History of PGY
In February 1979 Mrs. Annette Hull and Mrs. Dagny Merrill organized a school for performing arts in Los Altos, California. The school “Performing Groups for Youth” included 100 young students ages 3 years to 20 years and was started because of the need for a place for their children to perform, spend time developing their talents, in an atmosphere suitable for growth and development in every area. The school was divided into various groups according to age. Students for the oldest group were selected by audition, as it was to be the select group performing for the public. This group of talented youth became the first Morningstar. Gayle Group of Cupertino and Whit Group of South San Francisco were hired as directors. The younger group did a show at a Los Altos Church center in the spring.
1980 This year was very successful for the younger groups. Morningstar rapidly achieved a level of performing excellence. In June 1980 Morningstar was invited to tour the states of Oregon and Northern California. During this year, the group started to perform their fireside program for church groups at special musical evenings. The tour was very successful.
1981 Two shows were performed in 1981. We did our first Christmas show at Mountain View High School Theater. In the summer, Morningstar took their unique and exciting show on tour through Southern California and to Las Vegas, Nevada. By this year, they had hired Linda Mamone as costume creator, so the show was continuing to become more professional. Gayle Group continued as the creative director with Annette Frazer as choreographer. On September 21, 1981 Performing Groups received its non-profit status with the government.
1982 In 1982 Morningstar was selected to represent the American People on a performing tour of Romania with Friendship Ambassadors. It was a very busy year for Morningstar and the smaller groups. They performed many places including County Fairs, Veteran’s Hospitals, Church and civic events. Morningstar performed for the National Republican Convention in San Francisco in the Fall of 1982. It was an experience that none will every forget. The people were receptive and appreciative of their talents.
1983 The smaller groups performed two shows this year, one in January and one in May. In the summer of 1982 Morningstar toured Mexico and appeared on Mexican National Television for 20 million people. For two weeks they performed in 5 cities of Mexico with an International Exchange School program.
1984 Morningstar returned to Europe with Friendship Ambassadors for a very successful tour of Hungary and Austria. This was the last year for Gayle Lockwood who, with her new husband moved to Utah, and Whit Groo having served five years as a volunteer producer, planned to retire in February, 1984. Each looked back with happy memories of serving with wonderful, selfless parents and of seeing growth in the lives of many outstanding children and youth.
In 1985 a new director was found for Morningstar, Steve Gill of Los Altos. He brought a new professionalism to the group, and with the help of Georgia Marshall (choreographer) and Sharon Davis (musical director), the new show was incredibly successful. The talented young dance company of forty performed on a motif entitled “Working and Dreaming” at the Japan Expo ’85, in Tsukuba, at the Yakutat Air Force Base in Japan, and at Kaohsiung and the Sun Yes-men Memorial Hall in Taipei. Linda Jordon directed the Junior High group, and Pam Hicks directed the younger children (Kids are Music).
In 1986 Steve Gill created a new show and the group went to Spain and England after the plans to go to Russia were changed because of Chernobyl nuclear problem. One of the highlights was doing the fireside at a church, the Hyde Park Ward in England. The younger groups were directed by Linda Jordan. Dagny Merrill directed the tourThe talented young dance company of forty performed on a motif entitled “Working and Dreaming” at the Japan Expo ’85, in Tsukuba, at the Yakutat Air Force Base in Japan, and at Kaohsiung and the Sun Yes-men Memorial Hall in Taipei. Linda Jordon directed the Junior High group, and Pam Hicks directed the younger children (Kids are Music).
In 1987 Sharon Davis and Georgia Marshall took over as directors of the group. The Morningstar group was invited to go to Poland for their tour. The trip was quite an experience, seeing and feeling what the people of Poland were going through at the time.
In 1988, Kieri Merrill was hired to direct the Performing groups for Youth. Kieri was in the original group back in 1980, and had gone on to graduate from Brigham Young University with a bachelor degree in Performing Arts and Directing. That year Morningstar was invited to go to China for our tour. Our talented young people performed for unusually large live audiences (never fewer than 1000, and as many as 5000). During one performance for National Chinese Television, Morningstar brought the “Music of American Magic” to over 48 million viewers throughout China. It was overwhelming, but very exhilarating. Kieri also directed the junior classes in a spring show.
In 1989 with Kieri Merrill still as the director, the group went to Greece, Yugoslavia and Italy for a two week tour. We sang our fireside program for the Athens Church Branch in Greece and the Zagreb Branch in Yugoslavia. The tour was a complete success. The younger classes continued their success as well.
With Kieri Merrill now married to Matt Coombs, a group of 24 Morningstar performers left at the end of June for three weeks in Russia. The show featured musical numbers from various Broadway hits. The group visited and performed the show and the fireside in the Russian and Ukraine provinces, as well as in Leningrad. They also got to perform in Finland. It was great to be able to experience the vast changes occurring there at that time. They also reinstated the younger groups including a new group for Junior high students that performed a country music review throughout the community.
Morningstar went to Venezuela for two weeks. The country was very beautiful, and the people there were very receptive to the group. They performed their fireside three times for the LDS church and did the show seven times. They took a side trip to see the highest waterfall in the world, and swam in the Okinowas River. The junior high group performed a 20’s musical review. Kieri Coombs directed the show, and Dagny Merril directed the tour.
This summer the group went to Israel. Of all the tours, this one was the most inspirational. The highlight of the trip was performing the fireside in Brigham Young University’s Center for Study in Jerusalem. The director this year was Alex Perez. He also has been a member of Morningstar’s original group back in the early 80’s. Kamee Merrill directed the fireside. Morningstar visited all the traditional Christian sites, and performed while overlooking the Sea of Galilee. The junior classes were discontinued temporarily at this point.
This year Morningstar went on a two-week tour of Australia, New Zealand and Fiji. Ironically, the performers thought that Australia would be the most enjoyable place to see, but in the end they all preferred Fiji. They got together with some native dancers and exchanged dance lessons. With Alex Perez sill directing, they enjoyed the tour very much.
With Kieri Coombs and Kahna Andrus directing the tour, they traveled to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. Kahna Andrus was also a former member of Morningstar and she worked with the group every week while Kieri Coombs flew in from her home in Logan, Utah to be with the group two weekends out of the month. Between the two of them and the vocal director, John Jordan, the show was really great. The fireside music was directed by Liz Neil, a very talented musician, who had directed many community and church choirs.
PGY resumed and a group of 26 students traveled to Malaysia and Bali under the direction of Kamee Lyons. With news of Dagny and Kieth Merrill moving out of the area, 1997 was thought to be the final year of PGY. Due to this reason, the show consisted of a PGY Review representing all of the favorite songs that were sung and performed throughout the last 18 years of PGY. Some said it was the best show ever.
PERFORMING GROUPS FOR YOUTH MOVES TO EL DORADO HILLS CALIFORNIA With the move to the Sacramento Area. we began again creating a program for anew generation of performers. January of 2000 we started PGY again. Our first groups were ages 3 years to 11 years old. We did the first show at the Orange Community Center with 27 children. This was where we practiced also. The name of the show was “BE A STAR”. Emily Richards was the director. Dagny did all the costumes and played the piano.
January we did our second show with about 38 kids at the Sutter Jr. High in Folsom. The name of the show was “MUSIC MAGIC ”. Emily Richards was the director. Dagny did the costumes and music. Then we did a May show at the same place. The show was called ”COMING TO AMERICA” a patriotic tribute to the victims of 9/11.
The winter show was in January. The show was called “I LOVE A BROADWAY SHOW”. We hired a new director, but it didn’t work out so Kaele Porter decided to direct: but in the end we Kieri Coombs here to finish the show. We did the show at the Hamilton’s Green Valley Mortuary. We barely fit in as we had grown to 45 students. Then with Kieri here we did the May Show at the Folsom High School with 60 students. The name of the show was “SEIZE THE DAY”. Dana Hill played the piano for it. We were still practicing at Orangevale Community Center, so we were anxious to have our own place so with the establishment of a Marble Valley School facility - we now had a home for PGY
Meanwhile PGY was growing. We did our January show at Oakridge High School. The name of the show was ”BORN TO ENTERTAIN” Kieri continued to add a level of professionalism to the show. Linda Stocker played the piano for it. In May we did the show “SING, SING, SING” which did music from the 20’s, 30’s 40’s, 50’s, 60’s etc. We now had 110 PGY students. We started a junior High (Broadway Bound) performing group with 10 boys and 10 girls, with the goal of performing in the community. We did a Christmas PGY show in December at the Golden Hills School The name of the show was ” SING NOEL”.
In the Spring we did a PGY show “JOURNEY AROUND THE WORLD” for the Junior Show and “JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA” for the Senior Show at the Golden Hills School, and Broadway Bound, our jr. high company did “Flashback” – a 50’s musical review. We also offered a summer school for the Preschoolers. The year for the school went very well. In the fall we had 11 preschoolers, 80 elementary, 125 PGY.. The school was going well.
In the winter our PGY shows were “DISNEY MAGIC” for the Junior Show and “DISNEY ON STAGE” for the Senior Show. I think the show was one of our best shows and the costumes were just amazing created by D’Anne Robbins. In the spring we did “KIDS THAT DREAT” at the Golden Hills School. We had a summer session for preschoolers as well as the elementary. In the fall we started school with 90 students, 102 Preschoolers and 120 in PGY. School now went up to 8th grade.
In January we did our shows at the new Folsom Theater. The junior show was “MUSIC OF TIN PAN ALLEY,” and senior show was Broadway through the years.” We had huge audiences and 150 PGY performers. We had a Day on the Green the last day of school with races and games. In the summer we only had school for preschoolers. In May we did the show “SEIZE THE DAY” in the Folsom Theater, again. Classes started in the fall 172 PGY members. We also re-instigated the highschool performance company Morningstar. They took their show – an American muscic review, to Costa Rica for 10 very successful days . The group of 12 boys and 12 girls performed 4 times and did the fireside twice. Costa Rica was a beautiful place.