Mesa school meets stars, gets instruments - East Valley Tribune: News

Mesa school meets stars, gets instruments

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Posted: Saturday, February 14, 2009 5:52 pm | Updated: 11:06 am, Mon Oct 1, 2012.

This was one Saturday afternoon that eighth-grader Damon Beacham didn't mind going to school. He had a good reason.

This was one Saturday afternoon that eighth-grader Damon Beacham didn't mind going to school. He had a good reason.

An internationally known rapper, his equally famous wife and a superstar athlete visited Mesa Arts Academy Saturday to donate 150 brand-new instruments at a time when any additional funding is music to the cash-strapped charter school's ears.

The stage was set, and Beacham of Mesa was one of the young performers this time.

Rapper Shawn Carter, known as Jay-Z; his wife, singer/actress Beyoncé Knowles, and NBA All-Star LeBron James were among the audience of students and parents who watched two performances, each in honor of the celebrity guests.

School principal Sue Douglas said the donation of instruments came at a vital time for her program.

"It's so easy to drop music, and to drop the arts," she told the audience of more than 200 students and parents, including the three luminary guests. She also issued a guarantee: "We won't."

Sprite donated the instruments in the names of the rapper and basketball player, and as if to add icing on the cake, a check for $10,000 was given to Douglas.

Douglas was near tears. "I keep thinking: Cinderella."

Douglas said the school's performances by a mix of grades in honor of Jay-Z and James were the least they could do in return for more than the gifts and money, but also for the inspiration.

"As educators, we work day and night, but when people of your stature share with them they believe they can do anything," she said, shouting to the children a simple question: "Where are you all going?"

As if a programmed response, the children roared back: "College."

Eighth-grader Cynetra Jones, 14, who was among 11 other performers in a second act in James' honor, danced with a basketball and sang "Get Your Head In The Game," borrowed from the hit move "High School Musical."

Another group of smaller children danced for Jay-Z to his song "Hard Knock Life," wearing dark shades and be-bopping up to the artist who has more than 26 million units sold to his credit.

"It was really fun," Cynetra said. Especially when she posed for pictures in a group of students near the towering James, and didn't realize he was standing right behind her - or that he had touched her shoulder.

"I turned around and I was so happy," she said.

With Jay-Z's obvious connection to music and the arts, the donations and event seemed a more than appropriate match.

But some at the event sat with perplexed expressions as the 6-foot-8 James sat on a diminutive piano stool to watch the children perform.

James said he had a nostalgic connection to the arts.

"I played the drums when I was a kid," he said, adding that his mother quickly put an end to that. "So, I chose football and basketball."

Jay-Z added with a laugh: "Something outside."

On the inside of the auditorium after the performance had ended, and the exorbitant gifts were exchanged, the total price tag of which was not disclosed, the rapper tacked on a nugget of truth he said guided him in his decision to give back.

"Where there's a need ... Mesa today ..." he started. "Wherever there is a need, we want to be involved."

James had a similar sentiment.

"Everything that we do is to try to make a change," he said. "These kids are our future grown-ups."

Jubilantly sitting mere feet from two people he described as his role models, if not idols, Damon clapped vigorously on a day that wasn't necessarily a school day, but one in which he'd learned a lot, nevertheless, he said.

He could scarcely contain his enthusiasm after his performance in honor of James.

"Music makes me lose control," he said, in a good way.

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