Curtain falls on this year’s ‘Stars’

The show won’t go on this year for Rotary Club of La Jolla’s annual “Stars In Our Eyes” event.

For the last six years, the annual scholarship fundraising talent show has brought together some of the most gifted students from all four La Jolla High schools — Bishop’s, La Jolla Country Day, Preuss and La Jolla High — to showcase their artistic talents in music, dance, drama and graphic arts.

But the curtain came down on this year’s event due to what insiders have termed “a perfect storm” of unfortunate events.

Typically staged in February at La Jolla High’s Parker Auditorium, organizers said Stars had to be bumped due to the monthlong running of “Honors Theater,” and because two key Stars leaders — the director and the executive producer — each had to bow out due to acute business/personal circumstances. There also was not an available date to reschedule the event.

Money raised from the Stars event has been invested directly into scholarships to assist qualified seniors at the four schools, many of whom are bused in from other San Diego neighborhoods, in their pursuit of a college or university education. During its brief history, the fund has provided more than $2 million in scholarships.

The show can’t go on this year, but the Rotary foundation it supports must and will continue, said Bill Burch, current Rotary president.

“The Stars performance has raised pretty good money for the foundation, which provides about $130,000 in scholarships per year to graduates of the four local schools,” he said. “It’s one of our biggest fundraisers. Our support to those schools will continue permanently. We’re committed to the schools and the students and helping further their education.”

The cost to the service club and the community of Stars’ cancellation is much more than financial, noted next year’s Rotary president-elect, Mark Leinenweber.

“It’s a terrific event for our club and the community because it provides a venue for students to perform for the community and creates a great synergy,” he said with the caveat that staging the event is a “big undertaking.”

“It’s a performance, not just inviting kids up to the stage to play,” he added. “They audition and produce the numbers: They make it as professional a production as possible.”

The brainchild of past Rotary Presidents Dick Woltman and Zeke Knight, Stars began as a community project to provide a venue for high school students to demonstrate their unique talents publicly. It has since blossomed into a multifaceted array of performing arts, with audiences treated to everything from major song and dance production numbers to ballet and tap dance; monologues; solo and duet singers; and musicians, including piano, clarinet, cello and guitar, big bands, string ensembles and jazz trios.

Burch said he hopes Stars will rise again next year.

“It gives those talented kids a stage and an audience, and it’s a way for parents to see their kids on stage,” he said. “And it’s a high visibility event for La Jolla.”

Leinenweber was encouraging about the prospects.

“We’ll see if we can put together a structure to allow us to do this in the long term, possibly with collaboration from people outside our club, maybe schools or universities,” he said. “We need to figure out how to engineer it, hopefully do it successfully for many years.”