'Idol' alum returns for Heritage benefit - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Voices

'Idol' alum returns for Heritage benefit

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Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms. Contact her at mreese@evtrib.com

Michelle Reese covered education for the Tribune, also blogging about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms.

Posted: Thursday, December 22, 2011 1:22 pm | Updated: 3:34 pm, Tue Aug 20, 2013.

Brooke White apologizes.

Then I apologize.

We’ve been playing phone tag. Apparently the Arizona reporter and the Arizona-now-living-in-California singer have forgotten about the time difference that happens between these two states sometimes.

So we’re going to try to chat between her next interview and recording for her latest Jack and White EP, and my trip to run last-minute holiday errands.

Sometimes, life catches up to you.

“I’m coming back home for Christmas,” White says. “I’ve been there eight times since October. I have been possibly in Arizona more than I’ve been home in California.”

Yup, the holidays are here.

But the “American Idol” finalist, recording artist and soon-to-be mom doesn’t want to miss out on holidays with family, a 10-year high school reunion and a chance to keep a promise.

For several years, White says, she’s talked to her high school history teacher, Rick Dalton at Mesa’s Heritage Academy, about putting on a benefit concert for the charter school, one similar to a concert Dalton put on while White was a student there.

That concert was done in memory of a fellow student who died from leukemia, White says. Student groups performed, some putting together bands just for the event.

“That was first time we did a concert in his memory. I was 18,” White recalls. “(Dalton) really wanted to re-create that.”

Dalton asked her a few times if it could be done during her holidays visits.

“The craziness of my life wouldn’t allow it. I said, this time around, we’re going to make this work,” White says. “With it being 10 years and the reunion, it just all came together.”

So at 7 p.m. Dec. 30, current and former students of the Heritage Academy will come together again on stage at Mesa Arts Center. The second part of the concert will be White performing her material with her band, followed by new songs from Jack and White.

Heritage is where White got her start as a musician. In her first musical audition, she landed the lead.

Dalton saw potential in the young teen and suggested she learn guitar. Dalton was her instructor.

“That first benefit concert, she sang in our band,” Dalton says.

So now, she’s coming around again.

“Headlining the concert, that’s important because of her name,” Dalton says. “She’ll hopefully fill up the seats for us to raise money for the school. She’s donating her time. The band is donating its time. It’s a generous offer.”

The school is funded like other public schools in Arizona — on a per student basis. And that core amount has shrunk as the state has grappled with declining revenues.

Dalton said funds are needed in several areas, including upgrading the sound system in the auditorium and buying new science equipment.

“Although we are the state champions in football, we don’t have our own football field,” he said.

The school wants to sign a long-term lease on a field somewhere.

The 600 seventh- through 12th-grade students will appreciate whatever comes to the campus, he said.

“We have amazing talent that comes through here,” Dalton notes of the students in the orchestra, band, jazz band, choral groups and more.

White talks about her time at Heritage: “It wasn’t until I was there and tried out for ‘Meet Me in St. Louis,’ that I had ever sung at all. I’ll kind of go full circle, go back there and hopefully put on a great show at an incredible venue.”

“I was so involved at Heritage. It helped me develop myself and my talents. It was the perfect place to go. My graduating class was so tiny, less than 50 kids. We didn’t have football. We had bowling and golf. I know they’re trying to expand and create more in that department and create more opportunities in other subjects … While they’re still maintaining that personal attention and smaller number, they’re still trying to give kids the experience you want to have in high school. It’s right down in the heart of Mesa at the center of it all. I made that drive so many times. It’ll be kind of weird, sentimental, nostalgic. I haven’t been there in a while. It’s unbelievable to think that was 10 years ago.”

Tickets can be purchased through the school’s website at hamesa.com.

Michelle Reese covers education for the Tribune and blogs about motherhood and family issues at http://blogs.evtrib.com/evmoms. Contact her at (480) 898-6549 or mreese@evtrib.com.

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