By Jim Hagerty
ROCKFORD — There’s something to be said for those who attribute their artistic endeavors when they were young for where ended up as adults.
For the 2017 class of the Rockford Public Schools Fine Arts Hall of Fame, it’s a common theme.
“I am proud of my heritage growing up in Rockford,” composer Jake Runestad said Saturday just before he was inducted into the hall.
A 2004 graduate of Guilford High School, Runestad is now based in Minneapolis. When he’s not home, his schedule is filled as one of the handfuls of people in the United States who makes his living composing and conducting classical music. And the 31-year-old’s resume already speaks for itself. His compositions have been heard at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, Sistine Chapel and the Sydney Opera House, to name a few.
“When we are children, we are encouraged to use our imagination,” he said, “to be writers, to be artists, actors, composers, singers, athletes and comedians—anything we want to do to express ourselves. At some point, our culture nags at us to do away with our creativity in order to fit a prescribed path at normality. I had teachers in Rockford who believed that imagination and creativity were fundamental parts of our development.”
Among those educators is Jim Crow, who was at East High School in 1990 when he assembled football players, cheerleaders and a host of others with a desire to act for a production of Grease.
“The most popular [musicals] from the ’50s was Grease, and everyone wanted to be in it,” Crow said.
The production became the first RPS 205 musical selected for the Illinois High School Theatre Festival. With a cast of 45, it was a festival favorite that year.
Crow was one of only three East staff members tasked with taming the musical that featured 12 different sets. He takes little credit though. Crow directed the show, but the cast and crew made it successful and hall worthy.
“We worked well together,” Crow said.
Kathryn Engel-Terasaki taught in a dozen RPS schools, ending her career as the district’s fine and performing arts coordinator in 2010. Like Crow, “E-T,” as she’s still known, credited her success and 40-year hall-of-fame tenure to her students and the colleagues who help shape them.
“I knew very early what I was born to do,” Terasaki said, recalling the day her sixth-grade teacher suggested she join the ranks. “He planted that seed for me.”
A Golden Apple winner, Terasaki was also received the Rotary’s Outstanding Teaching Award and Rockford’s Special Education Advisory Council’s Race Unity Award. As a performer, she has performed with the Rockford Summer Orchestra, Freeport Summer Orchestra.
Visual artist Mark Adamany, who is currently in the home stretch of large public piece for the City of Woodstock, also humbly downplayed his accomplishments. While he too is among a small percentage of creators who make their living from the craft, his path to success was anything but straight.
After graduating from Rockford College, there was not one, two, but three graduate school rejection letters. Then there was the corporate advertising job that didn’t pan out. That’s when Adamany said he heard the words that changed his life forever. No, they weren’t spoken by a teacher, although he recounted many that were.
His high school days were long behind him by the mid-’90s. And even though peers and mentors held his work in high regard, recent setbacks played havoc on the confidence he once thought would springboard him to the top.
“I really wanted my MFA,” the 1985 Guilford graduate said. “It was a dream. My father sat me down and said, ‘Son, I believe in you. You are a very talented young man with nothing by bright future ahead of you.’ On that very day, my father encouraged me to start my own business.”
Today, Adamany Art & Design is a Rockford staple, and Mark’s national and international awards almost total the number of his public murals. Since 1992, he’s done projects for Rock River Ford, Big Al’s, Beef-A-Roo, City of Belvidere, Peak Fitness and Pepsi to name a few.
The 2016 Rockford Public Schools Fine Arts Hall of Fame inductees were Tom Heflin, Ann Rundall, Kevin Wilson and Marcel Wilson. R.