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Three Years!!!

As we prepare for Year Four I have a lot to be thankful for!

  • A supportive and encouraging group of friends and family
  • A landlord who has been gracious, supportive, and most kind
  • An opportunity to take the studio to a new level
  • Students that bring us great joy in working with them and watching them grow
  • A growing theatre program that has a bright future in it’s own new facility!

Suffice it to say, in spite of some minor setbacks in 2019, we are progressing along the timeline I had hoped we would be able to be on at this time!

We are SO excited to be opening a new facility this fall at 505 E. Young which will house private teaching studios, a large dance/theatre classroom, a business incubator, and our own theatre! So much is going on this summer, and SO quickly, that it’s hard to not have my head spinning constantly but we’re moving right forward!

In our new facility we will be taking a bold step forward offering a multitude of new opportunities for kids and adults alike! We are extremely excited about what lies ahead for us in the months and years ahead now. It’ll be a slow process getting everything going, but we’d rather take the time to do it right the first time.

We’ll be producing Thoroughly Modern Millie and Mulan during the school year plus our usual holiday offerings of Ebenezer and Charlie Brown Christmas. This fall we are adding a children’s theatre class which will meet weekly and present it’s own play, Dinosaurs Before Dark.

We are excited about group piano classes, a new theatre and voice instructor, and especially about our new building and all it holds in promise for us!!!

So, won’t you join us in 2019-2020?

 

Welcome to 2018-2019 at The Studio!

We’re celebrating two years in business!

Well, how about that? We’ve beat the odds and have made it through two years in business!

Let me tell ya, there have been a lot of challenges and, quite frankly, some times that I thought we wouldn’t make it this far but we’re still here and we’re buckling in for the ride that is ahead for year number three!

We’ve adapted as we’ve gone along, sometimes not willingly but having things forced upon us doesn’t always leave you with many options. We DO hope that our timpani find their way back to us (along with a lot of other things!) soon! But enough of that, eh?

As I sit here in the middle of the night (what has quickly become my “creative time”) I’m reflecting back over these past two years and I’d like to share with you the highlights of our first two years of being in business!

2016

We opened the studio on August 1st with 35 students registered and 10 teachers and 3 part time front desk people on staff. In November we held our first recital in Strive Women’s Fitness – the two Karen’s are some of the nicest people we’ve met while in business and still highly recommend Strive! Over the first four months in business we jumped from our original 35 students to over 60! We were approached by the Warrensburg R-6 Adventure Club and invited to offer classes in piano, violin, and guitar there.

The 2017 cast of Seussical Jr.

2017

We added musical theatre to our studio in February and our enrollment numbers climbed to over 100! When the end of February came around we nearly broke the $10K gross income level (missed it by $113). It was also our first month of operating in the black, and we rejoiced!!! Our students gave their first public performance at Old Drum Days in April. We also made new friends at the Johnson County Historical Society who offered us a place to have our first summer outdoor theatre season.

When we were told that we weren’t allowed to give theatre classes or produce shows at our original location, we met a new friend in Jeff Franklin and leased space for the summer in City Centre Office Suites. We presented two musicals in June, 2017: Seussical Jr. and Getting to Know: The Sound of Music. Our students performed for over 1500 people over the course of eight performances!

2017 Christmas Carol
The cast of our 2017 production of A Christmas Carol.

Year two started with an invitation to perform as part of the downtown Dickens Festival and we brought together a cast made up of kids from our first summer cast to perform a musical version

Von Trapps
The Von Trapp Family Singers from 2017 Sound of Music.

of A Christmas Carol. This prompted us to move forward with leasing the downtown space in City Centre on a long-term basis and we created our black box theatre and downtown studio there!

We also produced two smaller plays in December, Toy School and A Charlie Brown Christmas and performed in the Family Life Center of First United Methodist Church right next door. We opened year two with 80 students on the roster plus another 30  students from Adventure Club. As Christmas approached we were very excited about what 2018 would bring for TMSOW!!!

 

2017 Charlie Brown Christmas
The cast of A Charlie Brown Christmas, 2017.
Hannah Taylor as Miss Grouchstick in “Toy School.” 
Twila Burson played Raggedy Ann in our holiday production of “Toy School.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2018

Well, the excitement balloon was quickly deflated and we started off the new year with some unpleasantries from our original landlords that carried over from our refusal to let them “take over” the studio in April of 2017. It took until the end of March but we were able to resolve the legal challenge placed before us and closed our original location (we STILL haven’t gotten all of our stuff back!). We took on extra space on a short-term sub-lease in City Centre and moved our business wholly to that site as of the end of March.

We organized our first performing group, The Ensemble, after the holidays and the 14 kids in that group presented four performances including Old Drum Days

(on a VERY cold Saturday morning!) and presented Dinner and a Show in our black box theatre. January saw us audition for our second season of summer theatre outdoors which we rebranded as “Theatre Under the Stars.” We brought back Sound of Music for a second season and also performed Xanadu Jr. and Disney’s The Little Mermaid Jr. again at the historical society grounds.

Karlie Knowles (aka Sour Kangaroo, Calliope, and Ursula)- recipient of our first theatre scholarship.

We were particularly blessed to find a new partnership with Starlight Theatre and were able to use their professional costumes and sets from their earlier production of Xanadu. In the process we made several new theatrical friends around the country adding much needed costumes to our inventory through gifts and many set pieces for Little Mermaid. We took on additional storage space in the attic area of City Centre in order to store our growing inventory of theatrical equipment, supplies, and costumes. We were also blessed to make a very small profit on the 2018 summer theatre season and, through the generosity of our audiences between Dinner and a Show and Theatre Under the Stars we have been able to establish a scholarship fund for deserving kids! We awarded our first theatre participation scholarship to Karlie Knowles who has been one of our stand-out young performers in 2017 and 2018. We are looking forward to continuing to award participation scholarships in both theatre and music as we start year three with a little under $1,000 in our scholarship and financial assistance fund!

 

 

 

Under the Sea from 2018’s production of The Little Mermaid Jr.

Not every step along the way has been positive, but in spite of it all we have persevered and the road ahead looks bright! We are excited about starting up Dave Simon’s KIDZ ROCK program here this new year along with PRINCESS BALLERINAS. We recently started a remodel of our studio in City Centre with a new lounge and business area for parents. We are also working to upgrade our private lesson instructional area by turning what has been our costume and prop storage room into a teaching studio and expect to have that ready to occupy by Labor Day. We’ve moved my grand piano back into the “green room” where our organ resides and Mr. Jim now teaches out of that room.

 

Our 2018-2019 seaon!

We’ve started the process of upgrading our pianos yet again with the sale of the baby grand which was previously located downstairs. A replacement grand piano is in our near future along with a set of electronic pianos for use in offering piano classes. Since we closed out the summer theatre season we’ve had a team of students working together to read and review possible plays for this coming year and we recently announced that we will be doing Freaky Friday One Act, Madagascar a Musical Adventure Jr. and Thoroughly Modern Millie Jr. in 2019. We will present a new version of A Christmas Carol (possibly the world premier!) for Dickens Fest and are bringing back Charlie Brown Christmas again in December.

 

1,000 Likes on Facebook
We hit 1,000 Facebook “likes” on August 10th!

We Hit 1000!

On a VERY exciting note, we finally hit 1,000 “likes” on our Facebook page in early August! As I write this we’re closing in on 1,025 “likes.” We’ve also had several new theatre kids and Kidz Rock kids come on board as a result of the greater promotion that Facebook now gets for going over 1,000!

So, all in all, in spite of 2018 presenting us with a lot of challenges that really tried our patience and resolve, I’m pleased to say that we’re STILL here and while we will still have some challenges, the future looks bright for the studio. We thank God for many answered prayers particularly this year and hope that He will continue to bless the studio in the months and years ahead!

Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Life is full of drama…

Drama in the news, drama in politics, drama at church, drama between competing businesses, drama between teens…

Let’s face it: Drama is everywhere! It’s a part of the fabric of our lives and, like it or not, we have to contend with it every day of those lives. Lately it’s even been a part of TMSOW and in spite of our best efforts to avoid it – and we take pride in having minimal drama here! – we’ve come to discover that it’s just a part of being in business sometimes.

The questions on a lot of people’s minds is pretty basic: HOW do I deal with it? How do I not let myself get tangled up in it?

You know, if I had THE answer to this I imagine that I could bottle it, sell it, and retire for it! Our truth is that there is only so much that we have control over in our lives. We can only take care of ourselves no matter what somebody else says or does.

On a different level, however, we work with kids here. That’s a whole other level of drama in and of itself! C’mon, admit it. You know I’m right!

As people who work with teens and tweens every day, teachers know that drama is a part of growing up. It’s ranges from the littlest things all the way up to teen suicide – man is THAT one hard to deal with and we’ve had to deal with two cases of that in the past 3 months in our community!

Teens and tweens in the 21st Century live in a really difficult time. They are bombarded by social media, slammed on Snapchat, bullied on Facebook, and what used to be something you could get away from in the pre-social media world we live in is anything but that in this day and age. If a kid is bullied at school they can’t reasonably expect to get away from it simply by going home. Often the bullying continues relentlessly 24/7 via things like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook and it’s right there in their hands in the form of their smart phones!

So, we’ve decided to take a more aggressive stance on this topic at TMSOW! We are instituting a “check your drama at the door” policy here. Starting with our new year in August we will be asking every student to turn off their phone when they come into the studio for lessons or other activities. Of course if they need to call home for a ride they’ll get to do that, but otherwise we’re going to do our best to give all of our students a break and see if we can’t create a nearly drama-free zone they can come to here and have a place where they can escape the drama.

We’ll keep you posted how it goes!!!

 

 

Why you should be here…

OK, so today I was enjoying my first day off in about 6 weeks (ya, it’s summer theatre season and my life’s really NOT my own – it belongs to about 25 kids who are doing our summer theatre shows!)… but I digress!

In the midst of enjoying an afternoon of 80’s music videos on MTV while attempting to clean up my WAY too messy desk in my office, I read a post from a high school kid who commented that everybody here hates them. Man, did THAT statement really hit me hard!!!

Not only is it a shame, but it’s an awful statement on how bad things can be for kids anywhere.

I was reminded, though, about what we’ve managed to do in the two years we’ve had TMSOW in business: We’ve built a core group of kids that do our theatre shows that are a true team.

They come from all over the area and when they come together it’s as a huge group of friends who have each other’s backs no matter what. I’ve watched them reach out to every new kid that walks in the door and make them feel like they’ve always been here. It’s pretty cool to see a group of kids doing this on their own.

Ya, sometimes there’s still drama – they’re teens and tween, that’s just a part of being them – but, at the end of the day they always find a way to get back to what draws them to each other: the love of theatre and performing.

If I don’t accomplish anything else is the time I have allotted to me for this life, I would hope that I would be remembered as someone who did right by his students and helped them to be better people.

What’s your point, Duncan?

My point is this: I’ve seen and heard about the kind of drama that takes place with kids and parents at other performing arts places all over. Trust me, I’ve visited a lot of them over the years and it’s a fact of life – kids can be terribly mean to each other and they can do a lot of harm to each other if they aren’t in situations and with people that can get them through these things.

Suicide has hit my kids hard this year. Two local kids ended their lives within a couple of months and both were well known to my theatre kids. It was a tough time for them but they leaned on each other and managed to make it through TOGETHER.

That’s what I believe is the most special thing we have here at TMSOW – kids who care about each other more than they care about themselves.

So I’m inviting anyone who feels that they’ve been bullied, harassed, threatened, intimidated, or otherwise made to feel like you had no worth to come and be a part of what we do. There are great things and great experiences for you here, not to mention new and good friends to be had!

We’re here for anyone that wants to find a place to fit in without being judged on whether you’re good enough, pretty enough, cool enough, or whatever. Come find YOUR place here with us. There’s room for everybody!!!

All Good Things…

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end.

Yes, all good things, but at the same time, though the process of growth and improvement is a force that compels us all to not remain static. Businesses that don’t constantly grow and improve themselves eventually stagnate and die.

When we leased our first space we thought we’d have a presence there for many years but The Music Studio of Warrensburg has grown at a rate that I certainly didn’t think was possible in this short of a period of time.

Needless to say that the excitement over this growth has been personally rewarding and has certainly made me re-think a lot of things!

Over the past twenty months we’ve had a lot of experiences, some of those not very pleasant, but most of them have been positive experiences and opportunities to grow and be open to different things.

The decision…

The decision to close our original facility was something I certainly didn’t expect I’d be making for at least another year. Sometimes, though, extraneous events and occurrences force us to move forward and such was the case with Twister Sports.

I won’t go into details but, suffice it to say, there are great differences in our respective views of what a music studio is and what it does between us and them. Our’s is not “just another after school activity,” In fact, we see it as so much more than just an activity that kids do. We change lives; we build character while teaching the value of hard work and persistence. Most important, though, we place what’s best for kids ahead of all other considerations including making a profit!

We also don’t believe that our business, procedures, and policies are, or should be, subject to the approval or concurrence with another business owner. As an independent business, our hands were unreasonably tied with what we could offer kids at our original location. Being able to bring on new programs (theatre being a significant one) without undue restrictions or requirements of another, unaffiliated business isn’t conducive to our growth. In short, we choose to not associate our business with people who don’t have our best interests at heart or would resort to childish games, intimidation, breaking promises, or denying access! We can’t recommend that others do, either…

The Good News is this:

To say that the relationship has been strained is an understatement but, at the same time, that strain resulted in The Music Studio opening a second location, creating a highly visible entertainment opportunity for the community, and bring more students into our all-inclusive family. Without that strain, we might not be where we are now! We are especially excited to say that we’ve actually experienced a surge in enrollments, most citing that they prefer that we are on our own and not at our previous location!

That old, favorite sweater…

While we are disappointed that we are closing our Twisters location, it’s also like a favorite childhood sweater that you’ve outgrown – there will always be a level of nostalgia for that first sweater, but the new one fits better and is one that we knitted ourselves. You don’t want to wear it any longer but it also defines you and your “style!”

So, as we move on to the next stage of our history, we are grateful for our time at our original facility in that it allowed us to learn valuable lessons as well as developing a business beyond doing “just one thing.”

What is it?

In the movie “City Slickers” the character of Curly, the tough, seasoned cowboy tells the rookie cowhands this:

Curly: Do you know what the secret of life is? [holds up one finger]  This.
Mitch: Your finger?
Curly: One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don’t mean ****.
Mitch: But, what is the one thing?
Curly: [smiles] That’s what you have to find out. ”

Well, for us that ‘one thing’ is always doing right by kids and putting their interests first. That applies to everything we have done, are doing, and will do in the future!

All good things…

And so it goes…

 

Five “To Do’s” Before Piano Lessons

I subscribe to a daily e-newsletter that provided tips, best practice info, and other interesting things to enhance piano teaching. Today’s posting was particularly interesting and is a ‘must read’ for all parents of not only piano students, but all music students! Enjoy and please feel free to post your comments in response to this article!!

5 THINGS PARENTS SHOULD DO BEFORE DRIVING TO PIANO LESSONS

One of the most important things we can do as teachers is to act as assistants to piano parents. Sharing information, resources, and advice, and being readily available for dialogue is important not only for the health of your studio, but for the benefit of your piano students. And the best time to share tips with piano parents is before a problem arises.

So, to make sure your piano students are always chomping at the bit to get to lessons, share these five easy-to-implement strategies with your parents so they never have to deal with pre-lesson melt-downs and wonder if the piano is the problem.

  1. Don’t Make Piano Lessons The Bad Guy: While not always possible, it is best if parents attempt to keep “Piano Lesson Day” as “Piano Lesson Day” only. They should avoid pulling their children away from another beloved activity, interrupting playdates, packing up from a picnic, leaving early from other extracurricular activities, and even abruptly turning off a favorite TV show. All of these situations cause children to feel as though they are missing out on something by attending piano lessons. If, however, piano lessons are the chosen activity for the day, they become the opportunity for fun and excitement.
  2. Don’t “Rush and Cram”: Parents should avoid having their children cram in a rushed practice session right before a piano lesson. Children won’t have adequate time for the practice session process, making their mistakes seem magnified under a ticking time-limit and causing stress. Children who haven’t already just spent 30 minutes at the piano at home are more focused students in lessons.
  3. Set Them Up For Success: Children who are well-rested and well-fed learn best. When possible, parents should allow after-school time for their children to decompress, eat a healthy, protein-filled snack and receive one-on-one parental attention. A physically, mentally and emotionally balanced child is a happy piano student.
  4. Keep Up With Current Events: Before leaving for piano lessons, parents should remind their children of all the fun things that will be happening in their lessons. To be able to accomplish this task, parents need to read their children’s lesson notes and weekly communications to gain insight into studio activities.
  5. Address Unrelated Anxieties: Unaddressed anxiety can be debilitating for a child and confusing for an uninformed teacher. If piano parents have children who experience separation anxiety, school-based stress, or family-related challenges, it is important that these issues are addressed prior to a piano lesson. Bringing calm and clear children to the studio is essential for musical development. And, if calm and clear children are not always a possibility, then piano parents should inform the teacher of problems and challenges so support and understanding is easier to provide.

Reprinted from Teach Piano Today (www.teachpianotoday.com)

Interested in piano or other music and theatre lessons? Visit our ENROLLMENT page now!

 

What’s best for kids?

So, what IS best for kids? I’ve been at this teaching thing now for nearly 30 years. What constantly amazes me is how it could possibly be this long that I’ve been teaching but it is what it is! I am also constantly amazed how every few years we get a barrage of the latest, greatest thinking in education. My truth, however, is that it’s always just a different way of saying the same things we’ve always said and thought.

Right now it’s S.T.E.M. 50 years ago, when I was a kid, it was “readin’, writin’, and ‘rithmetic.” Different ways of saying the same things, just a new way of saying it to keep up with the times!

About 10 years ago school administrators started using the phrase “what’s best for kids.” I always laughed when an administrators that would throw this phrase out at me whenever they were making decisions that affected what I was doing in the band/choir classroom. My standard response would be something to the effect “Gosh, coach, I’m glad you’ve finally come around to my way of thinking! Maybe now you understand why I do what I do and how I do it!!” (all said with a very sincere facial expression, of course – we don’t want to be disrespectful!)

Say My Name!

Of course, one of my favorite teacher phrases was the age old question “What’s the principal’s first name?” and the answer was (and is) usually “Coach.” Things like this may also have had an impact on my longevity in a couple of positions I’ve held over the years…I’m going to be somewhat politically incorrect now (as if anyone would expect me not to be?)  and quote Dr. Bill Cosby next.

“Now, I told you that story to tell you this one!”

This is where I get serious about what I do and what I expect of the people that work for me so hang on!

Uh-oh!! Crash helmets, everyone and NOW!

Doing what’s best for kids means putting the best interests of the kids we teach ahead of all other concerns. I really mean that. So much so that if I honestly feel that the best interests of a kid we teach would be better served elsewhere I’m going to say that to the parent of that kid even when it means a loss of studio income!

It’s also the reason that we never place undue pressure on kids to make a choice between “us and them.” It disturbs me deeply when we hear of kids being told that they can’t study something anywhere else.

It bothers me when kids are pigeon-holed into having to do things only one way such as having to take additional classes just to take a private lesson. It’s sad to think that some teachers or studios would actually resort to implying that there might be consequences you’ll have to live with if you are disloyal!

To those who would do so to consider the emotional harm this inflicts on kids and stop doing it!

Kids want to please the adults, teachers, coaches, etc. that they deal with and forcing them to make choices. Using veiled threats or implying that they may not get to do something special or take something away from them is just plain wrong! Parents – What would you say to the principal, coaches and teachers at your school if this happened there?

What’s really important here?

I walked away from a job (more than once, I’ll freely admit) because more importance was placed on “numbers’ rather than “product.” I’ll also tell you that being on the other side of the fence as a business owner that has to pay the bills provide a different perspective but I always come back to my foundation of “what’s best for kids.” That means that I also care about our clients getting full value for the tuition they pay us.

I’d rather tell a parent that little Johnny or Betty isn’t making progress because they aren’t practicing outside of their lesson and let them make the decision on whether they’re getting value for the tuition they pay or not. I just don’t believe in our teachers being high-priced babysitters – it’s an exercise in frustration for everyone involved.

This goes back to being told two years ago that it wasn’t my place to tell a parent their kid wasn’t making any progress and that they should consider stopping lessons. Of course, I was promptly admonished that it wasn’t my place to counsel a parent on whether or not they wanted to continue to pay for 30 minutes of practice time and not actually learning anything! Turned out that to my employers it was more important to retain the student (read “keep them paying”) because as long as they were paying for the time who were “we” to tell them not to! Man, there’s just something fundamentally WRONG with that!!! Of course, some people might just attribute that to being a ‘disgruntled former employee…’ (It’s O.K. to laugh now!)

I Don’t Care About Your Money…

That’s not who I am. Sure, I want my studio to be successful and financially solid and secure, but I’m not going to do that on the premise of simply selling time. We choose to provide a quality product and provide true value in the form of obvious student progress and achievement. When our students achieve something we celebrate their accomplishments and recognize them for it – not just handing out an award because you showed up for your lesson! We really like to put our students and their family’s need ahead of pretty much everything else!

When people are rewarded just for showing up what does that teach? Does it teach the intrinsic value of working hard to achieve and foster a desire on the part of the student/worker/whatever to actually up their game? What does it say to the others in the room – “it’s OK to just show up and it doesn’t matter what kind of job you do!”

Horse Hockey! – Col. Sherman T. Potter

I’ve watched with amazement how some performers are recognized with a superior rating when they can’t even make it through a 32-bar song without stopping and starting over several times! To me that’s maddening and it cheapens the intrinsic value of that superior rating award by implying that the kid who didn’t put forth much (if any!) real work and practice and performs poorly is just as good as the kid who practices an hour a day, has their material memorized and well rehearsed and really lights up the room when they perform.

For all of these reasons, we CHOOSE to be different. TMSOW recognizes top students by placing them into honor ensembles, special showcase performances, and bringing in top educators to work with our brightest and best. Gosh, we’re sorry but to get the “goodies” we really kind of expect you to work for it here! We’re not going to give it to you like Mickey Mouse says “because we LIKE you!”

Hey, not only do we LIKE you, we want and really expect our students to work hard and be the best that they can be on any given day. We believe that there’s more value in that than in spending our time handing out points so you can take home a prize. OUR prize is the pride of accomplishment, knowing that you’ve worked hard and become better for having done so!

Isn’t that what every parent really wants for their child? If that’s what you really want, then come and be a part of what WE are! Not only will we make you feel great in the process, but your kids will be all-around better kids for the experience and better prepared to step out into the world!

Hold on thar! – Quick-Draw McGraw

Now, here’s my truth! You know what, when your kiddo accomplishes something we’re going to recognize it! It may be a candy treat after a particularly good lesson, a certificate of achievement, your kid’s picture on Facebook and Instagram when they complete a book, or being recognized as student of the month. We recognize accomplishment here, but we don’t give you stuff just because you showed up!

Finally, and I’m going to be brutally honest here: NOTHING is more important to us than your child’s emotional health. For that reason, we ask every prospective student if they take instruction in music, dance, tumbling, martial arts, cheer, theatre, etc. at any other establishment. We have NO problem with students taking lessons at other studios, but we are also going to be candid and tell you that we don’t want to enroll you here if it is going to place you or your child in the proverbial “no win” situation. We hope that you will understand why we are taking this position.

Kids first. All other considerations are WAY down the priorities list.

 

Being a Musician at Christmas…The Santa “Clause”


I recently came across this picture on Facebook… It was posted to the Kansas City Symphony Chorus Facebook page and it brought a giggle to me!

Now most people that know me know that I’ve sung with the Kansas City Symphony Chorus for some 25 years. They also know that I’m pretty much “persona in absentia” from Thanksgiving until just a couple of days before Christmas between Symphony gigs, church jobs, and other performance-related things. My truth, the truth reflected in this picture, is that I usually end up cramming at the last minute to get my Christmas tree up and the various decorations we like to have out and around the house.

“So why bother?” someone might ask… Well, my truth is that it bothers me a lot that I don’t seem to have any “family time” for most of the month of December.

Again “WHY?!?!?!” Well, I was feeling pretty bad about that tonight. I was missing being home, missing watching a Chiefs game, and another weekend goes by without the Christmas stuff out! Then just before we went on stage for the Saturday night symphony concert one of our chorus leadership pointed out that tonight we would be bringing our music to over 1,100 people that had bought tickets to Christmas Festival and then quickly added that over the course of this crazy, insane week of daily round-trips to the city, teaching, and my other job that we would be touching over 8,000 people, most of whom bring their kids to this annual concert series.

I had a momentary flashback of something I once wrote in my band members handbook when I was teaching high school band. It said something to the effect that talent was a special gift, a blessing meant to be shared with others and that means that we, who are thusly blessed, have an obligation to give of our time and talents for the entertainment and enrichment of the lives of others. As I listened to the beautiful voices of the Allegro Children’s Chorus performing “Moment of Silence” I found myself pondering that these young ladies could be anywhere else tonight. They could be out with their friends, hanging out at a skating rink or meeting friends at a movie but they weren’t. They were giving up the entirety of their time outside of school to SING! As “Silent Night” came from them my usual tears started flowing (it’s a long story for another time, suffice it to say I’ve NEVER been able to sing this wonderful Christmas carol my entire life without choking up…)


As I sat in the darkened Helzberg Hall and heard those girls singing beautifully, I was reminded why I do this annual exercise in exhaustion and schedule juggling: I love to see the faces of the kids that come out to these shows and knowing that making music with 200+ musicians brings so much joy and pleasure to the lives of these people. When Santa shows up (and, amazingly enough, he ALWAYS seems to find a way to pop into Helzberg Hall for every concert!) those kids in the audience instantly pop up tall in their seats and the huge smiles break out! Man, is THAT something special, or WHAT? Even more, when 1,100 people stand up and sing along with Santa, the orchestra, Rezound Bell Choir, Allegro, and the Symphony Chorus it’s just pure magic!

For a couple hours out of the day, everyone can put aside their worries, their fears, and just experience the joy of the Christmas season. (BTW: We even had a menorah and gold foil-wrapped chocolate ‘coins’ back stage!) Man, in this crazy, screwed up world we can find a way to come together and it’s about music and that’s pretty amazing in my book!

Santa makes each of us feel a little better about ourselves, he makes us treat others a little better, and he can pull us all together in a spirit of hope, love, and giving of ourselves. That’s MY Santa “Clause” and it’s not even the fine print on the business card border!

I’ve been doing this stuff my entire life and, yes, sometimes I think I should take a Christmas off but no matter how tired I am or how much that two hours of driving seems to get more and more ponderous every year, when I get to Kauffman I pretty quickly forget how tired I am or how dreary that drive was…

Ya, it’s worth it!

I hope that our students all have a wonderful Christmas and that they find their own Santa “Clause”, too!

Why do we do it?

CAST OF A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS

So, the other day I was talking to the parent of one of our theatrical productions cast members and the conversation went something like this…

“So, I’ll bet you’re going to be glad when this is all over next week!” Now, I’ll admit this – I was, indeed, looking ahead to what’s next but not for the reason(s) the parent might have thought! Frankly, I’m ALWAYS looking ahead to the next big show and as I run a rehearsal I frequently see or hear a young actor or actress give a line a particular way or create an action or an ad lib and it reminds me of a character in another show. In fact, on more than occasion this past few months I’ve found myself penciling up mock cast lists and matching roles to specific kids. It’s just a part of the creative process.

Now, the conversation continued without the above “side bar” and once I said “No, I’ll be pretty sad when it’s done because while I may be looking forward to some down time, I’m going to miss my cast!

CAST OF A CHRISTMAS CAROL, 2018

Every cast is different and unique in it’s own way. Some casts are just real jewels, others aren’t but the one thing they all have in common is that they’re made up of kids that want to act and want to do so to the best of their ability.

That’s why we music and theatre educators do what we do. We live for the experience of making a differen

HANNAH TAYLOR AS MISS GROUCHSTICK

ce in the lives of a group of kids and watching them grow into those roles and develop their acting, singing, and dancing skills in the process. If we’re very lucky, we get to see some of those same faces show after show and they become like members of our own family.

For me, I look forward to those moments in a rehearsal when silly things happen and a comedy of errors takes place and we all laugh together while playing off the absurdity of the moment. There are very few days that I walk away from a rehearsal without something funny to remember or a special moment. Now, THAT’S why I do it!

TWILA BURSON AS RAGGEDY ANN

That’s a no-no!

There are very few things that we take more seriously than making sure that we are teaching our students to act ethically and professionally in their pursuit of the performing arts. We really expect that our students treat their fellow students, cast or ensemble members, and so forth with respect. More important, we expect that they set an example of how to act to everyone that they come into contact with.

We are proud to have a new theatre program up and running and we’ve met a lot of new, talented young people in the past year. When they come to audition for us we never know whether just what to expect – we’ve been surprised several times by people that we’ve literally had to beg to get to sing or even come in and go through the audition process becoming totally turned on by theatre and discovering a whole new talent they never knew they had.

At the same time we’ve unfortunately had to deal with some disappointing behaviors. These are the things that we work so hard to make sure that OUR students know that they are 100% “no-nos” with us…

PART SHOPPING

Nothing is more unethical or unprofessional than the actor or actress who accepts a role in one show and then auditions for a conflicting show and accepts a role with more notoriety or stature within that cast and leaving the first show with a major gap in it’s cast. When this happens it leaves a lasting impression on the director and the cast members about the actor and when they get cast in another show people are left wondering if they can really count on that person or if they’re going to “jump ship” on them at some point. In the professional world, part shopping usually results in the actor’s name and reputation preceding them and eventually they realize that no matter how many times they audition they are getting passed over and left out.

The saddest part is when a talented young person is placed in the position by a “parental decision.” We hope that parents will always help their children understand that there are no small roles, only small actors. It is an opportunity to teach a child about the importance of making a commitment and sticking to it. It’s unfortunate when the parental decision fails to send a positive message to their child.

We take part shopping extremely seriously – so much so that our policy for cast members is that if they wish to shoot for a better role in another production we expect them to resign from our cast before auditioning.

HARASSMENT/BULLYING/GOSSIP

We can’t say enough about how negatively this affects a show cast. It does nothing to make a show better, in fact it makes the positive, working relationships that are essential in a theatrical production very difficult to achieve. Frankly, if you’re someone that acts this way, enjoys gossiping, starting rumors, or putting others down; we just plain don’t want you in one of our shows! There’s enough drama for everyone already in every script. We don’t need to add any!

Hey! We know that people don’t always get along. It’s nothing new. What we expect is that people with differences find a way to put them aside and work together for the good of everyone and the success of the show. No, we really DON’T expect you to like everyone but we DO expect you to learn how to work with people that you may not care for. This is an important life lesson and learning this now will help you when you are out in that cold, cruel working world and have difficult people that you have to work with!

Now, if you’re someone that doesn’t get why we feel this way, you’ve missed something really important and we hope that your experience with us will help you learn the important social skills that will make you successful in life!