Priceless perspectives

Outside hires bring professionalism to Fine Arts


Fine Arts Experts : Outside hires Marla Lampert (bottom right), Mike Vilches (left), and Dave Levit (top right) bring new ideas to South’s Fine Arts Department. The three direct V-Show, lead percussion groups, and work on sound design, repsectively, and all have additional jobs outside of working at South. Photos courtesy of Marla Lampert, Mike Vilches, and Dave Levit

Sloane Shabelman, co-a&e editor

From killer kicklines to phenomenal percussionists, students are led to excellence by numerous staff in the Fine Arts Department who only use their talents at South part-time, but also work  in professional settings elsewhere.

Marla Lampert, professional choreographer and co-director of South’s annual V-Show, has worked on shows at regional theaters in Chicago and New York, as well as theaters internationally. Although she said it can be difficult not to work with students full-time, Lampert believes her work outside of South makes her more appreciative of the time she spends here.

“It’s challenging when I don’t understand the school day, or when I don’t know all of the students [like] the full time teachers do, but it also gives me such a fun and fresh perspective,” Lampert said. “It is fantastic to work with these talented students at this school that is so supportive of the fine arts program.”

Dave Levit, sound designer and engineer, also recognizes the unique opportunities working at South provides him. As the owner of Acutrak Solutions, a concert sound, lighting, and production company, Levit was not familiar with collaborating with students before he began working with South in 1995. Since then, Levit has worked  for various productions, including the V-Show and several plays, he said.

“[Working at South] has been [really educational] for me,” Levit said. “I have a great deal of certification in various aspects of sound and acoustics, but my position here at South is very different because there’s an instructional aspect to it.”

Although teaching was something new for Levit, he is grateful for the relationships he has formed with students and the way they have shaped his career over the years, Levit added.

“Some of my favorite memories involve the students I’ve worked with,” Levit said. “I have some that I’ll never forget and we’re still in touch, and that means a lot to me. They’re very important in my career, and I consider that a huge win.”

Mike Vilches, percussion captain head and South alum, said he values the time he gets to spend working with dedicated and talented students in percussion ensembles. Vilches also teaches private music lessons and plays for various drum lines and bands in the area, but the fact that he is at South only once or twice a week has never made him feel like an outsider, he explained.

The community [at South], especially in Fine Arts, is very welcoming to [those who work] full time, part time, quarter time, whatever it [may] be,” Vilches said. “My favorite part is that I get to work with kids that are really dedicated to something that they love to do every day, and it makes me happy to see them succeed.”

Lampert tries to add a level of professionalism to South’s V-Show by using techniques and skills she has learned working on other shows. The most important thing is how students are treated throughout the entire process, she explained.

“I truly believe that if you treat everyone, students or professionals, as professionals they will rise to the occasion,” Lampert said. “I try to run everything from auditions to rehearsals in a professional way.” 

Cody Halberstadt, Fine Arts Department Instructional Supervisor, appreciates the professionalism outside hires are able to bring to various performances and groups at South, he said.

“We’re really fortunate, being so close to the city of Chicago, that we have tremendous access to some of the world’s best professionals in their area,” Halberstadt said. “Having [outside hires] with such an incredible depth of knowledge in specific areas is a tremendous asset for our students and for our staff.”