Lisa Bair is the parent of a fifth-grade student at Corte Madera School.
By Lisa Bair
Frederick's Follies celebrates 10 years of entertaining the Corte Madera school community with an anniversary production on Friday, April 27, from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at Corte Madera School.
This event will be free to students and their families, alumni and the community at large, and promises to be a special evening as William Frederick's fifth-grade class and alumni classes from 10 years past all come together to celebrate this anniversary.
The production, staged in the school's multi-use room, will feature impersonated rock band performances from Mr. Frederick's current fifth-grade class and special appearances from his alumni classes.
Frederick's Follies is about bringing the community together to celebrate the power of visual and performing arts.
Ten years ago, William Frederick decided that he wanted to enhance his students' curriculum with more than just the usual day-to-day math, English, science and social studies lessons. He wanted them to learn how to be comfortable and confident while standing in front of their peers, whether it was reciting a poem or singing an old U2 melody.
He also wanted to deepen their character skills, and hoped to teach them life-skills such as cooperative learning, sharing of ideas, leadership, presentation, research, and project organization.
His goal, he said, was to encourage each student he taught "to take forth this gift of feeling empowerment in front of an audience," a life lesson that would help them every step of the way through middle school, high school, college and beyond.
He started at the grass roots of such a concept with his class in 2001. After two months of ongoing practices inside and outside the classroom, the first Frederick's Follies production was born on a small beaten-down stage in his classroom in front of the children's parents and some fourth-grade classes.
Mr. Frederick recalls the experience as "challenging yet extremely rewarding. I learned through student and parent evaluation that the project was fun, but needed something more substantial.
"I also came to empathize with my students as I had to perform a number as the show's grand finale. The terror that slithered through my veins was almost debilitating. After the first Frederick's Follies and its strong praise, I knew that the project could soar even higher, but wasn't sure how to get it off the ground."
So he went back to the drawing board to revamp the project. He, along with language arts consultant Kathy Glass, strengthened the project by threading together pieces more aligned with state educational standards, and adding more components.
Momentum grew over the next several years, and Fredericks Follies became more and more "fine-tuned," drawing a larger audience, and more "lights, cameras and action."
Conner Sweetnam, from the class of 2004, reflects: "To this day I can still vividly remember performing 'Beautiful Day' by U2 in Mr. Frederick's classroom. I know that experience will stick with me forever."
Fast forward to the hallway or coffee chit-chat of more recent classes of 2008-11, and you will hear that Frederick's Follies has become quite a phenomenon. It's a yearly school event that no one wants to miss. The production is held for the entire school and the lights, sound and decor are all choreographed by local community talent and volunteers.
Elise Gabrielson, a mom who was instrumental in helping with the class of 2011's production, recalls: "Frederick's Follies was a learning experience in all ways for both students and parents. ... It taught us patience; it taught us coping mechanisms while under stress and while performing; it taught us how to handle difficult situations and personalities; and most importantly it taught us confidence and a feeling of accomplishment ... a wonderful life lesson!"
Did we mention, everyone wants a piece of the action?
This year, as Frederick's Follies celebrates its 10th anniversary, Mr. Frederick wants just that -- for everyone to share in a piece of the action -- and has invited alumni students, parents, grandparents, neighbors, friends and the community at large to come share what's been growing stronger and stronger at CMS for the last 10 years: A decade of kids who love to perform in front of others and can take that gift with them wherever they go.