As Mary Beth Kauffman was greeting audience members Dec. 8 before a taping of the American Public Television concert series, "Songs at the Center," at Grandview Heights High School, the junior peeked through the auditorium doors.

"I looked in and it was really cool to realize that wasn't our stage, but that it had been transformed into a set for a TV show," she said. "It was really interesting to learn all behind-the-scenes work that goes into making a TV show."

Kauffman was one of four Grandview High students who volunteered to serve on the crew as two episodes of "Songs at the Center" were recorded in the auditorium.

The students will receive on-screen credit when the episodes begin airing in May across the nation, locally on WOSU-TV.

All four of the volunteers -- Kauffman, sophomores Lydia Robertson and Kit Stephens and junior Ginny Haupt -- are veterans of high school theatrical productions and choirs.

When students were asked to volunteer as crew members for the TV show, Robertson said she jumped at the chance.

"I wanted to help out and I thought it would be cool to talk to the people who work on the crew and find out what they do," she said.

Robertson set up a snack table and helped audience members sign in.

"They had to sign a waiver in case they were filmed during the show," she said. "I also helped the musicians sell their merchandise, which was really fun."

Most of all, Robertson said, she enjoyed meeting the crew and performers.

"Everybody was so nice, especially the musicians," she said.

This wasn't her first experience working in a show crew, Robertson said. She served as part of the crew last spring for the high school musical.

"It gives you an appreciation of how much hard work the crew puts in, for a stage show or a TV show," she said. "You really don't appreciate how hard they work until you do it yourself or watch it being done."

Haupt assisted the technical crew, helping to set up the sound and lighting for the show.

"Electrical engineering has always been an interesting subject to me, although it's not something I think I'd want to pursue as a career," she said. "When (vocal music director) Andrew Grega said to us, 'if there are any technical people interested in volunteering,' he was looking straight at me. I was happy to do it."

It was fascinating to learn how television equipment works, Haupt said.

"It all looks nice on TV, but there's so much that goes into getting things ready," she said. "People don't think about that when they're watching a TV show."

Stephens said she wanted to volunteer "because I thought it would be cool to have a chance to interact with musicians.

"My mom is a musician and I just grew up with a natural love of music," she said. "Musicians are really interesting people. They've decided to take something they love and make it into their career."

Kauffman said she was surprised when some of the people she was greeting turned out to be performers, not audience members.

"They walked in the same doors as other people and I would say, 'Are you here to see the show?' and they would say, 'I'm one of the performers.' They were so down-to-earth and nice."

Later in the evening, Kauffman assisted performers in the teachers lounge, which had been converted into a "green room" where the musicians could relax before or after they went on stage.

"I got to talk to a few of the performers," she said. "One of the singers came in and fixed herself some water. She put some honey and lemon in it and I realized that's exactly what I do to help my voice before our musical."

Grandview High School Principal Rob Brown said the opportunity to volunteer for "Songs at the Center" was another way to provide students with "an authentic, real-world learning experience.

"For students who have an interest in the performing arts, it was really exciting to give them the chance to work on a national TV show," he said. "Whenever we can find a way to offer authentic learning experiences, we try to do it."

Robertson said it will be exciting to see the high school spotlighted on a nationwide TV show.

"That will be our auditorium and our stage that people will be seeing," she said.

Kauffman said she can't wait to see her name in the show's credits.

"I may take a picture of it," she said.

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