Homeschoolers share their talents: FastTrack talent show held at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home

April Borgelt performs a song with her children Evie, 5, and Elijah, 4, on May 8 during a Tea and Talent show at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home. Staff photo by Dustin Safranek

Ketchikan School District’s FastTrack homeschoolers performed in a talent show on the afternoon of May 8 at the Ketchikan Pioneer Home.

As senior residents and the Pioneer Home preschoolers waited in the broad, sunny room at tables decorated with paper flowers, FastTrack Coordinator Lori Ortiz welcomed attendees, and introduced the first performer, Ema Oshima.

Oshima, a high schooler who said she’d grown up in Japan, welcomed those gathered both in Japanese and English. She said she would be performing a dance portraying a young girl anticipating her first date with a boy.

“She’s really, really excited and thinking about ‘Oh, what can we do?’” Oshima said.  

She then performed a bubbly, swinging dance to a Japanese-language song before announcing that she had another talent she wanted to share that afternoon.

“My other passion, other than dancing, is drawing,” she said.

Oshima, who won a first-place award at this year’s Hummingbird Festival for her color drawing titled, “Air Mail,” told attendees that at their request, she’d come to their tables to draw their portraits in “Japanese cartoon style.”

Oshima also is one of seven artists featured in the Ketchikan Area Arts and Humanities Council’s “Pop-up Gallery” project. Oshima’s gallery is on exhibit at First Bank downtown through May 31.

As Oshima moved to the first table to request a portrait, Ortiz introduced the next act.

April Borgelt settled on a chair with her guitar as her 4-year-old son Elijah Borgelt pressed against her, and her 5-year-old daughter Evie Borgelt joined them. They started with the song “Zip-a-Dee-Do-Dah” from the Walt Disney 1946 “Song of the South” movie.

For their next song, April Borgelt stood to play “Echo,” by the Okee Dokee Brothers. Evie Borgelt caused a ripple of smiles and quiet “Aw” remarks across the audience when she broke out, with a clear voice, an echoing “yodel-ay-ee-hoo” in response to her mother’s refrain.

The final act in the talent show was a brother-sister pair — William Hout, a fifth-grader, and Anna Hout, a ninth-grader — who performed a puppet show with their handmade puppets.

Preschoolers and seniors alike broke into laughter as the puppets “stepped” up to their curtain “stage,” behind which the Houts managed them. The puppets waved to and posed for the audience members as Ortiz introduced their act.

The puppets danced to a medley of old tunes, including “Twist and Shout,” “Stand by Me,” and “Feelin’ Groovy.”

The Houts siblings, as well as third-grader Mason Willett, had started creating their puppets in early March in a homeschool class taught by Ortiz and Ketchikan High School art teacher Louise Kern. Willett was not able to attend Wednesday’s event.

In an earlier class, Willett said he was enjoying building his puppet out of paper mache because he likes painting and drawing. He explained the process of making the puppets, with a partial plastic milk jug for the body, nylon stockings stuffed with fiberfill for the arms, and a paper mache head and neck.

William Hout and Anna Hout, working nearby on their puppets, both said  they were especially enjoying the paper mache process.

Long-time puppeteer and teacher Laurie Gillett attended a class session on May 2 to coach the Houts, who were the only puppeteer students in class that day, on how to make their puppets come to life.

By that time, the puppets had blossomed from milk-jug and plain painted paper mache balls to full-blown characters. Anna Houts’ character was a grinning girl with sparkling braids and long, swinging bangs. William Houts’ boy puppet wore a driving cap, a grin and mischievous eyes.

Gillett summed up the core of her message as she coaches as, “I have them think about human behavior and what kinds of things we do as people,” she said. “That puppet becomes an extension of you.”

She also warns new puppeteers that it isn’t very easy to control a puppet with one’s arms in the air for long periods of time.

“Puppets are not for sissies,” she said. “It’s unbelievably hard work.”

As the Hout sibling puppets finished their final song and took a bow, the applause grew as they were urged to come around the curtain to meet the audience.

As the show came to a close, with attendees finishing up snacks, they passed around a color drawing that Oshima presented as a gift to the Pioneer Home.

“Today, I have drawn a special guardian angel for everyone,” Oshima announced.