For nearly 40 years, Ron and Reina Bolles have given young adults in the South Bay the opportunity to experience a coed show choir called the Music Machine, both locally and around the world.
But it’s always been about more than show biz.
In September, the pair released the book “Learning that lasts a Lifetime: The transformative power of arts in the lives of children,” which has since been nominated for a Coronado Independent Publishers Association EVVY award by their publisher, Outskirts Press.
The book contains 115 testimonies from former students and colleagues on the importance of arts education, the proceeds of which support kids and the arts.
“My passion for the last five to 10 years has been arts advocacy,” Ron said. “About this time last year we began to get the idea to take the success of the Music Machine and see how it created successful people.”
Following Ron’s departure from Bonita Vista High School in 1999 after 25 years, the music/drama building on campus was named the Bolles Theater.
“When Ron said he was going to retire it concerned me because this is a couple that has been given such a gift — not only their talents, but their personality,” teacher and contributing writer Deborah Dodaro said.
Ron created the Music Machine in 1976 and Reina came to Bonita Vista shortly after as a choreographer. They married three years later.
The Bolles live in Otay Ranch and have been Chula Vista residents since 1980.
Ron, 63, is the director of worship and arts at La Jolla Presbyterian Church and said that winning the award would be a powerful testimony to the impact the arts have in the community.
Reina, 58, is the communications director for the arts advocacy organization South Bay Alliance for Arts Education and also heads the drama team at La Jolla Presbyterian.
“They are incredibly special people and have touched so many people’s lives in a positive way in developing our youth to become not only great musicians and artists, but most importantly to become quality and better people,” former Chula Vista city councilman and current Sweetwater Union High School District trustee John McCann said.
McCann, 43, played bass in the Music Machine his senior year and said the Music Machine was tremendous in developing his character.
“It far exceeded my expectations because it taught me life skills, how to be a professional and keep a good work ethic,” he said.
Ron said the idea for the book grew out of a town hall meeting.
“I shared facts and figures that showed how arts can improve test scores … then a mom got up and spoke about how the Music Machine saved her son’s life,” Ron said. “That story was the impetus behind everything,”
Ron refers to the book as a mash-up of the TV show “Glee” and “Chicken Soup for the Soul.”
“‘Glee’ has brought an awareness to the general public about what a show choir is all about, however, ‘Chicken Soup’ has heart-warming stories,” Ron said.
Lisa Brannen is an elementary school secretary at Chula Vista Hills and contributed to the book.
Brannen, 47, performed in the Music Machine beginning in 1978.
Today, Brannen is involved in Music Machine’s boosters program, a nonprofit corporation at Bonita Vista that was formed to support kids in the arts financially.