One music teacher's determined attitude and positive ideas came to fruition Tuesday afternoon at Ackerman School's winter program.
Teacher Anthony Volkman wanted to put on and involve his students in a winter program, which is the first ever full-fledged winter play for the school.
While other schools take the idea of an annual winter show for granted, the same could not be said for Ackerman. Ackerman is part of St. Louis' Special School District, serving students whose needs cannot be addressed in the regular school system.
While these needs typically pertain to education, counseling and those of a physical nature, Volkman believed their schooling should be about more than just the basics.
"Working with such a diverse group of children with such challenging needs, I wanted to give them something bright and spark their imaginations," Volkman said. "I wanted to give them something to be created with. So, I started out with the idea of a missing light bulb and went from there."
His idea blossomed into "Winter Lights." The play revolves around a school of toys getting ready for the winter holidays by decorating their school with lights and bows. However, a Lonesome Toy is sad because his wind up key is missing, and the other toys won't play with him. He wants everyone else to be as sad as he is for the holidays and takes a bulb from the tree, so the lights will no longer work.
Volkman and his cast have been working on the play since the second week of October. Volkman met each of the school's classrooms three times a week for half an hour. During that time, he's been having the students practice their parts. No easy feat when the play features 125 students helped by 90 staff and volunteers.
"Without the dedicated workers of the special school district, this would not happen," Volkman said.
Families also were more than willing to help out. Parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents joined to make sure their children had a great time.
"Everything we do, the kids of capable of with just a little help. We want them all to feel a sense of accomplishment," Volkman said.
Principal Kelly Grigsby was more than happy to give Volkman control over the entire school for the production.
"I just told him to do his best to stay inclusive, include as many holidays as possible and all the students, and just go forth and prosper," Grigsby said.
Volkman performed the show in front of a packed cafeteria on Tuesday afternoon. Parents and staff were encouraged to join along as the students led everyone in song and the true meaning of the holidays.
As for the Lonesome Toy, he found his wind up key in Volkman's piano. In return, he gave back the missing bulb, granting a happy holidays for all through family and music.
"Music asks nothing other than that we listen, and if I can get one child to listen and enjoy music, then I've done my job," Volkman said after the show.