Inspiring Students with Disney Musicals in Schools
By Ann Brown, Director of Arts Education –
Tropical birds, monkeys, alley cats, and lions buzzed with energy in Jackson Hall at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) as students from Metro Nashville Public Schools eagerly anticipated performing as part of the Disney Musicals in Schools program. The event featured hundreds of students from six schools including Cane Ridge Elementary, East End Preparatory, Gateway Elementary, Glenn Enhanced Option Elementary, Haywood Elementary, and Westmeade Elementary. Students at each school worked with teams of teachers and teaching artists to learn the music, speaking parts, and choreography which culminated with performances both at the individual schools and at the Student Share Celebration at TPAC.
The day began with a large group performance of “It Starts with a Dream” by Alan Menken which was written especially for Disney Musicals in Schools. The song aligns well with the purpose of the program “to build sustainable theater programs in under-resourced public elementary schools” by providing free performance materials and professional development for teachers. The opening number also connected to the event’s host Jake Speck, Managing Director and Executive Producer of Studio Tenn, who is fulfilling a lifelong dream of creating a theater company here in middle Tennessee where his career in the arts began.
Students performed works from The Artistocats KIDS, The Jungle Book KIDS, Cinderella KIDS, and The Lion King KIDS in full costume and makeup on a stage with professional lighting and sound. In between each song, school representatives spoke about the significance of this program for schools and the impact it has had on cultivating new interests and talents in the arts. Students learned the virtues of dedication and perseverance, and Mr. Speck emphasized the role of arts educators in teaching these abilities to children. It was clear that students had spent many hours over 17 weeks in rehearsals to prepare. The end result was entertaining and inspiring.
Each participating school will receive the rights to another Disney musical for the 2017-2018 school year to support continued theater programs in schools. This program is made possible by the CMA Foundation, Metro Nashville Arts Commission, Metro Nashville Public Schools, Tennessee Performing Arts Center, and The Walt Disney Company along with the countless teachers, teaching artists, administrators, parents, volunteers, and community members. To all performing students and to those who made Disney Musicals in the Schools possible, BRAVI!