One of my favorite activities as a grammar and middle student were the field trips to see the final dress rehearsal of national and international stage productions and concerts as they came through town. It was a fantastic program from Portland’s school district. Seeing these performances inspired me to spread my creative wings in High School joining in drama and choir activities. I also think it made me a better, more well-rounded person with experiences I could draw on as an adult (like how to behave in crowds or at the theater).
Walt Disney World has been sponsoring an even more immersive program in Central Florida. The Disney Musicals in Schools program puts kids up on the stage rehearsing and performing scenes from famous musicals. This year hundreds of students participated.
“It was so inspiring to see these students grow into confident, collaborative performers who believe in themselves,” said Dana Brazil, director of education at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. “When kids experience musical theater, they learn so much more than memorizing lines or hitting their marks. They build creativity, communication, problem solving and teamwork skills that last a lifetime.”
The Students Share Celebration provided students, their families, teachers and friends a thrilling curtain call for the Disney Musicals in Schools initiative, an immersive, 17-week program designed to help students explore their artistic abilities.
To help provide student access to sustainable theater programs for under-resourced public elementary schools, Disney Theatrical Group launched Disney Musicals in Schools in 2010. In collaboration with performing arts centers and children’s theaters in cities that have been awarded Disney programming and funding grants, Disney Theatrical Group continues to develop and oversee this nationwide program.
Each participating school is assigned teaching artists, who work with the administrators, educators and students to aid in the process of putting on their first Disney KIDS musical. In addition to learning theater skills, students develop confidence, collaboration skills, communication strategies, and more. To date, the program is available in 13 cities, has served 21,362 students and 600 teachers in 175 schools across the country.
Locally, Disney Theatrical Group has worked with the Dr. Phillips Center School of the Arts in the past year to coordinate the program at four schools in Orange, Osceola, and Seminole counties. Students completed the program with a 30-minute performance of a Disney musical at their school, followed by the Student Share Celebration in May at the Dr. Phillips Center. During the final performance, each school performed one number from their show for an audience of students, teachers, family, and community members.
The Disney Musicals in Schools program was made possible in Central Florida with cash and in-kind support from Disney. In the coming year, the Dr. Phillips Center will select four more public elementary schools to participate in this program, while continuing to work with the original four schools to produce Disney KIDS musicals. Next year, the Disney Musicals in Schools program expands to five additional cities, including West Palm Beach, Fla. (in collaboration with the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts).