Music Theater International & Freddie Gershon:
Students Across Five Boroughs Make Their Broadway Debut
The Department of Education’s Blueprint for Teaching and Learning in the Arts, Music Theatre International (MTI), under the leadership of Freddie Gershon, and the NYC Department of Education through the direction of Dr. Sharon Dunn, Senior Instructional Manager for Arts Education, have teamed up to create the Inaugural Arts Educational Program.
Recently, a powerful product of this collaboration was presented at the Broadway Imperial Theatre with students from all five boroughs in NYC middle and intermediate public schools making their Broadway debut. Participating schools were: IS 89 and PS 29 of the Bronx; IS 10 and IS 323, Queens; PS 241 from Manhattan; MS 88 and IS 68, Brooklyn; and IS 72, Staten Island.
Dunn described the program as a “carefully planned program with one goal: help students, parents, principals and assistant principals understand the value of arts education.”
With great enthusiasm and teamwork students performed the scenes “It’s a Hard Knock Life” and “Together at Last,” from Annie Jr. and “We Tell the Story,” as well as “We Dance” from Once on This Island Jr. The shows are called “junior” because they are adaptations of the originals.
A generous grant of $75,000 from the Schubert Foundation, was donated to the program in recognition of, as stated by Chairman Gerald Schoenfeld, the “vital role the arts can play in children’s lives.”
Work on the productions began in August of 2005 when teachers from the eight schools participated in a two-day training program in developing a show through MTI’s Educational Branch. At the start of the school year in the fall, teachers chose a show from MTI’s Education Division’s collection of musicals adapted by authors for middle schools and received continual guidance from MTI Education through its “Broadway Junior” show kit which includes producer/director guidelines for casting, rehearsal and performance, in addition to curriculum guides connecting show themes to classroom instruction. Arts Connection provided year round production advisors to schools. Deeper than belting out melodies and fancy footwork is the sense of confidence fostered in students, the skill of productive teamwork, and appreciation of the arts.
Ranjeet Kaur of IS 10Q stated that she “learned the importance of believing in ourselves…things that can’t be learned in a regular classroom.”
Staff members of IS 72 agreed that key ingredients for the success of the project were combining hard work and fun. Gershon gave a “great big bravo” to students for their first Broadway appearance, hopefully just the beginning of many rich experiences in arts education.#