Greendale — - Greendale - Early in her high school years at Greendale High School, Sarah Pfisterer auditioned for her first theatrical role, in the musical "Oliver."
She landed a part as one of the "Oom Pah Pah" girls. From then on, she was hooked.
"I got the bug," the 1984 GHS grad recalled. "I actually hadn't planned on doing it professionally. When I was originally accepted to Northwestern (University), I was pre-med. I switched my freshman year there."
Years later, Pfisterer, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in vocal performance from Northwestern, has achieved a successful career in theater.
Among her accomplishments, she has played more than 1,000 performances on Broadway and across the nation in the role of Christine in "The Phantom of the Opera," earned best actress awards from the Independent Reviewers of New England for her roles as Maria in "The Sound of Music" and Julie in "Carousel," and was a Metropolitan Opera semifinalist.
Not surprisingly, then, the Education Foundation of Greendale has chosen to honor Pfisterer with its Inspiration Award at its annual Night of the Arts fundraiser on Friday, May 29.
"Let's face it: she's a positive, excellent example to say, 'Hey, I went through the Greendale schools and look at where I am today,' " said George Vranes, past president of the EFG.
Despite her busy schedule, Pfisterer still finds time to support the arts and education in the Greendale School District, Vranes added.
Pfisterer's young daughters, Hannah, 8, and Lily, 6, recently got their start in theater with roles in a high school production of "Brigadoon" in their hometown of Wilton, Conn., where Pfisterer operates a successful voice studio.
Helping to grow the arts
Receiving this year's Inspiration Award is a huge and unexpected honor, said Pfisterer, who also will perform at Night of the Arts, which this year carries the theme "Grow the Arts."
Considering the benefits that involvement in the arts can reap, "I can't stress how much I think the arts are important in our society, and especially in our schools," Pfisterer said.
Part of what has made Greendale's arts programs so successful is the support all areas of the arts have for one another, added Pfisterer, who lists longtime GHS Choral Director Art Jaehnke as one of her biggest influences in the district.
Also being honored with a business Inspiration Award this year are Cathy and Jim Davenport, who own The Shoppe Around the Corner, 5640 Parking St.
"We think the schools are very important, and we try to give back as much as possible," Cathy Davenport said.
Since the EFG was established in 1998, it has raised more than $180,000 through Night of the Arts and other fundraising efforts, with proceeds funding creative and innovative programs for district students and faculty.
GROW THE ARTS
WHAT: fifth annual Night of the Arts
WHO: Education Foundation of Greendale
WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday, May 29
WHERE: Polish Center of Wisconsin, 6941 S. 68th St., Franklin
FYI: Includes hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar, silent auction, raffle and appearances by Greendale High School musicians and theater students; artwork by students at each school and alumni will be on display.
COST: Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at Greendale High School, Greendale Park and Recreation office, Reiman Visitor Center and Layton State Bank on Broad Street.
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