E3: Engage. Experience. Explore. presents Story Pirates in the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods. Photo Credit: Mike Bloom

This year was riddled with moments in which I was inspired by our future. It’s filled with talent and humor and personality and vulnerability and willingness and approachability and joy. Back in May, participants of Bethel Wood’s PI: Photography program spent the evening in the green rooms, behind the scenes, and in the audience, documenting a cappella groups from five local high schools singing their hearts out for a visibly moved and appreciative audience in The Event Gallery. We invaded local elementary schools this past Spring with our E3: Engage. Experience. Explore. programming presenting Story Pirates, where I ran into Mr. Gloddich, the musical director for the Eldred contingency, who organized the a cappella evening. I also got ecstatic waves and spontaneous hugs from participants in our Saturdays at the Woods program completely confused, but delighted by our presence in their schools. I was approached by two teachers whose teens are in our PI: Photography program, sharing how excited they AND their adolescents were about the experience. I had the pleasure of so many teachers, parents, and administrators approaching me to say how glad they were to see all that Bethel Woods was doing, and being able to respond that they were just catching up with a long history of our reaching out, digging in, and striving to celebrate all the wonder that is going on around us – stemming from our young people!

A Cappella group performing in the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods. Photo Credit: Heather Roeder

I was a newcomer to Bethel Woods and Sullivan County this year, moving in last September, and am hardly responsible for what has been going on for quite some time, but am so honored to be in a position to keep it moving forward with the support of an exquisite team of people committed to inspiring, educating, and empowering EVERYONE through the arts and humanities. The magic of today… this week… months… year… future? is that such a diverse array of expression – song, sculpture, creative writing, attendance, play – wove such an amazing fabric of connections! Siblings cheering on older brothers; teen participants from past programming supporting girlfriends sharing their voice; teachers taking on their role as parent to keep the learning and growing happening beyond the classroom walls; colleagues ignoring the 13 hour day behind them and genuinely ensuring that our “family” gets the best out of the effort they’ve made to be there; production personnel taking notes on professional considerations to be taken into account at our next critique; community was evident and strengthened throughout the past year.

A Cappella group performing in the Event Gallery at Bethel Woods. Photo Credit: Asia Calabrese-Lewis

Pentatonix, a Sam Smith medley, a Billy Joel sing-a-long, “Happy,” and more were interpreted by over 50 young people out to prove that they have something to say last Spring. They have something to say to which it is worth us taking a listen. This was all documented with camera snaps and video snags from every corner by aspiring photographers who looked for the moment, the look, the story in all that was happening. And there was a lot going on… and it was good.

The future is looking brighter and they were focusing in on it. May we all be inspired to do the same.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what the young people share with us in the year ahead. Tune in… They’ve got a lot to say… and they’re alright.