In our opinion: Beverley Sorenson set in motion a legacy of arts

Published: Wednesday, May 29 2013 12:00 a.m. MDT

Beverley Sorenson

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

In 2008, while speaking of her formative years, Beverley Taylor Sorenson recalled that "music was going all the time in our home." She grew up during the Great Depression, where money for lessons was scarce. She relied on her older sisters to provide her the piano training that later earned her 50 cents a week as she accompanied dance classes in Salt Lake City.

It seems likely that her own childhood challenges contributed to her lifetime love and support of the arts, as well as her tireless efforts to make sure that children everywhere would have the opportunity to develop their talents, regardless of their personal circumstances.

As a result, Sorenson, who died Monday at age 89, set in motion a legacy of arts that will carry on for generations to come.

The Sorenson Legacy Foundation, founded by Beverly Sorenson and her late husband James LeVoy Sorenson, has donated tens of millions of dollars to a wide range of charitable causes, including scientific research, health care and community development. But it was the foundation's lasting contributions to arts education that was particularly meaningful to Mrs. Sorenson, and she devoted a great deal of time and attention to expanding its reach, both in public and in private.

It's important to note, however, that she provided far more than just financial support. Indeed, Mrs. Sorenson took a personal interest in the positive effects of arts education in the lives of schoolchildren throughout the state.

Along with several professional arts educators, she created Art Works for Kids, a program integrating arts-based concepts into traditional core education subjects with phenomenal results. To cite one example, students at Midas Creek Elementary School used dance techniques to teach kindergartners basic reading skills. They discovered that 91 percent remembered letters and sounds that were taught through movement, compared to only 37 percent who were taught the same concepts using traditional methods.

Art Works for Kids began in only six schools throughout the state. The concepts developed by the program are now being taught in 75 Utah schools, and next year will likely be in 25 percent of all Utah elementary schools. Research conducted by the University of Utah has shown a positive correlation between the program and math achievement, as well as signs that the program improves state test scores.

Mrs. Sorenson leaves behind a legacy of philanthropy that will continue to bless countless lives. She was a model of integrity, charity and compassion, and she will be sorely missed.

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