PAYO was born in 1969 when local school districts began to eliminate arts programs as a means to control budgets. Fortunately, the visionary Symphony Guild Ladies, inspired by Bee Vradenburg, crated the Performing Arts for Youth Organization, soon to be know as PAYO. The tenacious founding members: Zane Bowers, Dorothy Brown, Jane Emery, Clara Glass, Ina Guyer, Jo Higginbotham, Mary Jane Rust and Sue Tyson, with Vivian Weimer at the helm sought out local performing artists and channeled their talents into area schools to stimulate the educational process through dance, drama and music.
PAYO programs grew with rapid popularity among children and educators, who clamored for more. Eventually, PAYO board members initiated an audition process in order to select only the top performers to quench the youngsters’ growing thirst for exposure to the arts.
In the good old days, fund raising was simple. Students, teachers and friends plunked “pennies” into a jar which the performers took to each presentation. Over the past 50 years, PAYO’s programs have evolved from in-house school performances to year-round programs and partnerships with clubs, businesses and other organizations, such as city community centers. PAYO also continues to serve as a booking agent of school performances for other organizations.