that on World Voice Day.”

Shildmyer said the Center has different entry points into the performing arts from the novice, intermediate and advanced.

Among the novice ones are the Peanut Butter and Jam series, primarily for ages 1 to 7, and Beginning Ukulele.

Shildmyer said there are master classes for the advanced.

There also are programs for those who might want to have nonperforming roles. Some of the programs for adults include Intro to Stand-Up Comedy and Group Vocal Coaching.

Carmel resident Donna Skeens said she is delighted to be a part of the Palladium Bookies.

“I joined at the very beginning and look forward to our book discussions and making many new friendships,” she said. “All that is required is to read a book every other month and join the rest of the club in the West Lobby of the Palladium. Where else could I find such interesting people and a magnificent venue like that?”

Skeens enjoys the Luminaries program and said it might be one of the best-kept secrets in Carmel.

“This is a program in the early afternoon that meets bimonthly as well,” Skeens said. “Local musicians, artists, comedians and actors present programs that you might not see or hear anywhere else in the area. A $10 ticket certainly makes the events well worth your time.”

Westfield resident Maggie Adams and her 2 1/2-year-old daughter Kendall have participated for a year in the child and adult music classes, a five-week music and movement class for toddlers and adult caregivers offered a few times a year.

“She loves it. It’s one of our favorite activities that we do together,” Adams said. “She has really blossomed in that class. When she first joined, she was really shy and actually cried the first time. Now, to see her just playing with all the instruments and showing a genuine love and curiosity for music is incredible.”

Kelly Fischer’s son Noah, 22, is blind with autism and developmentally delayed. Fischer was the camp coordinator for the Prism Project at the Center, which was held in the summer of 2023 for the first time. The program involves taking people with disabilities and coordinating with performance arts instructors in dance, music and theater. Fischer said the participants create their own show.

“He’s been involved in Center programs since we moved back to Carmel in 2018,” said Fischer, a Carmel High School graduate. “I think everyone who goes to the Center goes for the wide variety of opportunities there and finds their own special connections. The thing I love is Noah finds more of the adult activities like concerts and the Group Vocal Coaching class to be not only enjoyable but he gets something out of it. But because of his unique disability, he also enjoys programs like Peanut Butter & Jam. When I first tentatively reached out if I could bring him, everyone was like ‘that would be great.’ He was welcomed with open arms even though he is obviously much older physically than the average fan of that program.”

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