Learn to ‘Savor Your Sunday’

Stivers students’ shows at Coco’s

By Miranda Brooks

Photo: The final two Savor Your Sunday events are Feb. 21 and Feb. 28 at Coco’s Bistro

Stivers School for the Arts lives up to its name. Integrating arts education with academic excellence, the one-of-a-kind public school has become a strong staple within the Dayton community. Stivers began operation in 1908 as a manual training high school. A movement that gave way to vocational studies as we know them today, manual training was meant to enhance curriculum through improved perception, practical judgment, observation, visual accuracy and manual dexterity by using tools in drafting, mechanics, woodworking and metalsmithing. And it is this idea of immersion by which Stivers abides. The school stresses studio and classroom time to be of equal importance as evidence shows that studying art enhances academic performance; therefore, improving future outcomes by providing life-defining experiences.

Notwithstanding several reinventions and configurations over the past 100 years, Stivers still calls its initial structure home—a registered historic site located in the St. Anne’s Hill neighborhood. Officially deemed a visual and performing arts school in 1990, Stivers currently offers concentrated studies in eight major areas of art: band, choir, creative writing, dance, orchestra, piano, theatre and visual arts. Students audition for enrollment, and contractually agree to attendance (7th-12th grades) upon acceptance.

In order to support the unique needs of these arts magnets, The Seedling Foundation was born—a 501(c)(3) that fundraises directly for the school. The foundation creates events that are community focused through engagement. The non-profit works diligently to raise funds which allow for instrument/equipment purchase and repair, transportation of students to and from events, student attendance to summer art-intensive programs and the ability to host visiting guest artists (among other things). The monies raised throughout the year come mostly from Dayton community members. Such collaborative efforts reflect the cooperative attitude of the district’s residents, and are arguably the effects of a thriving community.

For the past eight years, Coco’s Bistro has hosted a weekly Sunday brunch event—Savor Your Sunday—held every February. This event is put on by The Seedling Foundation, and benefits Stivers’ arts programs directly. A select number of Stivers students perform each Sunday at the restaurant during brunch hours. Ranging from chamber choir singers, pianists, jazz ensemble to orchestral strings players, patrons can choose among the best genre of their liking for listening and viewing pleasure.

Karen Wick-Gagnet is dynamically affiliated with the event as both the owner of Coco’s and the chair of The Seedling Foundation.

“The atmosphere is casual and energetically wide ranging,” Wick-Gagnet says of the rotating performances.

The music is set to accompany the restaurant’s creative and palate appeasing brunch options—their take on eggs benedict is a must try for meat-eaters. A $30 reservation gives patrons the option of several brunch entrees served with coffee or juice (Bloody Mary’s and mimosas are extra!) while 50 percent of the charge is tax deductible and going back directly to Stivers.

“There’s a broad array of support for the arts programs that wouldn’t and couldn’t happen unless we had these additional funds that are so graciously donated by our community. It’s a wonderful opportunity to give to a great cause while receiving a unique experience at the same time,” Wick-Gagnet adds.

Stivers students are supported and mentored closely by adjunct staff teachers and magnet arts directors.

Tommy Habib, Director of Piano Studies, says of the fundraiser, “Savor Your Sunday is an incredible experience for our students. We often talk about ‘giving back’ to the community, and this is the perfect example; we are so pleased to bring the talents of our sons and daughters to the heart of Dayton.”

The performances indeed showcase student talent while providing music appreciation in an intimate setting.

“We have created a program that will complement your Sunday brunch: pleasant, easygoing, stimulating and invigorating,” Habib says.

Lois Clark Ramey, director of the Orchestra Magnet, adds to the conversation, “The event is a clear testament to the powerful partnership between Stivers’ young artists and the educators, parents and community members.”

The connections between these facets are vital channels; it’s the synergy that makes all of this work—as if an extension of art itself. The underlying theme of this event is community where we all have the opportunity to support by joining in on the harmonies.

The final two Savor Your Sunday events are Feb. 21 with the Stivers Jazz Group and Feb. 28 with the Stivers Concert Pianists at Coco’s Bistro, 250 Warren St. in Dayton. Reservations can be made for between 10 a.m. and 1:30 p.m., and tickets are $30 per guest. For reservations or more information, please call 937.228.2626 or visit 228coco.com.


Reach DCP freelance writer Miranda Brooks at MirandaBrooks@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP editor Sarah Sidlow at SarahSidlow@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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