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Shining Light on Teen Art: Annual Festival Returns (in Person!) to Inspire and Delight

Shining Light on Teen Art: Annual Festival Returns (in Person!) to Inspire and Delight

On Friday, May 19, hundreds of high school and middle school students will flock to Bergen Community College for the 48th annual Bergen County Teen Arts Festival. There’s an extra buzz around this year’s event because it will once again be in person after going virtual during the pandemic. 

Of all the loss we have experienced over the last couple of years, music and the arts were among the most palpably felt. Their absence highlighted just how essential they are to society and everyday life.  

Though all who participated online the last two years were grateful for the opportunity to showcase their talent, there’s nothing quite like experiencing this festival together in real life.  

Dr. Kimberly Burja, the Director of Bands at Tenafly Middle School, is beyond thrilled about the comeback. “It is truly one of my favorite days of the school year, and I get to share it with my fellow arts educators and students. We are so glad to be back in person!” 

Participating student Carson Park, a trumpeter from Tenafly Middle School, has only attended the festival virtually. He sees music as a source of connection, and looks forward to playing live. “Being in person will elevate the whole experience and be more fun,” he said. 

Carson Park

This year, Carson has paired up with a friend and fellow trumpet player to perform a selection of classical and jazz tunes for adjudicator Richard Chiandusse, a music education clinical supervisor at William Paterson University. 

Chiandusse is a true supporter of youth arts. So much so that, when the brass ensemble ran into technical difficulties during their online presentation last year, he made it a point to visit them at the school and provide thoughtful feedback. 

The festival strives to engage each student at a deeper level of artistry and professionalism, so for a full day, the college campus will be taken over by live performances, exhibits, and workshops spanning a wide range of the arts, including dance, music, and creative writing.  

When not performing themselves, these bright and motivated students will get a chance to make new friends and learn a new skill in or outside their main discipline. Sessions offered include manga drawing, photography, and all kinds of dance, to name a few. 

This will be perfect for the multi-passionate, multi-instrumentalist Calen Bae, another eighth grader at Tenafly Middle School. Though the flute is her main instrument, she plays the cello and piano for fun, and also dabbles in painting. She looks forward to attending some creative art sessions to learn new techniques for her hobby.  

Calen Bae

Teen Arts happens year after year because of the unwavering support of each school’s administration and staff. Tenafly Middle School principal John Fabbo, for example, always covers the participation fee and transportation costs for their students.  

This collective passion and commitment to the arts helps make this festival one of the best in the county. It’s difficult to fathom the long-lasting and far-reaching effect that will be created by pouring into our youths’ talent and imagination, but we can hardly wait to see and hear it. 


Photos by Susie Bae and Soojin Son

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