VAi Association Overview & History
Overview: ViVace Assai, Inc., is a support network for school districts, music, theater, and literature programs in Northwest Indiana. Founded in 2008 and incorporated as a non-profit association in 2011, ViVace Assai began encouraging regional performing arts festivals, other non-profit arts organizations, and professional ensembles around Porter and La Porte counties (such as the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra; pictured here and on the homepage sponsoring the Hoosier Stars at the “Hoosier Star of Stars Competition”).


VAI’s primary objective is twofold – first, to promote Written & Performing Arts (WPA) and connect younger generations to the longstanding performing arts traditions in our region and second, to rally celebrities, professional musicians, artists, actors, directors, dancers, choreographers, conductors, authors, screenwriters, educators, and clinicians with local arts organizations, school districts, and students to supplement WPA opportunities, events, and education. ViVace Assai’s vision is to promote different venues for the arts wherever possible.


VAi successfully launched an educational campaign in 2015 by building events and activities associated with the annual WPA Showcase beginning each Memorial Weekend at Sweet Lou’s Restaurant, known as “Feed the Soul.”


Mission: To inspire the imagination, VAi will support and/or sponsor events, programs, and opportunities for “Written & Performing Arts in Northwest Indiana” (WPANI).

Purpose: To enrich students’ lives, VAi will connect the educational and professional worlds in music, theater, and literature, and build collaborative arts opportunities wherever possible.

Vision: To strengthen communities and other non-profit arts organizations, VAi will increase the overall awareness of, and exposure to WPANI, rally people around performing arts, and endeavor to create “Venues for Written & Performing Arts,” where educators, students, and local artists can work, study, and exhibit music, theater, and literature alongside professional artists, clinicians, and celebrities whenever possible.


NWI Influence: Collectively, VAI founders, staff members, colleagues, and advisors have been working as educators, musicians, and fine arts advocates across Northwest Indiana and Chicagoland for over three decades. They have collaborated with and/or assisted programs and events with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Navy Pier, the Peoples’ Music School / El Sistema, the Summer Rhapsody Music Festival, the Michigan City Chamber Music Festival, the Michigan City Children’s Choir Institute, the 50 year-annual-production of First Presbyterian’s “The Messiah,” the La Porte County Symphony Orchestra, the South Shore Orchestra, the Northwest Indiana Hoosier Star Competition, the Young People’s Theater Company, and numerous productions with the Valparaiso Community School Corporation, the Michigan City Area Schools, Marquette Catholic High School, and the Duneland Area Community Band Program. Additionally, VAi staff members assisted the oscar-nominated director John Hancock on his final film, The Looking Glass, and they have now launched annual “Feed the Soul” Showcase events for students, local artists, non-profit organizations, and families at “Sweet Lou, That’s Who!” a Chicago style restaurant in Westville, IN.


History: In 2008, Miguel Rosario-Vega, Gayle Davis, and Derek Meilaender came together to form an association that could help sustain local orchestras, school music departments, and various longstanding regional arts traditions.


Working throughout Northwest Indiana as educators and musicians, they realized that school districts and local ensembles were suffering numerous hardships brought on by the early 21st century recession, a lack of awareness for current arts opportunities, and new legislation known as the “No Child Left Behind Act of 2001” (NCLB), which regulated educational policies and school funding across the nation based on how well students scored on standardized tests.


However noble in its inception, NCLB, in truth, began altering fine arts opportunities nationwide in its implementation. As educational priorities shifted, certain school districts cut back fine arts programs, reduced staff members, or eliminated music departments all together. Some schools tried to appease the demand for high-stakes, standardized testing while keeping a balanced curriculum, but an incentive program devised by the Obama Administration, called “Race to the Top,” awarded states educational funding in 2009 for complying with various educational policies and it put even more pressure on failing schools to abide by the original legislation of NCLB.


Needless to say, in some districts, justification for studying anything related to the performing arts outweighed the necessity to turn around or maintain state standardized test scores – all for the sake of funding. For the strong fine arts departments and school communities, cuts never appeared to run too deep. Other schools were not so fortunate. To make matters even worse in Northwest Indiana by 2010, state funds were reallocated and the Indiana Education budget was cut by approximately 300 million dollars.


Meanwhile, as fine arts programs were suffering in local school districts, performing arts organizations across Northwest Indiana found it more and more difficult to retain younger audiences and events. Some non-profits tried to offer more youth activities and educational events to help balance arts education and keep audiences engaged. As time progressed, support for a strong foundation in fine arts education became even more challenged, and VAi founders believed that, perhaps one day, the longstanding arts traditions in Northwest Indiana might even begin to fade. The necessity to rally professional musicians, conductors, clinicians, arts organizations, and local school districts grew stronger each year. 


The emphasis on sustaining local music programs and orchestras grew to encompass all Written & Performing Arts organizations across Northwest Indiana, with a dream that VAi could eventually do the same for schools in the greater Chicagoland area, the Midwest, or even the country. ViVace Assai’s purpose grew to support & connect music, theater, and literature programs and its mission evolved to connect as many districts, teachers, and professional artists as possible. With the support of other local educators, conductors, professional musicians, and fine arts advocates, VAi began to make silent headway.


Ultimately, the urgency to unite under an umbrella organization for the sake of maintaining Written & Performing Arts in Northwest Indiana while advancing fine arts education led ViVace Assai to become incorporated as a 501(c3) non-profit association in Michigan City. 


The association’s name comes from two Italian musical terms. ViVace is generally given as an instruction to sing or perform a piece “energetically,” or “lively.” Assai can mean “even more so.” In a way, the name actually reflects the purpose of the organization itself (unintentionally!!!) – to rally students and families with the most energetic and enthusiastic artists working across music, theatre, and literature. Help ViVace change someone’s world for a day (or more!) – join the cause, support what you can, and build new opportunities with VAi whenever possible.


*** Special Note *** Our website changed recently, and we are now getting around to uploading the latest information and events. PLEASE BE PATIENT as our entire site is revamped, modified, and updated. Please understand, even after a successful new launch of our website in 2017, this domain will constantly be updating information and events in an attempt to bring the latest news from school districts, orchestras, and other non-profits around the region directly to you. If you know of anyone else or any other programs in the region fighting for the arts that did not end up on our site, PLEASE send us an email or quickly fill out the contact form to make an introduction! 
“When anxiety rises in the morning, passions are laid to rest . . .


As an educator in the No Child Left Behind era, I cannot express how many times students have shared with me just how powerful music was for them, or that a particular music class was one of the only things ‘keeping them in school.’  I am thankful and blessed to teach a subject that has a natural charm and appeal in and of itself, but with each recollection from students making a grateful claim about music looking back on the previous year(s), my profession became a little more disheartening over the years.


I was glad music became such an integral part of my students’ experiences in school, and I knew Northwest Indiana could offer numerous performing arts opportunities and educational events as well, but I rarely ever relayed that information back to my students! Part of me always wondered how my experiences would have changed in high school if I KNEW about all these additional arts opportunities around the region.


As educational priorities shifted to emphasize state-standardized testing, a lot of performing arts programs began struggling across the region. With younger generations becoming seemingly less and less motivated I also wondered what we could do to shake them up a bit – to revitalize our music programs as well as their passion and to keep them engaged in the arts (or even day to day life). Looking back, I suppose those are the reasons, at least for me, that established the groundwork and the desire for an association like ViVace Assai.


If you develop passions, you kindle the imagination. If you kindle the imagination, you inspire the child – regardless of age or experience. If you inspire the child, you encourage hope, and perhaps even a dream – regardless of scope or merit. If you stimulate children to dream, they will eventually kindle the imagination in others, and the process will unfold tenfold. The collective imagination, therefore, of any given society can be swayed with one simple idea, for better or for worse, so long as that idea can grow exponentially within each and every individual imagination it touches. Individually, the strength of an imagination can work wonders, but collectively, the imagination can inspire generations.


With students and fine arts programs (on all levels) facing as many hardships today as ever before, it must be our responsibility to encourage each other, bridge connections for Written & Performing Arts, and forge ahead – rallied, united, and strengthened as one. For as easily as the collective imagination of any society can be swayed, so too can it crumble without hope and encouragement. By supporting the longstanding arts traditions which already exist in Northwest Indiana and by bringing people together for even more opportunities and events, we can begin the work of “inspiring the imagination for every generation.” Imagine a day with a renowned clinician, or a celebrity appearance that could charge your motivation; imagine what it could do for the apathetic or discouraged students.


Help VAi promote hope and passion for the arts today and “keep anxiety at bay!!!” *knee slap*


All kidding aside, such a restoration of hope and vision may be what children need in this new millennium to refresh weathered souls beyond their years, but it is also crucial for any education to take hold. Support that which already exists, encourage each other, rally together for the arts, and reach for something even greater with ViVace Assai.


In the very least, we can start to reshape the world around us for good; if there’s a greater calling, I haven’t found it yet.”


~ D. G. Meilaender

We are proud to work with