Eddie Coker with his parents, Melissa and Gene
Love at every step as-much-as-you-possibly-can! That was the message Eddie Coker shared with HPISD students as he premiered his new program, WEZMORE, thanks to the financial support of *HP Arts. With a combination of tender tales of friends who suffered childhood bullying (like Maralissa Lou) and upbeat activities that had students up dancing (and even cleaning the seats of their chairs as they did the “Woo-Woo Dance!”), Eddie showed why he has had such a successful career as a children’s entertainer. He masterfully made slight changes to the program to suit the age level of his audiences that kept all happy, smiling, and engaged as he shared his message of love, acceptance, health, and happiness. Bright orange bracelets were distributed to the elementary school students after the shows with the words “LOVE @ EVERY STEP” and “WEZMORE” on them as a reminder of the day’s message.
WEZMORE premiered on Friday, February 10 with performances at Hyer followed by performances on Monday at Armstrong and on Tuesday at Bradfield. Thursday morning found Eddie performing for a very different audience – HPHS freshmen and sophomores – as a presenter for the HP Literary Festival. Although some students considered themselves to be far too mature to find anything of value in a presentation given by a children’s performer, a cursory glance through the audience discovered toes tapping and smiles emerging with each song that peppered Eddie’s lecture about songwriting. Thursday afternoon found Eddie at UP for the last of his elementary school performances.
The last stop of Eddie’s whirlwind visit to HP schools was at HPHS on Friday where he presented a workshop titled “Songwriting & Your Personal Voice” to several small groups throughout the day also as part of the LitFest. He discussed methods for finding one’s unique voice and then learning to create from that voice, whether in song, story, poem, or original thought. Students then got to hear how he made down payments on his kids' college tuitions from writing songs for a certain (purple) dinosaur whose name starts with B and ends with Y! Although some tried to act like they did not know to what dinosaur he was referring, all ultimately admitted watching and enjoying the show when they were little!
It was fitting that Eddie returned to HP to launch his program that embraces love, kindness, and acceptance. It was at HP that he first found acceptance – as a choir member and as a baseball player. It was at HP that he first performed on and fell in love with the stage. (His former classmates remember his run in “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”) It was at HP that he met and was encouraged to pursue his dreams by the legendary HPHS Theater teacher, Linda Raya. And, how fitting, that in the audience at one of his WEZMORE performances were his proud parents, Melissa and Gene Coker. This couple, whose four children attended HP schools, clearly relished the opportunity to see their son, as grown up as he is, once again perform on an HPISD stage.
*HP Arts is a non-profit corporation supporting HPISD arts programming. Established in 1987, the specific purpose of HP Arts is to enrich HPISD students' educational experience by encouraging their interest and participation in the arts.