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RVA East End Festival: The Arts Lifting Up Families and Communities

Strings teacher Jim Thomas knows firsthand how much Chimborazo Elementary and other East End elementary schools need string instruments for their students. “There’s always a need, especially here,” he says.

Thanks to the RVA East End Festival, that need is being addressed. “As a result of the inaugural festival in 2016, East End elementary schools went from seven violins among them to enough instruments for a full classroom set of string instruments in each school,” says the Reverend Marilyn Heckstall, pastor of Asbury Church Hill United Methodist Church and 2018 festival chair.

Since 2016, the event has raised $175,000. Proceeds support the music and visual arts programs at the following city elementary schools: Bellevue, Chimborazo, Fairfield Court, George Mason, and Woodville, as well as Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School, Armstrong High School, and Franklin Military Academy.

“Our goal for 2018 is to exceed $100,000 in proceeds to support cultural arts initiatives in our East End schools,” Heckstall says, adding the 2018 Festival is being held on Friday, May 25, from 5 to 9 p.m., and Saturday, May 26, from noon to 9 p.m. at 17th Street Farmers Market.

The new instruments have been a boon to the students at Chimborazo. “It took the burden off me to find instruments or to repair instruments,” Thomas says.

He’s a strong advocate of music education. “It develops a lot of things cognitively such as sensory integration,” he says. “It develops their mind and their soul.”

When Christie-Jo Adams, K through twelve fine arts instructional specialist for City of Richmond Public Schools, first came to the school system school, music programs could “only have the amount of students as you had instruments in the studio,” she says. “This year we would like to use the money to build on what we have. We are looking at purchasing band instruments. Our goal is to make sure we have enough so we don’t have to tell kids no. We will do repairs this year and replenish where necessary.”

Proceeds have also helped purchases dresses and tuxedos for the Armstrong High School Choir and Franklin Military Academy. Choir students at both schools wore their new outfits at the All City Choral Concert in May. “Their heads were held high,” Adams says. “They looked as amazing as they sounded.”

The festival has also helped provide art supplies. “They purchased art kilns so students can fire clay for projects in each East End elementary school, as well as instruments for Martin Luther King Middle band program,” Adams says.

The event is a “time that all of us can come together and get this opportunity to be part of the foundation of our children’s future,” says Heckstall, praising the support of

Richmond City Councilwoman Cynthia I. Newbille (7th District), who has embraced the vision of giving all of the children opportunities.

“The East End Festival has introduced hundreds of students to all aspects of the cultural arts in their elementary, middle, and high schools,” says Newbille. “It is truly life-changing when students can learn and grow together by experiencing the power of music and the arts.”

The free family-friendly event features arts and musical performances by local professionals along with performances by some of the city’s talented youth musicians, dancers, and visual artists. Food and beverages will be available for sale. Special attractions for kids include Paw Patrol characters, RVA Hoop House, Jenn B-The Balloon Lady, and PBS Kids Ready to Learn.

The event is being made possible through the support of several sponsors that include Bon Secours Richmond Health System.

The Brass Quintet and a String Ensemble from The Richmond Symphony Orchestra will kick off the event on Friday, May 25 at 5 p.m. A full list of artists performing at the festival along with the vendors and exhibitors can be found at

The RVA East End Festival is an inclusive community celebration highlighting the diverse neighborhoods and unique quality of Richmond’s East End. The festival serves as a fundraiser for music education in East End public schools.

[Photos courtesy of Richmond Public Schools]


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Friday, May 25th from 5 to 9pm
Saturday, May 26th from 12 to 9pm

An award-winning writer based in Richmond, Joan Tupponce is a parent, grandparent, and self-admitted Disney freak. She writes about anything and everything and enjoys meeting inspiring people and telling their stories. Joan’s work has appeared in RFM since the magazine’s first issue in October 2009. Look for original and exclusive online articles about Richmond-area people, places, and ideas at Just Joan: RVA Storyteller.

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