At their February 12, 2018 meeting, the Beresford School Board gave their unanimous support and officially named the future Performing Arts Center, the Grace Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Mrs. Grace (Kylling) Kennedy was born with the gift of music. She recognized, appreciated, and shared this gift throughout her life. She began taking piano lessons when she was five years old and regularly played for church services as a young girl. As a student at Beresford High School, Grace sang in the choir and also with a barbershop quartet which sang for many regional festivals and celebrations. She was a debater and especially enjoyed her role as the sports editor for the Beresonian. Perhaps this is where she learned to love watching football games.
After graduation from Beresford High School in 1947, Grace enrolled at St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. Here her piano performance skills rose to a level of expertise. She continued to refine her debate skills and was proud to win a national competition in Norwegian oratory. Graduating with degrees in music and English, Grace was eager to start her teaching career at East Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa. After one year, she returned home to Beresford.
For 35 years Mrs. Kennedy taught high school English, declam, speech, and K-12 vocal music in Beresford. Under her direction, the concert choir, and numerous ensembles and solos received consistent superior ratings at regional competitions. She produced the first show choir at Beresford High School, directed ten musicals, and began the tradition of the Spring Talent Show. In appreciation for her accomplishments, Mrs. Kennedy was named 'Teacher of the Year' in 1992.
During the early years of her career at BHS, Grace earned her Master's Degree in Music Education from the University of South Dakota, taking classes during the summer and at night.
Music was a cornerstone of Grace's life. She shared her musical gifts with Emmanuel Lutheran Church and Romsdal Church as organist, and she directed the Emmanuel Lutheran Choir for decades. She celebrated her 80th birthday by hosting a piano recital where she played her favorite hymns and melodies for a full church—with her oxygen tank resting beside her on the piano bench. She gave countless piano lessons. Her last was given the day before her final hospitalization.
Throughout her life, Mrs. Kennedy was grateful for her talent, and she was committed to sharing her gifts joyfully, with her family, her students and her community.
Grace raised five children—Ann, Jane, Kim, Lee, and Steven—all graduates of Beresford High School. The late Mrs. Grace Kennedy was inducted into the inaugural Watchdog Hall of Fame Class of 2017 in the Fine Arts pillar during Homecoming weekend on September 9, 2017.
Performing Arts Center Elements and Uses
The Grace Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will include a 750 seat theater with 600 seats on the main floor and 150 seats in the balcony. The theater will include a 75’ fly loft and grid for staging sets, as well as wings to enhance performances. The layout of the theater will include natural acoustics along with a high quality sound, lighting, and technology system, along with a modified orchestra pit. The theater will include comfortable seating and adequate row spacing.
The stage will be able to accommodate a 100 piece band, as well as elementary, middle school, and high school vocal music and band concerts, in addition to talent shows and dance recitals. The Grace Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will be utilized for our high school all-school plays, one act plays, improv, musicals, theater classes as well as middle school musicals and children’s theater. The Center will be used by the Beresford Area Arts for productions that include plays, musicals, dinner theater, concerts, traveling shows, and other special events.
The Grace Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will also be used for films, lectures, student orientation, student assemblies, staff in-service, Community Outreach for Youth and Families events, corporate events, Veterans’ Day program, Memorial Day program, and other school and community events as well.
Excerpts from Mrs. Jane Carlson at the
Watchdog Legacy Project Community Presentation
The daughter of Mrs. Grace Kennedy and also a former Beresford educator and director of theater and musicals, and now Beresford Area Arts member Mrs. Jane Carlson spoke at the May 12 Watchdog Legacy Project Community Presentation and following were some excerpts from her testimony.
“I’m grateful to live in a community where the fine arts are given priority in our school. Our administration and our teachers share the belief that participation in the fine arts grants students the power to become balanced human beings who can create, imagine, innovate, and express emotion. We celebrate BHS graduates who have gone on to make a living doing what they love through performing, directing, designing, writing and producing. Certainly, not all of our graduates will choose fine arts as a career. However, many will call on their background in the arts as they sing and play instruments in church choirs, accept roles in community theater, tell stories and teach poetry to their children, organize and communicate ideas, and even dance at weddings! They will joyfully pass the treasures of our culture onto the next generation so that “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” “Purple mountain majesties,” the two step, and even the tale of that billy goat under the bridge will live on. This is a powerful responsibility!”
“Under the teaching of Dr. Merriman, Miss Ayres, Mr. LeMaster, Mrs. Saugstad, Mrs. Sanderson, and Dr. Beuchler, our students are in good hands, but the students and teachers of our school district need and deserve an updated facility. It has become increasingly difficult to meet today’s technical, spacial, and scheduling demands using a gym stage which was designed and built when Eisenhower was our president.”
With your support, the Watchdog Legacy Project and the Grace Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will be given a voice. As a hub of the fine arts for this region it will loudly proclaim, “We believe in the power of the arts, we believe in the potential of Beresford as we move from good to great, but most of all, we value our students and our teachers, and we trust them with our high expectations.”
“Together, let’s lift up those musicians, directors, artists, and storytellers who have trusted us to carry on their legacy. Now is our time to show, not tell, that we are willing and excited to “set the stage” for excellence today and for generations to come.”