‘Shap Show’ Shifts to Alumni Performers


Ty Segall, John Heussenstamm expected to play at the benefit


Gary Shapiro in a recent live appearance on Laguna radio station 93.5 FM, and in his first high school show in 1989.
Gary Shapiro in a recent live appearance on Laguna radio station 93.5 FM, and in his first high school show in 1989.

Gary Shapiro doesn’t shy away from center stage; in fact, he likes to be in every act “cuz it’s my show,” he says, delighted.

Shapiro is the namesake, and mostly the main attraction, of the annual, one-night-only “Shap Show” at Laguna Beach High School.  The money raised each year, now averaging around $7,000, pays for the senior class “safe and sober” grad night festivities.

Scotty Bernhardt, a 2006 LBHS grad living in Hollywood, successfully playing guitar at well-known clubs and working as the assistant to a Hollywood Bowl promoter, will soon head back to Laguna, along with 30 other grads from all over the country and as far back as 1993, to rejoin Shapiro in the premiere presentation of the Alumni Shap Show on May 11. For the first time, Shapiro will take a new tack:  present a second show with an alumni cast to help raise money for the new all-district orchestral strings instruction program.  “The alumni show is completely different,” said Shapiro, “because I’m only in about half the acts.”

The strings program that will benefit from the show’s proceeds will start offering instruction to elementary and middle school children next year for three years and will cost the district $50,000 annually.  The fundraising support organization SchoolPower’s Endowment Fund is sponsoring the 7:30 p.m. show at the high school’s Artists’ Theatre. Tickets, $25 for general seating and $50 for the reserved section, can be purchased at www.lbschoolpower.org or by calling 949-494-6811.

The musical variety show harkens back to the 61-year-old LBHS teacher’s college days of playing guitar in coffee houses and has morphed into the school’s only talent show for the past 25 years.  “It started off as a show of just me and then I started inviting kids up on stage and it just became a thing,” explained Shapiro, a popular Advanced Placement calculus and trigonometry teacher who plays a mean acoustic guitar. And sometimes he strums in his classroom when time allows. “I would go in there every so often with my guitar and kind of play along with him because I knew he liked to bring the guitar out,” said Bernhardt.

There were a few years where the Shap Show went electric but unplugged again for simplicity’s sake. “I love rock and roll, and it was a lot of fun to see the kids playing rock and roll,” Shapiro said. “It was just very time-consuming to set up the stage and the amps and the drums and everything so I stopped doing it.  I’m older now.  I’m an old guy.”

For the alumni show, though, Shapiro changed his tune. “I have some rockers coming,” he enthused, including longtime blues-jazz guitarist John Heussentamm and relative newcomer Ty Segall, who released his first album in 2008. Segall told Shapiro Tuesday that he has a commitment in San Francisco but will try to make it for the alumni show.

“There’s a lot of talent in that community,” said Coleman Moore, another 2006 grad coming from New York, where he majored in music and computer science at Columbia University.  Moore, who plays and produces electronic music and works as a software engineer, is breaking stride from his usual Tom Waits repertoire in years past by singing a Bob Dylan song at the alumni show.

Unlike SchoolPower, which raises money annually to enrich the district’s regular school programs, the endowment fund bankrolls long-term projects like the orchestral strings instruction, said president Bill Moore, Coleman’s father.  The $3 million endowment distributes about $150,000 annually for “visionary” programs and has provided $80,000 to buy new string instruments as well as $50,000 for foreign language instruction at the two elementary schools.  It also provides special grants for teachers.

Moore hopes the alumni show raises $10,000. “Every bit helps.  If we spend $150,000 on the strings program that takes away from our teacher grants.  Our goal is to have $10 million in the fund so we could give $500,000 a year.”

To inaugurate the strings program, Shapiro will play the Beatles’ “Lady Madonna” with members of the high school’s strings group.

“I enjoy playing the guitar and singing.  I enjoy watching people enjoy it and it makes me feel like I’m doing something that is useful and that is good and that is beneficial,” Shapiro said, “because you’re generally bringing smiles to people’s faces.  I don’t bring that many smiles to faces when I’m teaching math.”

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