NORTH KINGSTOWN — In June, four North Kingstown High School students received scholarships totaling $2,000 to pursue fine arts degrees as they head into college. The story behind those scholarships is one of dedication to the local arts by John ‘Jack’ Higby, a founding member of the North Kingstown Players theater group and long-time public school teacher.
Fifteen years ago, Higby was able to secure a grant from the North Kingstown Arts Council to found the North Kingstown Players. He became artistic director for the group, organizing show after show, bringing community members together to put on a quality theatrical product.
“The grant was the mastermind of [Higby], whose passion was to present exemplary community theater ‘one performance at a time’,” said John Crouch, past president of the group. “Jack’s dedication to our organization, its growth, development and presentation will long be remembered by the North Kingstown community.”
Because of financial constraints, the group has since disbanded, but Crouch wanted something more to commemorate Higby’s contributions to the North Kingstown Players and overall community.
“The presentation of these cash awards were so appreciated by Jack,” said Crouch. “[They] enabled the North Kingstown Players to bring some closure to a tight group that truly enjoyed the camaraderie of a once vibrant theater community.”
Higby was quick to deflect praise from himself to the community members who worked hard to make the North Kingstown Players a fun, professional theater outfit.
“The community theater cannot exist without many, many volunteers,” said Higby. “We have youngsters who are interested in theater, and they helped out tremendously.”
As a teacher of more than 30 years in North Kingstown public schools, Higby strived to make students enjoy and create music.
“I believe my contribution to the community was in serving the children, and teaching them the joys and discipline of music,” said Higby. “That was my job and that is what I did.”
Higby recalled one of his most exciting moments as a music teacher; bringing the school choir to Romania in 1975 to perform on tour.
“We had a two week concert tour, as you would say, behind the ‘iron curtain’,” said Higby. “It was fantastic. [The students] learned things on a daily basis that they never would have heard of had they not gone. Because they were musicians, they were very well received and performed exceedingly well.”
The group played everywhere in Romania, schools, auditoriums and colleges.
“You name it, we were there,” said Higby.
Now, Higby can look back on a career well-traveled. Furthermore, the former music teacher is confident, even amid trying economic times, that the music program in North Kingstown schools will remain successful.
“North Kingstown has a heritage since the late 1930s of excellent musical groups, giving kids the opportunity to learn and perform,” said Higby. “They have been well received and, by and large, well funded.”
“If they continue anywhere near the level of what it has been, it will be fine,” he added.
Both Higby and the former North Kingstown Players have already done their part.