She studied musical theater at Syracuse University and drama therapy at New York University, yet Sara Stock Mayo credits a middle-grade arts school with helping prepare her for a performer's career.
Pittsburgh Rogers 6-8 in Garfield gave her confidence and recognition, two important commodities to a budding performer.
"I think, too often when you're an arts kid, you get a little bit lost in a public school," said Ms. Stock Mayo, who attended Rogers in the mid-1980s and now is cantorial soloist and music director at Temple Sinai in Squirrel Hill.
Depending on one's perspective, either the curtain is falling on Rogers' 30-year run or the next act in the Rogers story begins next school year, when it merges with the Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, Downtown. Rogers students are marking the change with one last musical extravaganza at the Garfield building from 12:30 to 5 p.m. tomorrow.
Exhibits and mini-performances showcasing the visual arts, theater, creative writing, stagecraft, dance, communications and media arts will be featured throughout the building. A main performance with students and alumni begins at 2 p.m. in the auditorium.
"The main message is that even though we're moving, we're still shining," Tony Dixon, dance teacher and program director, said. Though Rogers won't be part of the merged school's name, the magnet "is not closing, it's moving," he said.
Sarah Kennedy, an eighth-grader who will help to emcee the 2 p.m. show, said Rogers has helped her grow so much as a dancer that she hardly recognizes herself on videos of her sixth-grade performances.
"I think it's a great way to start off a career," said Sarah, who hopes to study dance at Julliard.
Saturday's activities are open to the public without charge. From 12:15 to 1:45 p.m. and from 3:30 to 5 p.m., the Pittsburgh Public Schools will operate a free parking shuttle between Rogers and the Sunnyside school building in Stanton Heights.
Ms. Stock Mayo and fellow Rogers alumna Erin Halloran, a principal dancer with the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, have been invited to speak. Ms. Stock Mayo yesterday recalled making the rounds of the city with Melody Mates, a student ensemble, and staging a production of "You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown."
"I got to play Lucy," she said.
Pittsburgh Public Schools decided to merge the middle-grade and high school magnets to give the former better amenities in the city's cultural district. The new school will be called Pittsburgh CAPA 6-12.
The change was opposed by some parents and alumni, who cited concerns about the loss of Rogers' identity and mixing younger and older students.
Rogers opened in Hazelwood in 1979 and a year or two later moved to the current location on Columbo Street in Garfield.
Rogers is known for its arts programs and academic achievement. The combination hooked Henry and Katherine Schmitt when they were looking for a middle-grade school for their son, Gregory, now a sophomore at CAPA High.
The couple's younger, son, Jason, is a Rogers seventh-grader. Mrs. Schmitt is president of the CAPA High parents group; her husband is president of the Rogers parents group and served on a committee that planned the merger.
"I think that people are excited but also a bit wary. It's a big change," Mr. Schmitt said.
Joe Smydo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1548.