As the Orpheum Theatre's regular season comes to a close, education programs take center stage. The Orpheum Theatre's Vice President of Education, Jennifer McGrath, stops by WKNO-FM for an interview with Darel Snodgrass. McGrath talks about some of the upcoming summer educational programs for children. In addition, she mentions a professional development program for teachers, in all fields of study, not just the arts, which helps them integrate some form of artistry into their classrooms.
Darel Snodgrass: You have got such a huge job down there. The Orpheum education programs are well—I mean, it’s a massive part of the mission of the of the group.
Jennifer McGrath: That’s right, that’s true and I'm thrilled to step in and step up to the challenge. And, I’d like to say we're just getting warmed up. So, with everything that we have going on, especially now with the new Halloran Centre for performing arts and education right next-door, we’re just getting warmed up and we hope to continue to grow and expand and further develop the programming.
Darel: The next thing that's coming up on May 24 is the High School Musical Theatre Awards. People hear this and I think "Oh, it’s just a bunch of kids" but I was looking through the list of nominees and these schools are doing some really serious musical theater and theater pieces. And, there’s a ton of them.
Jennifer: That’s right. We’re actually thrilled. It’s one of our largest programs, the annual High School Musical Theatre Awards. This is our ninth year participating. We have almost 30 schools participating, from three states, which we are really, really proud of. And, I think that it will rival anything that you see on stage throughout the entire Broadway season. These young people are so unbelievably talented and, especially for me as a new person here, I really just can’t wait to see them shine—see them all on stage on the Orpheum.
Darel: Okay, now, one of the things that a lot of people around town do our summer camps for young people and the Orpheum is no different.
Jennifer: That’s true we actually have a massive array of summer camp programs. We offer two programs called Rising Star and Broadway Boot Camp. Rising Star is for young people, entering grades three through five, and Broadway Boot Camp is students entering grades six through eight—and it’s an acting, singing, dancing camp at the Orpheum. They're week-long camps and we offered two sessions of both. They are almost full, so if you're interested please make sure to go online and sign up as soon as possible—but it’s a lot of fun.
For high school students, we offered two intensive camps in the week of July 23. We offer a musical theater intensive and a technical theater intensive, for students entering grades nine through twelve, and also for 2018 graduate—so that there’s something for them to do before they head off to college or into the workforce, whatever is next for them. Those camps are a little bit more of an in-depth intensive into the performing arts. They're by application only.
Darel: Also, something that we want to mention, although you really don't have much room for it anymore, is the Mending Hearts camp. This is the second year that you’ve done this. And, this I think is something, that as far as I know, is not offered anywhere else.
Jennifer: Yes, our Mending Hearts camp is a summer day-camp for young people, between the ages of seven and thirteen, who have experienced the death of a parent. It was founded by our president and CEO Brett Batterson, and it’s a very personal experience for him based on his experience growing up and how the arts sorta helped him to cope with a loss as a young man.
At Mending Hearts we really focus on building community among young people that have this shared experience and using the arts as a means to provide a sense of healing—a way for students to cope and express their grief, or whatever they might be feeling in association with the shared experience. By the end of those two weeks, students have really come out of their shell. They have bonded and they’ve made friendships and a support system that really can go on to last the rest of their lives.
Darel: Another thing, that's not really for the kids but is part of the Education program—you’re trying to help out teachers, also. So, you have a professional development program for teachers.
Jennifer: So, the Orpheum Theatre group is actually Kennedy Center partners in education with Shelby County Schools. The Kennedy Center defines arts integration as an approach to teaching where students construct and demonstrate their understanding through an artform.
We actually encourage general classroom teachers to attend because it’s about integrating arts into the general classroom—so that you can as were to provide that window in for students, in a different way.
This summer, we have a summer institute running the week of June 11. We'll have Kennedy Center teaching artist, Marcia Daft, in doing a three-day and a two-day intensive in that week; including classroom demonstrations with students and young people. Then we have, as I mentioned, teacher professional development throughout the year. We work with a local teaching artist Jamin Carter and Sean Lane, from the Kennedy Center was in just this past Saturday. If you've never been before we encourage you to check it out.
For more information, orpheum-memphis.com