As an art form, musical theater is unique. Born in the United States, musical theater is as young and dynamic as our country – and it’s constantly evolving. “Ten years ago, who would have thought that a hip-hop rap musical about the Founding Fathers would be the greatest thing that could happen on stage? Musical theater can include anything from dance, storytelling, song – there’s room for everyone around the table,” says Rebeccah Singer, director of education at Porchlight Music Theater, Chicago’s premier theater organization dedicated to this typically American.
Singer speaks, of course, of hamilton, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical that is hugely popular across generations and cultures. His view is that for children in Chicagoland, musical theater is a very accessible and rich source of skills children need to thrive in school, in social settings, and in their future careers.
With strong educational programming, the Porchlight Music Theater offers young performers the opportunity to immerse themselves in musical theater in lessons taught by musical theater professionals who perform throughout the city of Chicago. Children aged 4 to 17 can participate in age-appropriate programs to dance, sing, write, play – and develop a multitude of lifelong skills.
Because only a tiny percentage of Chicago public school students receive the recommended amount of weekly arts education, students fail to learn the many skills they need to be competitive in higher education and their careers. . “Students need artistic partners to provide that creative outlet and the skills that the arts provide. They won’t just get it from school,” Singer says.
Even if your child is not a show buff, they can benefit from Porchlight Music Theater’s educational programming. Here are some of the skills they will learn while participating.
Musical Theater Collaboration
Teamwork is an essential life skill and musical theater is a collaborative art form, Singer says. In Broadway Basics, for example, children aged 7 to 10 work together for 12 weeks to create and perform a unique final production each session, which means children can participate again and again and never experience the same thing twice. experience.
“In our classes, we focus on working with the group that is in the room at the moment. How can we work together to do something big? We can all improve our ability to collaborate and learn to honor our ideas and the ideas of the group,” Singer says. A mix of outgoing and initially reserved participants means that each student can develop leadership skills as they express their own ideas and also champion the ideas of the larger group.
In Broadway Basics, as well as Music Theater Bootcamp (ages 11-13) and Advanced Music Theater Performance (ages 14-17), participants create a final production through which they learn all aspects of performing on stage. . And, for the first time, Porchlight Music Theater welcomes 4 to 6 year olds to Mini Musicals for a week of their very first introduction to musical theater this summer.
Every child needs the self-confidence that comes from individual and group performance. “Dancing promotes body awareness, and learning music builds new brain pathways,” adds Singer. “The study of musical theater allows children to analyze contemporary songs that they are truly passionate about. They learn to see things through the eyes of a character and imagine a different perspective. By studying musical theater, they can really understand different methods of communication and self-expression.
Learning to stand in front of a group of people and speak clearly and confidently can never be taken for granted for the self-confidence it builds, Singer says — especially now that we’re all emerging into a post-pandemic world. “Our children, like all of us, are reintegrating into the world and their social lives. We’ve all had so much screen time, so getting into a safe space to relearn how to be social and how to collaborate, you can’t put a price tag on that skill for kids,” she says. “Musical theater is the best antidote to home confinement for remote learning.”
As children emerge from a pandemic, they need ways to process what they’ve been through. Musical theater does the trick. “It is difficult for children to fully express how the pandemic has affected them, especially because they have never had a say in what happened to them,” she continues. “Having tools to express that is invaluable and it’s a way to sort out what’s happened with other kids who’ve been through the same thing.”
And, during Porchlight Music Theater’s youth programming, the experience is in the hands of the children who participate. “There is a curriculum and there are skills that the teaching artists cover, but the exact content – for example the song and dance choices – and the direction of the final show is in the hands of the students. It’s really rare. Their voices have a ton of value and they are the main drivers of what becomes of the classroom content. They work with the teaching artist to create something new each time.
Something for everyone
Kids don’t have to start young to fully enjoy Porchlight Music Theater’s programming, nor do they have to enjoy tap dancing on tables or singing showtunes, Singer added. Even those who don’t consider themselves theater kids have a lot to offer the experience and the teaching artists are always happy to welcome every child.
Who knows? Your child could help shape the future of this quintessentially American and ever-evolving art form.
“We don’t expect every kid to go to Broadway, or even want to,” Singer concludes. “But we hope they will learn to appreciate and respect other people’s ideas and all the people they have met as a whole. We hope they develop a lifelong appreciation and love of the arts and develop good people skills that will nurture them through many different paths no matter where life takes them.
Learn more about Porchlight Music Theater’s many youth educational programs and enroll your child in porchlightmusictheatre.org.