By Scott MacClelland
The S.T.A.R. Foundation of Monterey County just announced the first of two rounds of annual grants and scholarships, totaling $59,550. Pretty impressive since its founding by Reg Huston in 2009. Huston is widely known in Monterey County as a singer and actor; he’s been cast as Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof in numerous productions (most recently for Pacific Repertory in 2012) and has appeared in Mozart’s Don Giovanni at Hidden Valley and as Sweeny Todd on The Western Stage. But with this round of grants S.T.A.R. (Support Theater Arts Regionally) has gone further than its original vision by adding other performing arts groups, including music and dance education, to its list of beneficiaries.
“Acting and theater offer more than any other of the self-expression disciplines,” says Huston. “Now we are beginning to spread out our support, to broaden our base to include all performing arts.” Like sports, these disciplines develop in a context of teamwork, he says, “but unlike sports, where careers are shortened by physical wear and tear, the arts provide you with opportunities to participate for the rest of your life.” He asserts that “we need a cultural revolution in this country to promote and rebalance what enriches the human spirit.”
When Youth Music Monterey County’s non-profit status was established, in 1988, its founder, Ruth Phillips Fenton, discovered a significant funding source at a Salinas bingo operation. The proceeds provided YMMC with steady cash flow whereas other funding sources required traditional grantsmanship which took time and other resources and produced uncertain outcomes. Later that year, Reg Huston assisted managing the games, in addition to his job as program manager for YMMC’s orchestra rehearsals.
When YMMC decoupled from its bingo concession, in 1994, Huston stayed on to run the games for the benefit of Salinas Valley Aquatics. Other non-profit programs came in turn until five years ago when the owner, Broadway Bingo, asked Huston if he would like to create his own non-profit and gain the bingo benefits.
In 2010, the new foundation made grants totaling more than $43,000. In two granting cycles in 2011, the total was over $87,000. In 2012 it was more than $140,000. Over the last five years, S.T.A.R. has built up an endowment fund that most regional non-profits could only envy. Because Huston’s foundation can make grants to any number of non-profits, that puts him on the level of the Community Foundation and the Arts Council for Monterey County. In fact, some of S.T.A.R.s funds are invested with the Community Foundation. Recently Huston pledged a $10,000 matching grant to the charitable trust that supports the MPC Theatre Company, now going through severe budget cuts.
Huston received his Bachelors and Masters degrees in music from the University of the Pacific Conservatory in Stockton. He was a Charter member of the Hidden Valley Opera Ensemble (in 1973) and went on to complete post-graduate studies at Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara and the Merola program of San Francisco Opera. He then studied at the Conservatory of Vienna. At Hidden Valley he performed more than 30 roles. In 1986, he was chosen to participate in the Salzburg Mozarteum where, among others, he performed the title role in The Marriage of Figaro, directed by Peter Ustinov. He was then offered a two-year contract with the Hamburg State Opera in Germany where he served as a soloist from 1986 through 1988. Over the last 35 years, he has performed leading roles with The Western Stage, Pacific Repertory Theatre and the Forest Theater Guild. He has also performed as a vocal soloist with every major performing ensemble in Monterey County.
He is very proud of his two grown sons, Jesse and Max, who are accomplished actors in their own right.
Photos: Huston in The Western Stage productions of Sweeney Todd, South Pacific and Kiss Me Kate