Yesterday afternoon I hosted a pool party at my house. It was great fun for the kids, but, as many play dates are, it was really all about the moms having an opportunity to get together. We chatted about parenting and husbands, high school reunions and family vacations. We shared […]
A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with one of my third grade classes about my elementary school music program. They were shocked to hear that music was my least favorite class. My elementary school years were a particularly tough time for public education funding, and arts education […]
I am the music teacher where my daughter, Chloe, goes to school, and most days I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love my school. I think we do things right most of the time. I completely trust that my daughter is in the hands of people who will do […]
The art form I’ve spent the majority of my career working in is theatre (Yes I spell it “re” because I am from South Africa and live in Canada). I taught Musical Theatre for 11 years and I ran Arts Summer Camps for 10 years that had a large performing arts component. It has always been something that has been very near and dear to me. There is something magical that happens when a group of young people come together to put together a production. They grow. They explore. They realize new possibilities for themselves and for their future.
I had the great opportunity to connect with Autumn Kersey, The Executive Director & Founder of Treasure Valley Children’s Theater, to explore how her school in Idaho is developing 21st Century Success Skills through experiences on the stage. Read about the great work Autumn and her team are doing…
Lisa’s Question: What inspired you to get into theater?
Autumn’s Answer: I grew up in a small town in southern Idaho. I did not come from a privileged background. My mother was very young when she had me and she raised me, for the most part, as a single parent. There was not a lot of room in our life for extras like new clothes, eating out or theater tickets.
I was in 4th or 5th grade the year my mom won tickets to see a local production of “Snoopy the Musical”. The production was staged in a small church and performed entirely by local youth. The show was produced by a small team of volunteers who founded Junior Musical Playhouse, JuMP Co., just a year earlier.
I vividly remember sitting on the edge of the hard church pew yearning to join the cast, not because I wanted to be a star, but because I wanted to belong. Everyone on stage looked so happy to be there! They were working together to create something magical. I wanted to be part of that magic.
Not long after, I auditioned for a school play and got the lead. I also started participating in programs with JuMP Co. Of course, I developed aspirations of stardom, but more importantly I found a home. I was accepted by other kids who, despite our socio-economic and religious differences, were a lot like me. I was encouraged by adults who were not family members. I was challenged to try new things and supported even when I failed. As a confused teenager, the theater was my vehicle to explore emotion, to face challenging situations in a safe space, and to build confidence.
I believe my youth theater experiences saved me from poverty, unplanned pregnancy, drug addiction and suicide. Research suggests that children from single-parent families are more likely to experience less healthy lives, are more likely to drop out of school, experience an unplanned pregnancy, have trouble keeping jobs, and suffer other psychological and social consequences.
During the time I was discovering theater, my mom briefly married an abusive, alcoholic man. While the relationship was short-lived, the impact had lasting consequences. I truly believe, if it were not for the theater experiences and the theater family that embraced me – the rides to and from rehearsal, the anonymous donors who paid my participation fees when my mother couldn’t, the directors and teachers who spent extra time with me, and the countless friends. . . I would have fallen victim to the statistics without these interventions.
Lisa’s Question: If you had to pick one or two benefits that young people gain from participating in theater what would you say they are?
Autumn’s Answer: Only one or two? At Treasure Valley Children’s Theater, we like to say that we are changing the world one theater kid at a time. We know – and the research proves – that a theater arts education exposes youth to a variety of important life and leadership skills that will help them be successful in the future. However, it is the opportunity to learn compassion that we embrace as our secret weapon to change the world.
The stories we tell as theater artists, and the people we work with to tell those stories, are incredibly diverse. A student who may come from a privileged background is suddenly faced with telling the story of a character who has lost everything. Or a young, vibrant student may need to research and study the process of aging to portray the role of someone many years their senior. These are just two examples of how theater teaches empathy. To stand in the shoes of diverse characters and to work with and build trust among diverse actors is to open your heart and mind to the differences that make the world an incredibly complicated place to navigate.
We tell our students that the compassion and empathy skills they are gaining as actors will aid them in becoming incredible, powerful leaders in their community.
Lisa’s Question: Do you get feedback from parents about changes they see in their children? If yes, what do they say?
Autumn’s Answer: Yes! All the time. It is what motivates me to get out of bed every day. The knowledge that we are truly changing lives fills my soul! What are they saying? Well one of the most common themes has to do with increasing their child’s confidence level. Parents will often say that not only do they notice the difference but they will describe how it filters into other aspects of their child’s life. They are now excited to do public speaking, take on bigger leadership roles at school, more helpful around the house, better organized – the examples are endless. It is these kinds of changes that are most meaningful for myself and our instructors to hear because we know that the skills they are learning are transferring into all aspects of their lives. […]
Confidence is such an important skills for young people to be able to demonstrate as they grow up and start entering the job marketing. But like any skill it is like a “muscle” that needs to be worked. A young person’s ability to stand out and come across as confident […]
5 WAYS TO CULTIVATE CREATIVITY IN THE CLASSROOM
Creative classrooms don’t just happen. They are fostered, day by day, by teachers and administrators who truly value the (sometimes loud, messy and unpredictable) creative process. As a public school music educator for 15 years I have worked with classroom teachers who set up their students for creative success and also those who have not. The difference is clear when they come to my classroom for music each week – I see it in the risks they are willing to take, the amount of struggle they can handle before getting frustrated, whether they see challenges as an opportunity or a burden, and even how they interact with each other.
The Problem With Your Arts Career
This is going to be a bit of a different blog post than I usually write as often I focus my attention on leadership skills and their connection to the arts. Today I want to write directly to those of you who are professional artists […]
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Raising Creative Children in a Type-A World
I am going to begin this blog by making a confession…when it comes many aspects of my life – my teaching life especially – I am totally Type A. I need order. I crave predictability. I function best when I am the one in […]
How Helping Children Resulted In My Failure
It has been many months since I’ve written a blog post as I have been dealing with some life changing events. I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you the lessons that I learned from my experience.
You may or may not know […]