Christmas production celebrates diversity

Holidays are often filled with abundant food and family time, but for each person the holidays mean a little something different. The celebration of those differences and the diversity that exists in Russellville is what instructor Emily Rush is excited to portray in the middle school musical theater production “That’s Christmas to Me.”

Nov. 29 at 6:30 p.m. in the Russellville City Schools Auditorium, sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders will take to the stage to perform Christmas songs and share a little knowledge with the audience.

“The timing worked out so that more seventh- and eighth-graders can participate this year, but this is really featuring the sixth-graders,” Rush said.

She said she decided to go with a more personal theme this year. She sent out a survey to students and some administrative personnel that asked them to share their holiday traditions and favorite Christmas songs.

The most popular Christmas song was “Silent Night.”

“There was a large outpouring of students who said they celebrated the birth of Jesus Christ, so we’ll have that in our show this year,” Rush said.

Giving the students the chance to express their opinions this way gives them ownership in the music this year, Rush said. It has also shown the diversity in the students and how they celebrate Christmas.

Because of the feedback she has received, Rush has incorporated some Hispanic elements into the program.

“I hope that the families appreciate it. We want to embrace and celebrate that diversity,” Rush said.

One song students said they are most excited for is the Spanish version of “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer,” which many of them already knew. Those who didn’t know it have been learning from Rush’s intern Jaleesa Escott, who has been teaching them the Spanish versions of songs with the help of some of the students.

“It’s giving them the chance to experience something they wouldn’t have otherwise experienced, and it’s so much fun for them,” Escott said.

Being able to sing in different languages is actually a state standard for chorus students, Rush said, so it is serving as a valuable lesson.

Along with the singing there will be speaking parts associated with the songs that explain the traditions behind them and why they are meaningful to the students.

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