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25 Years of The Nutcracker
25 Years of The Nutcracker
Posted on 12/31/2018
North Buncombe Elementary debuted The Nutcracker in 1993, starting a festive annual tradition that is now a pillar of the community. By: Benjamin Rickert, Communications Dept.

A hush fell over the packed auditorium at North Buncombe Elementary as the thick curtain prepared to open. Students lined up backstage in colorful, elaborate costumes, preparing to make life-long memories to mirror those of their parents. Tchaikovsky’s familiar score began to play from the loudspeakers, and as the audience cheered, the 25th anniversary of The Nutcracker began.

North Buncombe Elementary School debuted The Nutcracker in 1993, starting a festive annual tradition that is now a pillar of the North Buncombe community. Every second-grader had a role in the classic holiday ballet, including those with special needs.

“I am proud to be part of a school that is passionate about its music program,” said music specialist Ms. Brandy Minnix. “The support of parents, staff, administration, and community members contribute not only to the success of productions like The Nutcracker, but a thriving culture of performance and exploration.”

The school’s first legendary Nutcracker performance was led by then music teacher Ms. Marie Ray, who personally sewed every student’s costume by hand. She was eventually succeeded by Ms. Leigh Stanley, and several costumes and set pieces created in those earlier years are still in use!

Ms. Brandy Minnix directs the 25th anniversary of North Buncombe Elementary's Nutcracker.Now in her ninth year at North Buncombe Elementary, Ms. Minnix is quick to credit her fellow teachers and volunteers for the show’s continued success. But the soul of the performance comes from the seriousness with which each student approaches their role, as well as their downright joy on stage.

“My favorite part was when I gave Clara the nutcracker,” said second-grader Lane Benson, who played Uncle Drosselmeyer.

In the story, it was Drosselmeyer’s mysterious gift that enabled the entire dream-like plot when young Clara fell asleep holding it.

No one could ignore the intricacy of the abridged 45-minute performance, with plenty of scene changes, coordinated entrances, props, and detailed, hand-painted set pieces. This year, the students began practicing in September when each class was assigned a dance that fit their collective abilities and personalities. Minnix called the dance choreography “an evolution” — each music teacher’s influence was carried on to future performances over the years. So, whether they realized it or not, audience members this year were enjoying dances written as far back as 1993. There were, however, plenty in attendance who remembered their own past role.

A student prepares to deliver his line.“In second grade, I was a flute player,” recalled Ms. Kelly Penley, now a second-grade teacher.

This year, Ms. Penley danced alongside her students in the role of Mother Gigogne the clown and was thrilled to be on stage again. Throughout the rehearsals, she heard her second-graders talking about the roles played by their parents many years ago, and even received nostalgic letters from former North Buncombe students.

“I felt honored to be doing something I never thought I would have the chance to do again,” Penley said.

At the final bow, parents stood to cheer for the 25th cast of the Nutcracker. It was not only a fantastic way to ring in the holiday season and coming new year, but a nod to the importance of the past.

“Teachers like Marie Ray and Leigh Stanley laid the ground work that has now become a legacy,” Minnix said. “At North Buncombe Elementary School, we believe in educating the whole child and that is a tradition I know will continue.”

View our photo gallery of The Nutcracker on Facebook!

Buncombe County Schools is in the process of reviewing its website to ensure compliance with Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Buncombe County Schools does not discriminate on the basis of sex in its education programs or activities and is required by Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and federal regulations to not discriminate in such a manner. This requirement extends to admission and employment. Inquiries about the application of Title IX and its implementing federal regulations may be referred to the Title IX Coordinator and/or the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights in the Office for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education. The Title IX Coordinator's contact information is: Shanon Martin,, 828-255-5918, 175 Bingham Road, Asheville, NC 28806.

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