Des Lee Prepares for the 21st Annual Fine Arts Festivals


Last year, nearly 900 high school and middle school students from over 30 schools and 15 school districts gathered at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center for the 20th Annual Des Lee Fine Arts Festivals.

A group of young musicians are reading music and taking direction on stage in a performance theater.

High school student musicians rehearse to perform in the 20th annual Des Lee Fine Arts Festival at the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center. (Photo by August Jennewein)

This annual event sponsored by theE. Desmond Lee Fine Arts Education Collaborative provides students from across the St. Louis region with a chance to improve their skills, collaborate with musicians of different experience levels, and display their artwork.

The Fine Arts Festivals have become a cornerstone event, fostering a vibrant platform for students to exhibit their skills while working together. Here’s what some students had to say about the event last year:

Jazelle Swope, student violinist, Jennings High School:

“First, I was very nervous because I was hearing people playing really good,” Swope said. “But then as I started playing, it just felt kind of good. I was actually able to keep up with them, and I was hitting all the right notes. I’m usually really shy and nervous and always put myself down. I don’t get too optimistic. So I’m hoping that I can get more confidence out of this and play better.” –see original article here

Sadie Malks, visual arts student, University City High School:

“I’ve learned to kind of work with a new media,” they said, “kind of go with the flow . . . There’s definitely some challenges. I’m the only one from my school, so I want to talk to other artists because all of the work is really cool.” –see original article here

Visual arts students create artwork on the windows of the Touhill lobby out of tape.

Tarik Brisker, student tenor saxophonist, McCluer North High School:

“Getting to actually play with the whole ensemble instead of practicing alone and listening to a recording was really amazing,” he said. “Our band, between two classes, is probably 30 students at the most. It was amazing because I didn’t have to rely on myself and play by myself. I knew if I needed to breathe at one point, somebody else was playing. I could do that.” –see original article here

This year marks the 21st annual Des Lee Fine Arts Festivals. With high-level clinicians and a record number of talented student nominations, this is one of the most anticipated festivals to date! Join us February 6th for the High School Festival and February 7th for the Middle School Festival.

To make the event even more accessible, participants and attendies will be given bookmarks with scannable QR codes that grant access to the digital programs and video-recorded performances once the events are over. This serves not only as a physical keepsake, but as a way for participants to virtually share this event with those who could not attend.

The digital program will be available here along with video recordings of the culminating performances.

We look forward to all the friends and family members joining us to support participants!