Just Believe – Artistic Sibling Duo Unites Community In Music And Dance

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent January 2014

In Chico, the powerhouse brother-sister team of Sarah Blakley and Jeff Schneeweis brings a strong mix of creative talents to their new company, Believe Productions. The duo developed separate careers in the arts, and say they have always been inspired by each other’s work. It’s no stretch to understand why.

Blakley works as a choreographer, director and dance educator. She owns and operates Hype Dance Studio in Chico, recently celebrating its 10th anniversary. Along with a staff of 13, she provides classes for all levels of dancers. Blakley also founded and directs the award-winning Fusion Dance Company, providing dancers additional professional-level training. She choreographs for music videos, commercials, industrials, and for professional sports organizations. Currently she is choreographer for the NBA Sacramento Kings Dancers, and has been both a dancer and choreographer for the NBA Golden State Warriors Dance Team.


Schneeweis is a singer, songwriter, musician and producer. In addition to vocals, he plays drums, guitar and keyboard. He owns Old Sailor Studios, a recording studio in Chico, and is a member of two bands: Number One Gun, a Christian rock band, and The Make, an indie pop group. Also a diverse solo artist, Schneeweis has released original music throughout his career. His eclectic and heartfelt versions of popular songs have become immensely popular on YouTube. Continue reading

How Does a Small Town & Small School Make Room for Music Education?

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent January 2014


McCloud is a small rural town on the southern slope of Mount Shasta. It’s also an exemplary model of promoting arts in education – each year the town proves that communities and educators can work together to keep music alive in public schools.

McCloud Elementary School, in collaboration with arts non-profit Young Imaginations, provides music education to its student body of approximately 85 children. Principal Shelley Cain makes sure time is scheduled for weekly music classes. Students in grades 4–8 attend choral classes, and many also attend an after-school SAFE instrumental program designed for their age group. For its younger students, ages 3-8, classes are based on Kodály and Orff methodologies and introduce children to singing, playing instruments, and the mysteries of reading music.

At McCloud’s high school, music education includes a class where students learn piano/keyboard skills and music literacy; additionally the school has a student rock band, led by staff member Jeffrey Westcott. Continue reading

Where Adventure, Dreams, and Inspiration Begin – Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater

By Lisa Shara and Daria O’Brien; Published in North State Parent, January 2014


The Raven and the Unicorn Children’s Theater is a proposed 800-seat theater designed specifically for child-centered performing arts programs and educational opportunities. The theater will be the only Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum-level certified children’s theater in the world, demonstrating environmentally sustainable construction and technologies. Continue reading

Lou Wegner: Kids Against Animal Cruelty

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

18-year-old actor and activist Lou Wegner is the founder of the national movement Kids Against Animal Cruelty. He currently lives and works in Southern California.

NSP: What you are most passionate about?

LW: I am most passionate about spreading awareness to my generation to be pet-responsible. I was devastated to learn that 4 to 6 million pets are euthanized in U.S. shelters every year and wanted to do something to make a difference. I don’t think people are aware that shelters are horribly overcrowded and that animals have to be euthanized to make room for the ones coming in. I spend a lot of time with my organization, Kids Against Animal Cruelty, that I founded to help save lives through education, social media networking and volunteering at local shelters.

NSP: What is it that inspired you to start Kids Against Animal Cruelty?

Lou Wegner and Betty White

Lou Wegner and Betty White

LW: When I was 14, the director of my first film, Be Good To Eddie Lee, asked me if I had ever been to a shelter. At the time, I had three rescued dogs but they came from rescue groups. I had never been to a shelter, and started to volunteer. It’s there that I quickly learned that animals (pets of all kinds) are euthanized for space. I was devastated. I had to do something. Continue reading

Mi Escuelita Maya Preschool & Children’s Performing Arts Program – A Place of Learning and Inspiration

© Lisa Shara; Published in North State Parent, January 2014

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a performing arts lesson celebrating European countries, Maria Trenda leads students using Braindancing technique as they learn about classical ballet.

In a setting best described as welcoming and warm, where diversity is honored and creativity abounds, children go about the business of learning with great enthusiasm. Smiling teachers clearly are having as much fun as they guide students in discovery and play. The inspiration is palpable. Continue reading