Fairfield Ledger

Mt. Pleasant News   Wash Journal
Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 16, 2018

Coming-Home concert this weekend

Acts with Fairfield roots to perform Friday, Saturday
Jul 26, 2017
Jim Edgeton

The Fairfield Arts & Convention Center will host the third annual Coming Home–Coming Together concert at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

The benefit concert includes more than 20 local artists who reside in the area or who are coming back for this special occasion. Fairfield has produced many talented performing artists, from vocalists to dancers, who are now following careers in the performing arts or enjoying the arts as an avocation. The concert also will introduce the public to talented artists being nurtured by the community.

The talent lineup is composed of performers and acts who are donating their time and talents in appreciation of the encouragement received here in Fairfield and in support of the arts center and Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts. All proceeds from the concert will be donated to the arts center.

Sally Denney has returned to produce and direct the concert. Denney is a former Fairfield elementary teacher and a member of the arts center’s board of directors. Assisting her are friends of the center Jim Edgeton and Myron Gookin.

This year is going to be just as great at the years past according to Denney.

“Coming Home–Coming Together 2016 was an outstanding success last year and this year will be no different,” she said. “This concert provides an opportunity for family and friends in Fairfield to enjoy the talents of these acts, who represent but a fraction of the talented artists who got their starts in our community. We are three years in, and I’m having no trouble getting new performers involved.”

Denney said the performers are delighted to have a chance to give back to their hometown and to donate their time and talents to the theater.

“They are generously helping us to maintain and improve this facility for future generations of performers,” she said. “We even have a great start on the 2018 acts and artists. Fairfield is not short on talent!”

Tickets for the concert are $20 for adults and $10 for students. Tickets are available at the arts center’s ticket office, by calling 472-2787 or by visiting www.fairfieldacc.com.

The performers and their biographies supplied by the arts center follow:

• Jim Edgeton II graduated from FHS with the Class of 1974.  He now lives in Fairfield with his wife LeAnne, our “accompanist extraordinaire” for the show.

“I have been involved in music throughout my education from elementary school through graduate school,” he said. “I attended college as a music major and have been involved in instrumental music as a high school band instructor since 1978. I returned to Fairfield in 1992 to teach instrumental music at Fairfield High School. Along with teaching at the high school, I was also the musical director for almost all of the Fairfield Area Community Theater’s musicals since 1993 to 2015.”

• LeAnne Edgeton graduated from Harvard, Illinois, High School in 1973, but has lived in Fairfield since 1992 with her husband, Jim. She works at Cambridge Investment Research as an Associate Director in the Partner Support Center. She has her Masters in Music Performance degree from Southern Methodist University. LeAnne is very involved in music here in Fairfield, playing the piano for many events and organizations, including the initial “Coming Home” concert in 2015. Her sons (Jim, a 2006 graduate of FHS, and Jon, a 2008 graduate of FHS) are both married and living in Iowa. They both performed in “Coming Home 2015” as well.

• John Schirmer is not an FHS grad, but he has been playing good music in Fairfield for years. He attended Arthur Hill High School in Saginaw, Michigan, and graduated in 1965. He is an artist specializing in wood block prints, which he has been marketing through art fairs around the country, including here in Fairfield, for 40 years.

“Performing arts has always been a love of mine,” Schirmer said. “I have been playing in bands since I was 20 and I shall continue playing until I’ve played every lick known to man.”

• Sheryl Carlson Payne graduated from FHS in 1968 and lives in Fairfield with her husband Jeff. She got her start as a singer with her brother Mike’s band when they were in high school.

“I remember performing in the good old days for dances in the FHS girls’ gym,” Payne recalled. “Parsons College was at its peak and we never ran out of gigs to play there. I am grateful to have had the privilege to perform with some of Fairfield’s finest musicians and now for having the Stephen Sondheim Center for the Performing Arts.”

• Mary Rose Kitch graduated from FHS in 1978, and teaches in the Fairfield Community School District.

“I loved being involved in junior high and high school theater productions!” Kitch exclaimed. “They helped me find my ‘identity’ and filled a need in me to be a part of the arts. I saw my first theater performance when I was a young grade schooler at Pleasant Plain Elementary. Our elementary class attended an FHS children’s theater performance. I was in awe. This was another wonderful part of my education in Fairfield schools. Now I have the chance to inspire young people in the same district where I was so richly inspired!”

• Dakota Webber graduated from FHS in 2015 and is continuing her education at the University of Northern Iowa.

“Right now, music is very important in my life and, as of right now, may not play a huge role but will in the near future,” Webber said. “I play small gigs as they come up and I continue to write songs. After I get my degree, I plan to move out to Nashville and pursue a serious career in music and hope to become a well known performing artist or become a song writer.”

Webber said Fairfield music teachers such as Jim Edgeton, Zach Reiter and Mary Andersen, and FHS alumnus and country artist Mitch Goudy, have all been major influences on her.

“Music and all other forms of art are so incredibly important in society today and need to be embraced by more communities,” she said. “Fairfield does an amazing job of supporting the arts and I’m proud to say I do come from a community like Fairfield.”

• Rodger Gillaspie graduated from FHS in 1960, and lives here with his wife Sandy.

“Participating in the performing arts is something that I enjoy, and believe I can still make a contribution to the groups I perform with,” Gillaspie commented. “These include the First Presbyterian Church, where I’ve been a member since 1964. The person most instrumental in encouraging me to participate in vocal music was Jane Ruby. Jane was my choir director at FHS, at FHS, placed me in the Madrigal Singers, found a part for me in the FHS production of ‘Annie Get Your Gun,’ and successfully guided my auditions for the Iowa All State Chorus.”

Following retirement from the 34th Army Band, Gillaspie performed in several bands such as The Southeast Iowa Band, The Fairfield Municipal Band, The Iowa Military Veteran’s Band, The Tarnished Brass and The Fairfield Big Band.

• Chris Davis was born and raised in Fairfield, graduating from FHS in 1975. He started singing at a young age in the First United Methodist Choir, where he is still a member. Davis sang in the High School All State Chorus in Ames in 1974 and 1975. He also sang and preformed in a Barbershop Quartet.

After high school, Davis attended college at Iowa State University where he also sang in the choir. He has sung at many weddings, funerals, in various quartets and other musical groups through the years.

• Myron Gookin graduated from FHS with the Class of 1976. He lives in Fairfield with his wife Ann, and serves as an Iowa District Court Judge in the Eighth Judicial District.

“I’ve been a fan of the arts, especially music, my entire life,” Gookin said. “I once dreamed of being a professional musician! I grew up with music at home and opportunities to experience the arts. My wife grew up in the same atmosphere and she’s a very good pianist and vocalist. We tried to raise our children in the same atmosphere. As a family, we have enjoyed concerts and musical theater all over the U.S., abroad and here in Fairfield.”

• Gerry Runyon is a 1977 graduate of Harmony High School in Farmington. He is a technical specialist for Advanced Systems Inc.  Although not an FHS grad, Runyon has played an important role in the music scene in Fairfield for years.

“Music has always been the driving force in my life,” he noted. “It has allowed me to go places and meet and interact with people I likely would have never had the chance to meet. The Fairfield area has always been my home away from home, at least since 1983, and I have been lucky enough to have been a part of a large number of the music events in this community since that time.”

• Xavier Kessel is the son of Alex and Christie Davis Kessel and part of a very musical family. He will be starting fourth grade this fall at Pence Elementary School. He has been taking piano and voice lessons for three years and loves to sing.

• Christie Davis Kessel graduated from FHS in 1996. She participated in many high school Fairfield Area Community Theatre productions over the years such as “Oklahoma,” “Aladdin,” and “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.”

After high school, she sang in the Women’s Choir at the University of Iowa. She is married to Alex Kessel and they have three children: Xavier, 9. Vanessa, 7, and Valerie, 2. She works in her family business at Davis & Palmer Real Estate with her parents Chris and Deb Davis.

• Terri Kness graduated from FHS in 2000 and is now the Jefferson County Treasurer. Kness is part of a musical family, performing this weekend with her dad, Chris Davis, her sister Christie Kessel, and her nephew, Xavier.

“I get to sing on occasion, most often for funerals as of late, so it’s nice to have a venue that is a little more upbeat!” Kness remarked.

• Alex Rebling graduated from FHS in 2010. He teaches sixth and seventh grade English Language Arts at Pekin Community School District. He serves in the Iowa Army National Guard and plays in the 34th Army Band.

“As I was growing up, music and speech team were always an important factor,” he said. “Being able to play music and sing with my best friends and also act in different roles with them are some of my fondest memories. Even today, I still get the chance to be a musician with the 34th Army Band right here in Fairfield. I’m very blessed to have had such great music teachers and directors that gave me the skills necessary to become the actor and musician that I am.”

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