Our Production Nominated for Three Regional Emmy® Awards!

Our Production Nominated for Three Regional Emmy® Awards!


Young Artists of America’s televised performance of Young Artists of America: The Songs of Tim Rice that premiered  on Maryland Public Television (MPT) in June of 2017, has been nominated for three regional Emmy® Awards! 

The news came from the National Capital Chesapeake Bay Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences (NATAS) and was announced on May 16th. The annual competition is open to any television station, company, production house, or independent producer in Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. The one-hour performance, hosted by Sir Tim Rice, featuring the talents of over 150 YAA students, was conceived for YAA/MPT and directed by London theater director Hugh Wooldridge (Chess in Concert, An Evening with Alan Jay Lerner, The Music of Andrew Lloyd Webber).

The broadcast offered performances of 12 iconic songs, many of which earned Rice Tony Awards® and Oscars®. Now, this world premiere television production has earned three Regional Emmy® nominations for YAA and MPT in the categories of

  • Arts/Entertainment – Program/Special (Ken Day, Producer)
  • Director – Non-Live Post-Produced (William Clarke)
  • Lighting (Tracy Gaspari)

The program is the only one nominated in the category for Lighting.

“We couldn’t be more thrilled about this news,” says Rolando Sanz, YAA’s Co-Founder and Producing  Artistic Director. “It’s not every day that middle and high school students get to be the stars of an Emmy® nominated production, and we are honored to give them this opportunity and so grateful to our gifted and committed production team and partners at MPT.”

YAA’s partners and co-producer, Maryland Public Television (MPT) has earned 20 nominations this year, including for Station Excellence and Community Service. The NATAS chapter’s Emmy® Awards gala takes place on Saturday, June 23 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel, Conference Center, and a three-hour telecast of the ceremony will air on MPT2 on Friday, June 29th at 8:00pm.

Watch them announce us (49:15):

Watch the Full Production Here:

Check Out the Behind-the-Scenes Documentary by Eikenberg Films:

Share Your Fondest #YAAMemory!


Share Your Fondest #YAAMemory!


We're celebrating 7 years of YAA today!

Share your fondest memory with us below in the comments section and we'll spotlight it on our social media this week! 

On May 7th, 2011, YAA presented their inaugural concert in the lobby of Strathmore. 7 years later our incredible students have performed on stages ranging from The Music Center at Strathmore to The Kennedy Center to Maryland Public Television Sound Stage, to AMP Powered by Strathmore to National's Stadium and beyond! We couldn't have done all of this without you all, our incredible supporting community and for that we say thank you! Share your fondest YAA memory hear and we'll highlight it on our social media this week.


A Mentor Honored

 Eliot Pfanstiel accepts the award from Ike Leggett, County Executive.

Eliot Pfanstiel accepts the award from Ike Leggett, County Executive.

Young Artists of America prides itself in ARTISTRY, EXCELLENCE, and MENTORSHIP. That's the first thing you see when you land on our homepage. And, on Sunday, after a thrilling performance by over 275 local students of RAGTIME IN CONCERT, we honored one of our favorite mentors, Strathmore Founder and CEO, Eliot Pfanstiehl.

Pfanstiehl was presented the YAA MENTORSHIP AWARD by Montgomery County Executive, Ike Leggett from the Music Center at Strathmore Stage after our performance.

CONGRATS, Eliot! Well deserved!

(Photo compliments of Tom Kohn)

RAGTIME in Concert to Honor the Late Joel Markowitz

RAGTIME in Concert to Honor the Late Joel Markowitz

 Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz

The YAA family is honored to dedicate our performance of RAGTIME in Concert to the memory of one of YAA's founding board members, Joel Markowitz

Joel was a pillar in the region's performing arts community. He was the Co-Founder, Publisher and Editor of DC Metro Theatre Arts, a premiere arts blog in the region covering the performing arts in DC, Philadelphia and New York. He is deeply missed by the community, and his memory lives on through the arts. 

When we first founded Young Artists of America, Joel was one of the first calls we made when we were forming our founding board of directors. We knew that Joel was not only a pillar of the local arts community here, but also a big supporter of arts education for young people.

We were humbled when Joel agreed to join us as a founding board member of YAA. Joel was our first guest narrator in our Inaugural Concert in May 2011 at Strathmore, and he beamed as he watched our first class of students perform the repertoire he loved the most. In the years that followed, Joel was always just a phone call away to advise on our productions and offerings to our students. We are honored that Joel helped contribute to the vision of what YAA is today.

In our many conversations with Joel over the years, we learned that RAGTIME was one of his favorite musicals of all time. While we are sad that Joel cannot be with us for this performance, we know that he would be proud of our students as they celebrate the 20th anniversary of this epic work he loved so much.

- Rolando Sanz, Producing Artistic Director
- Kristofer Sanz, Music Director

About Joel Markowitz

Joel Markowitz was the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother, Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, children's theaters, professional, and community theaters. Joel was always an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theaters for BroadwayWorld. He was an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel was a proud member of The American Critics Association.

Read Joel's Obituary

Learn more and get tickets here for the upcoming RAGTIME In Concert production on April 15th at 4pm at the Music Center at Strathmore. 

INTERVIEW: YAA's New Audition Intensive Workshop Week Creator, Colleen Daly

 Colleen Daly, Young Artists of America Staff

Colleen Daly, Young Artists of America Staff

Auditions. Perhaps the least favorite part of any performer's life. But, they're a necessary evil, and if you can hone the craft, they get a lot easier. With this in mind, YAA is offering a new program during our Summer Intensives - Audition Intensive Workshop Week. This new daytime session will run from July 9 - 13 (conveniently before any auditions taking place for The Conservatory or The Academy productions) and is for singers/actors (6th-12th grade) looking to unlock their inner potential for greater auditions. We sat down with professional Soprano, Colleen Daly, who created the program, to tell us more.

Tell us a bit more about what you hope students will get out of the new Audition Week Summer Session. 

We’ll be honing our audition skills! Auditions are a necessary evil in life — even if you don’t decide to pursue music performance professionally, you’ll still have to “audition” — in college applications/interviews, job interviews, etc... any time you enter a new situation and are testing your abilities, you’re auditioning! So why not learn how to master the art of a successful audition? 

Who is the session best suited for? Who do you recommend signs up?

This session is for ALL performers. If you're a beginner, this is a wonderful opportunity to start addressing your fear of public speaking and performance. The program is also perfect for advanced students who are currently prepping college auditions, school or community theater auditions, All-State auditions, or who just generally wants to be better at auditioning. 

What are some things they will learn in the session if not addressed above?

We will work to build confidence in every performer, no matter the level. Each participant will design their own individual audition plan of attack. We’ll address audition materials, song package, improve vocal technique, work on communication skills and first impressions, perform mock auditions, goal setting/reaching, and clarifying the definition of success. And we will have lots of fun!!

Can you tell us a bit more about yourself? What experience have you had with auditions, etc. 

I work in the field that I teach about — I am a professional classical singer who has done hundreds of auditions in my career, and I am still actively auditioning. I am also an educator who has coached students into major vocal performance and musical theater and theater programs across the country at the collegiate level. 

Anything else we should know? 

This camp would be a GREAT way to be ready for the first day of auditions at The Conservatory & The Academy at YAA Summer Performing Arts Intensives

What are you most excited to see/hear/do at the session?

I can’t wait to see the progress that will happen in just one week! It’s amazing to watch people unlock their potential, meet their goals, and push themselves to go farther than what they thought their comfort zone was to reach new levels. It definitely inspires me in my own process for preparing for auditions. 

What will the students walk away with after taking this session?

A spiffed-up audition package, some long-term goals, some new audition-ready repertoire, insight on how auditions work and can be useful, and confidence in spades!

Learn more and reserve your spot in the week-long program here

More About Colleen:

Colleen Daly has been hailed as a “dramatically powerful” (The Washington Post) young singer. Miss Daly’s most recent performances include Musetta in La Bohème with Annapolis Opera, Lyric Opera of Baltimore and Des Moines Metro Opera; Violetta in Opera Delaware’s production of La traviata, which she also covered at New York City Opera; Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte with Intermountain Opera; Micaëla in both La Tragédie de Carmen with Syracuse Opera and in Carmenwith Baltimore Concert Opera; the Countess in Annapolis Opera’s production of Le nozze di Figaro; and the title role of Thaïs at Opera Company of Middlebury. In the winter of 2016, Ms Daly returned to one of her signature roles, Micaëla in the Maryland Symphony Orchestra’s presentation ofCarmen, and was later presented in her role debut as Fidelia in Puccini’s masterpiece Edgar with the Baltimore Concert Opera.




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We are so thrilled to announce that one of our very own, Mateo Ferro, will star in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights this spring. Mateo studied at our Summer Performing Arts Intensive in 2017, lighting up the stage as Usnavi in our own production of In the Heights. Mateo attends Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County, Maryland and is 16 years-old.

Mateo sat down to chat with us right after the news spread on Playbill and BroadwayWorld, etc. Here's what he had to say. 

Mateo highlights from our Summer 2017 production of In the Heights, where he played Usnavi.

If you'd like to follow in Mateo's footsteps, Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives are registering now for 2018. Learn more here

1.) Tell us the full story of how you got cast in The Kennedy Center's production of In the Heights!

Well it all started from a great guy named Rolando Sanz, you all know the name. Well, he’s just the most genuine guy and I have the most respect for him. He sent me the audition notice saying that they sent it to him and he thought of me. I couldn’t be more thankful for that and I owe that to him. After that I spent hours and hours preparing. Thank you to Mandy Brown, Paul Hienemann, and Saidou Sosseh for helping me prepare! My initial audition was at The Kennedy Center and it went so well! Im so thankful for that. A couple weeks passed and I received an email from the casting director asking me to attend a call back in New York that week. So, my beautiful mother and I did the trip and to say the least I put everything and anything into that call back and got the call the next day!

2.) Tell us about what role you will play in this production of ITH. What's the character like? How will you prepare?

I will be playing SONNY in In the Heights. He’s Usnavi's, the protagonist of the story, younger cousin. He's a scrappy kid who thinks a lot of himself. He jokes around a lot but stays true to himself and everyone around him. He’s just that role that everyone will fall in love with...well, that is if I do it right! I’ve memorized my lines and solos mainly because I did this role at my high school, CHStage! But yes, I had to re-learn most of it and have learned my music parts with my vocal teacher. I just really want to be prepared and have the role locked down before the start of rehearsal because, as you can see from the cast list, these are the real deal actors. Im just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things!

Im just a small town kid from Maryland dreaming about these kind of things!

3.) What YAA productions have you been in and what was your role in each? How long have you been involved in YAA?

A scholarship opportunity started off my journey with YAA. I received it last summer for YAA's Summer Intensive from The Jim & Carol Trawick Foundation. I thank both of these beautiful organizations for the opportunity because it had such huge impact on my aspirations and drive for theatre! I performed in YAA's production of In the Heights as Usnavi! By far my favorite production I have done to date. Lots of memories that I cherish from that experience! 

4.) How did you learn you loved the performing arts?

I've always loved singing! I just had really bad stage fright. But it all changed in the 7th grade when I did a class project show. I was in the ensemble in You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown and had such a blast. After that I decided to audition for my middle schools production of Aladdin. I got the part of Aladdin, the funny thing is that the one role I did not want was the lead because I was so nervous. But it ended up being a blast and what started this journey, and I haven’t stopped since. Huge thanks to Jerilyn Nacht, my director as a kid, she really started my drive for theatre. Also, shout out to CHStage!

5.) What are you most excited about for the ITH experience?

The entire thing!! Thats all I can say. From the second I step into my first rehearsal all the way to my last bow. I'm already sad thinking about it ending and I haven’t even started. I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from it so I can grow even more.

I want to learn and soak up as much as I can from it so I can grow even more.

6.) What have you learned from YAA that has prepared you for this experience (from audition to rehearsals to performance)?

I learned the drive that it takes to do this professionally and seriously. Their Summer Performing Arts Intensive drained me out but they taught me to keep pushing and I did and it was so worth it. Director of the program, Terry Eberhardt, truly taught me what it meant to be a true professional. Not as in a paid actor, but as in the attitude. I thank them a lot for that. 

7.) Anything interesting you'd like to tell us that we haven't asked about? 

Come see the show if it isn’t sold out yet!!! I want to see people I know!! But also, I really want to share with everyone that wants to do this or anything professionally in the future, that it takes a lot. It’s more than just wishing and dreaming about it. It's about the work and sacrifice you put into it. If there's one thing I think separates me from the rest, it’s that I’d do anything for it and I do. I work so hard for this. It is not handed to you. Ever. You have to work and work and I promise you will get something out of it. Be different from the rest.  

It is not handed to you. Ever. You have to work and work and I promise you will get something out of it.

8.) And finally, where do you hope all of this leads? 

Wow, thats actually a strong question! I hope it opens doors for me to work even harder and grow. You never have a peak so I want to prove that and keep working and growing working and growing for the rest of my life. I want to be a performer for the rest of my life and I hope this starts something for me. I really do. 

We do too, Mateo! You're certainly on your way and we couldn't be prouder. If you'd like to see Mateo in the upcoming productions, tickets are available at the Kennedy Center's website. An extra show has been added but tickets are going quickly, so act fast! 

One of Our Own to Star in Kennedy Center's "In the Heights"

One of Our Own to Star in Kennedy Center's "In the Heights"

 Mateo Performing in Young Artists of America's Production of  IN THE HEIGHTS  - Summer 2017.

Mateo Performing in Young Artists of America's Production of IN THE HEIGHTS - Summer 2017.

 Mateo Ferro at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives - 2017

Mateo Ferro at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives - 2017

We are beyond thrilled to share the news that our very own Young Artists of America student, Mateo Ferro, was just cast in The Kennedy Center's production of IN THE HEIGHTS, Lin-Manuel Miranda's Tony Award Winning musical. Mateo will play the role of Sonny, alongside Vanessa Hudgens (Vanessa), Eden Espinosa (Daniela), and Ana Villafane (Nina). The production will run at The Kennedy Center from March 21st until March 25th.

Mateo studied at Young Artists of America's Summer Performing Arts Intensives last summer where he lit up the stage in the role of Usnavi in our own production of IN THE HEIGHTS. (Check out highlights below!) After our production, we connected Mateo to casting directors for the Kennedy Center's production. Mateo auditioned, was called back in New York, and sure enough, won the role! 

Let’s come out and support Mateo! Tickets have been sold out for some time, but they JUST added a performance on Sunday, March 25 at 8:00pm. You can get tickets here but don't delay. They will go very quickly!

Care to follow in Mateo's footsteps? Our Summer Performing Arts Intensive is currently open for 2018 registration. Click here for more.

Video highlights of Mateo's performance with YAA as Usnavi in IN THE HEIGHTS last summer with YAA!

Brava, Emily Reed! Winner of Broadway World's Regional Awards!

Brava, Emily Reed! Winner of Broadway World's Regional Awards!


We are so proud to announce that Emily Reed, our very own Young Artists of America student, has won a Broadway World Regional Award for "Best Actor or Actress in an Educational Theatre Production" for her role in our production of YAA Presents: The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert. 

Well deserved, Emily! And thank you to all that voted! 

Check out the other winners here

Giving Back - Community Outreach with Georgetown Presbyterian Church

Giving Back - Community Outreach with Georgetown Presbyterian Church

It was truly a special evening of community as YAA singers, families, board members and staff participated in an evening of service, outreach, and wonderful music making at Georgetown Presbyterian Church Homeless Dinner Sunday evening! YAA performed their “Bernstein Salute” while YAA parents, board members and YAA friends served dinner to over 70 homeless men and women. It was a joyous evening of coming together, working together, and sharing our YAA talents with our less- fortunate community members. We salute Georgetown Presbyterian - especially Reverend Chris & Victoria, who welcomed us, and organized the compassionate and elegant evening! Truly unforgettable! Join us for the next Community Outreach program!

Learn more about our Community Outreach programs. 

Parent Check-In: Deb Baer

Parent Check-In: Deb Baer

We thought we'd switch up the Alumni Check-In feature a bit, and focus on the parents of our alumni and current students. We asked them to recount their memories of YAA so our supporters can see the impact their donation can make on the lives of those we touch. We sat down with Deb Baer, mother of Emily Reed to chat YAA:

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1.) What has the impact of music been on you or your child?  

Music has always been a part of our family’s life. Emily has been singing since she was a very young child, and the joy it gives her has always been there. There were many times growing up when Emily would just break into song. She could harmonize at a ridiculously young age.

2.) What opportunities has YAA given you that you wouldn't have received otherwise?

YAA has provided a level of musical theater training that we almost could not believe. The YAA performances are so polished and professional that sometimes I forget that the musicians and vocalists are still middle and high school students. Emily has learned so much technically, but being in YAA has also increased her confidence. Emily has also made great friends and gotten a wonderful sense of community at YAA. She has YAA friends that she stays in touch with even though she lives a good distance from them.

3.) What is your fondest memory of YAA?

My fondest memory of YAA was watching the kids at the Showcase performance the first summer that Emily attended the summer intensive. I knew my daughter was talented, but I had no idea what she was capable of after the amazing training she got at camp. She grew a lot that summer artistically. At the showcase I saw her dancing and singing and acting all at the same time and I was blown away by my own child and what YAA had helped her to prepare in 2 weeks time! I will never forget her singing “Burn”. That’s a high point in my life.
Another fond memory is seeing her sing with Broadway star Adam Pascal. I wept as I watched her “hold her own” in that duet, and I owe so much to YAA for creating that wonderful opportunity for Emily.

4.) Why do you encourage people to support YAA?

YAA deserves support because they are so committed to advancing youth in the arts and backing these talented kids 110 per cent! Emily feels supported and pushed to her potential in such a good way. I don’t have enough good things to say about YAA. Emily feels that everyone has her back: Rolando, Terry, Kris, Lisa, and others—everyone has helped her to get better at her craft and to feel like she is part of an artistic team.

Want to ensure this type of impact continues? Please consider making a contribution of any size to our Power of Music campaign before the end of the year. Donate now. 

Vote for Your Favorite #YAAMoment of 2017!

The poll is now closed. The winner was "All of the moments of Musical Theatre Summer Intensives 2017" in first place with "The Sound of Music in Concert" in a close second! Thanks for voting. Here's to more memories in 2018!

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Thanks for voting on this fun YAA poll! We'll announce the winner on our Facebook page on New Year's Eve! 

While you're here, help us win Broadway World's Regional Awards by voting for us in the following categories at this link before December 31st!

  • Best Educational Production: YAA Presents The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice
  • Best Actor/Actress in an Educational Production: Emily Reed, YAA Presents The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice

One of Our Very Own Named Finalist in National Arts Competition

One of Our Very Own Named Finalist in National Arts Competition

 Amanda Primosch to join select few in Miami, Florida in January for YoungArts Week

Amanda Primosch to join select few in Miami, Florida in January for YoungArts Week

We are incredibly pleased to announce Amanda Primosch, one of our young artists and member of our Vocal Ensemble has been given one of the highest artistic honors in the country for young singers. Primosch has been named a 2018 National YoungArts Foundation Finalist in Voice! She will participate in the 37th Annual National YoungArts Week in Miami, Florida from January 7th to 14th, 2018.

Amanda has been a young artist with us for four years and has performed in all 7 school-year and three summer intensive performances. She will also play Mother in YAA’s upcoming production of Ragtime in Concert (April 15, 2018 at the Music Center at Strathmore). 

YoungArts National Voice finalists, like Amanda, were selected from the most competitive pool of applicants to date. She is one of 21 national finalists within her discipline. Only 171 finalists were selected out of 8,000 applications from 47 states. Winners like her will be given access to one of the most comprehensive programs for emerging artists in the country, offering financial, professional and artistic development opportunities over the course of their careers. AYou can check out a complete list of the 2018 finalists online at youngarts.org/winners

Amanda will receive a cash prize of up to $10,000, opportunities to share her work with the public at renowned institutions such as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (Washington, D.C.), The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), Sotheby’s (New York) and New World Center (Miami), and access to professional, award-winning mentors including Doug Blush, Nora Chipaumire, Lisa Fischer, Corin Lee, Karen Olivo, Elizabeth Joy Roe, Patrice Rushen, and Janis Siegel among others.

Rolando Sanz, Artistic Director and Co-Founder of YAA said, “When I received notice that Amanda Primosch was named a YoungArts finalist, I must admit that I was not surprised. Amanda has been cultivating her voice since she began high school, and she is one of the hardest working students I have had the pleasure to teach. Young Artists of America at Strathmore would like to congratulate Amanda for being recognized as one of the best classical singers in the nation.”

Watch Amanda sing (starting at 13:15) in her recent performance of "Climb Ev'ry Mountain," from YAA Presents: The Sound of Music in Concert (2017) below. 



"Take lots of classes..." - Interview with Book of Mormon's Jaron Barney

"Take lots of classes..." - Interview with Book of Mormon's Jaron Barney

Jaron Barney

Jaron Barney is currently an ensemble member in the Broadway touring production of Book of Mormon. He was nice enough to agree to an interview with him while he was performing at The Kennedy Center, and here's what we learned about his life, career, and interests!

Did you always want to be a performer? Can you tell us a bit about how you got your start?

I started singing at a really young age. My mother and brother are beautiful singers and music was a big part of my family life. I begged my parents for a piano for Christmas when I was 8 years old, and they reluctantly bought me a small keyboard. Ever since then I was completely hooked and music became the main focus of my life! 

How did you end up getting cast in BOM? 

I went to an open call for Mormon a few weeks after moving to New York City. I was lined up around the block with hundreds of other people, but was luckily called back a few months later. I continued to do callbacks for the casting company for about 2 years before a spot that was right for me opened up. 

 Can you tell us a bit about the audition experience?

My first few auditions I was very nervous and I honestly don't know how I got through them. After I got to know the casting group and the associate directors over the course of a few years it became much easier and I became more comfortable. In my very last audition I left the room with a deep feeling that it was finally my time, and a few weeks later I got the call that I had been cast! 

Do you have any tips for young performers like us that want to be professional performers some day?

Be patient! Work hard! Have fun! It's easy to get frustrated and take it personally when things don't go our way as artists. It's extremely painful when we feel like our work isn't appreciated. But be patient with yourself and keep your head level so you can stay focused on your goals. The FUN part of being a performer is the work we do. Take lots of classes and enjoy them! Do lots of shows and enjoy them! Work as hard as you possibly can and have fun doing it! Everything else will fall into place when the time is right. 

What's your life like throughout the year? A lot of traveling? Off time? Long hours, etc? Can you tell us what it's like a day in the life of Jaron?

We do travel all throughout the year, with only a few weeks off here and there. The work is hard, and sometimes the hours are long depending on the week, but it is SO rewarding and people in this company are so much fun. I would say it is the best job I've ever had by far. 

Most of our days revolve around getting ready for the show in the evening. On a normal day I usually wake up and start hydrating immediately, go for a jog and hit the gym (staying physically fit is vital for surviving this show), cook or buy a meal for before and after the show, and then begin my warmup before the show. I also try to fit in sight seeing and fun activities when I have time. When I was in DC for example I spent ALL my free time exploring museums and monuments!

I feel like my motto on tour has been to try and work as hard as I play. Our schedules can be demanding at times, but we also have an amazing opportunity to see and experience so many parts of the country on tour. I feel so very fortunate to be a member of this company and strive everyday to make the most of it! 

If you'd like to listen to Jaron Barney and "take lots of classes and enjoy them," check out our Studio Classes for voice, dance, and acting, enrolling high school and middle school students from the Washington, DC area all year round! 

Alumni Parent Check-In: Tami Abramowitz

Alumni Parent Check-In: Tami Abramowitz

YAA Parent and Student

We thought we'd switch up the Alumni Check-In feature a bit, and focus on the parents of our alumni. We asked them to recount their memories of YAA so our supporters can see the impact their donation can make on the lives of those we touch. We sat down with Tami Abramowitz, mother of Hayley to chat YAA:

1.) What has the impact of music been on you or your child?  

Music has been a defining force in my daughter's life. She started singing when she was a toddler and, thankfully, hasn't stopped. She is now studying classical voice on scholarship at the University of Maryland's school of music, and in the process of applying to graduate schools to continue her study.

2.) What opportunities has YAA given you that you wouldn't have received otherwise?

When she was only 14, she was cast as Christine in YAA's first staged concert performance. She sang in front of a full house of over a thousand - and loved i!

3.) What is your fondest memory of YAA?

It was the first note out of Hayley's mouth, on the opening night of Phantom. I cried. I was so proud of her, and so happy Rolando trusted her to play/sing this important part. I'm crying now thinking of how grateful I remain that she had that opportunity, with such talented teachers, cast and musicians.  

4.) Why do you encourage people to support YAA?

YAA is a whole other level of quality when it comes to music education and opportunity for young artists. They don't choose their leads or musicians based on how much money their parents donated. It's all about commitment, talent, and ability.  Rolando and Kris set the example of professionalism, and the students rise to their expectations. 

Want to be a supporter of this type of work? Consider making your tax-deductible donation to YAA before the end of the year, and every dollar you give will be matched by our angel donors up to $20,000! Donate now

We're in Washington Parent Magazine!

We're in Washington Parent Magazine!

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We're so proud to have been highlighted in Washington Parent Magazine this month. Grab a copy today! It's distributed widely throughout the DMV area.

And, take a peak at our article here

Siblings on Stage and Off!

Siblings on Stage and Off!

 From left to right: Will, Ellie and Caroline Coffey

From left to right: Will, Ellie and Caroline Coffey

On Sunday, October 29th Young Artists of America is presenting The Sound of Music in Concert at University of Maryland's The Clarice Performing Arts Center. The performance will feature over 100 young artists from the YAAOrchestra, YAACompany and YAAjunior working together to make the von Trapp family come alive. Of particular note in this ensemble will be three performers who will have a bit of help acting like von Trapp siblings. Why? Because they're sibs in real life! Will Coffey (14) will play Kurt. Ellie Coffey (9) will play Gretel and Caroline Coffey (17) is in the YAACompany. We sat down with them for an interview to learn more about their unique experience!

Will and Ellie, what's it like playing siblings on stage and being siblings in real life?

(Will) Playing siblings onstage and being siblings in real life is the same in the feeling of unity - of all being in the same boat.  I feel protective because unexpected things can happen onstage, and this is Ellie's first time, so I want that experience to be good for her.

(Ellie) It is strange but familiar because the von Trapp family children are siblings in a different way than we are. The von Trapp children are trying to get their father's attention.  They work together to play tricks on the governess because they have all this time together, whereas we go to different schools and we're not together all the time.  

Caroline, what is it like having both your siblings in YAA?

(Caroline) It's exciting because now we get the chance to share jokes and stories from rehearsal where we all have the insider's perspective!  

What's been the most fun thing so far during rehearsals?

(Caroline) When the YAAjunior kids came in to sing "Doe A Deer" and I made faces at Ellie to make her less nervous about singing in front of the big kids.

(Will) The jokes Mr. Heinemann makes during rehearsals, so we still get our work done and have fun during the process.

(Ellie) Agreed! Mr. Heineman. He is very funny, but at the same time we get all our stuff done.

What do you love most about YAA?

(Caroline) I love their commitment to the process and how everyone in rehearsal is expected to put effort and integrity into every note. This means we don't have to take ourselves as seriously because we are getting things done. Rehearsal is a lot of fun.  

(Will) What I love most about YAA is the support from all the students, and the community environment is one that helps us to thrive.

(Ellie) What I love most about YAA is the support that everybody gives everyone. For example, when I had a solo in Lonely Goatherd, (the students playing) Maria, Frederick and Liesel were all smiling at me.   

What are you most excited about for performance day?

(Caroline) I am excited about getting to see William and Ellie have a lot of fun onstage.

(Will) I am most excited about rehearsing and being on the stage we'll perform on - just seeing it all come together.  It is an amazing experience!

(Ellie) I am most excited about seeing everybody after the show, knowing that we did it, and did a good job.

Were you familiar with Sound of Music before you were cast? Have you seen it on stage, on screen, etc? What are your impressions? What does it mean to you?

(Caroline) I have seen The Sound of Music at Olney Theatre, and on screen more times than I can count. I probably have every line of that movie memorized. It's a family favorite, so it's so much fun to be learning more about the music and harmonies.

(Will) I was introduced to The Sound of Music when I was very little. My mom had a DVD, and I loved it. And when I was older we went to a production in Olney, and it was all portrayed in a different way but it was still the same story, and it was fun to watch it performed a new way.  I think YAA is going to do just that with this production. When I was a bit older, Sound of Music Live was on television. It was definitely very different from the original, but I have to say that I liked the original better.

(Ellie) I have seen The Sound of Music on screen. To me it means to follow your dreams even though it may not seem the right path at first.  

Tell us a bit about how you're preparing to play your character.

(Ellie) I am preparing to play my character so that it seems to the audience that I am younger than I actually am. In other words, being a five year-old. I am working on my speaking voice to sound younger.  

(Will) I am preparing to play my character, Kurt, by thinking about what his personality is like. In the movie, he was shy.  

What have you found to be the biggest challenge in this role? Can you talk about it and how you're overcoming it?

(Will) The role is musically challenging, like the entire musical.  I am overcoming it with hard work and rehearsal time. 

(Ellie) The biggest challenge in playing this role is sounding younger than I am. It is not easy to go back to sounding like a five year-old, but I think I am overcoming it by practicing how to say my lines that way.

Catch The Coffeys and The von Trapps on Sunday! Get your tickets here

Meet the Maestro: Director of YAAjunior, Paul Heinemann

Meet the Maestro: Director of YAAjunior, Paul Heinemann

Maestro Paul Heinemann

As we continue to invest in younger and younger students, YAA has created a YAAjunior program for fifth to eighth graders interested in the performing arts. We sat down to speak with the Director of YAAjunior, Paul Heinemann about what it's like to work with middle school students, what he strives for as a teacher, and what he loves about The Sound of Music, our Fall Production. 

As a teacher, what's it like to work with middle school students versus high school in terms of getting started a bit earlier with a choral program?

With the middle school program, you have more of a mixed bag of experience. Some come in with a full repertoire of experience. Some have been singing in school. They know how to read music a little bit. They've been singing in harmony. They know how to sing with a musical theater voice versus a choral sound. Others have a bigger learning curve. They've never read music before, and everything they've sung is by rote. They only know how to sing in their head voice sound. So the challenge is balancing the different levels in one room.

Do you have to be careful or selective about how you work with younger voices in terms of trying to protect them?

All kids will go through puberty during this age group. So You want to be really careful with their voices at this age.  Really in middle school, before they hit puberty, the two things you want to focus on is learning how to sing with proper breath support, and creating a space for the sound to come out. That's what kids can start right away-- learning proper technique. 

And teaching musicality. That something that can span across all ages. How do you sing a phrase? How do you tell a story and bring up emotion? How do you color your voice a little differently to add different emotions or certain sounds that you want to use to affect what you're singing about? Those are things that this age can really work on. 

Once they get through puberty and get their bigger voices, then they can work more on specific technique like expanding their range and vibrato. Things like that. But those are things you don't want too push at this age.

What types of material do you recommend the middle school students work on outside of the classroom or YAA rehearsal?

Finding the shows that match your age. Singing the songs from Annie or the Disney musicals. Songs that are sung by kids are likely going to be written in a range that's appropriate for that age. So start filling your book with more repertoire.

The other thing is vocalizing, singing scales. The do re mi scale Julie Andrews teaches the kids in Sound of Music will help you learn control and how you place notes. 

What's it like working with this particular age group on this musical, The Sound of Music.

They relate to it so well. It's kid singing! So they get really really excited about it. Most of the kids have seen the movie. And those who hadn't watched the movie before...they came back to the second rehearsal having watched it because they got excited hearing about it from the other kids.

Why do you like working with middle school students? What draws you to this age group?

I found my wheelhouse teaching middle school. Where students start in sixth grade to where they leave in eighth grade, there is such an emotional development that occurs in those three years. I don't think people, in general, mature so much emotionally and socially in any other three-year period of their entire life. So to have a hand in that, just to be able to change some of that character when they're starting to become young adults is what really attracts me to middle school.

I really relate to them. I have an immature humor side (laughs), and I think I just have a connection with them. I develop trust with them, and then they allow me to impart knowledge that helps develop their character and to grow musically.

If you're child is in middle school and is interested in the performing arts, we encourage you to learn more about our YAAjunior program here. Starting early is always a good idea! 

Young Artist Spotlight: Aliya Klein, Viola

Young Artist Spotlight: Aliya Klein, Viola

Aliya Klein, Young Artist of America, Viola

Meet Aliya Klein! She's a senior at Churchill High School and is playing the viola in our upcoming fall production of YAA Presents: The Sound of Music in Concert on October 29th at The Clarice. Learn more about her, how she prepares for the performance and why she thinks YAA is like the von Trapp family!

What do you think about the music? Is it challenging? What do you love? What do you not like? : I love The Sound Of Music. I have watched this movie over and over ever since I was little, ingraining the lyrics of the songs into my head throughout my whole childhood. It has been so great to have the opportunity to play this music, something very close to my heart, for the community and for my friends and family. The music is challenging at parts, but has been so worth the effort to learn it. I love that this is music not brand new to me, because it allows me the chance to pay much closer attention to my musicality and interpretation of the various pieces, and has changed the way that I view The Sound of Music as a whole. While it is not always the most exciting thing to be playing the offbeats or the accidentals, I would take that any day over not being able to perform in a show like this one.

How is YAA helping you prepare?: Young Artists of America is a truly community oriented organization, and it is always emphasized that we are a family. Throughout this season I've sort of compared the "YAA family" to the von Trapp family in The Sound of Music -- made up of individuals of all ages with unique backgrounds, personalities, and interests, all coming together to create beautiful music. This comparison has made me much more eager to put my best foot forward, inspiring me to have the bravery of the von Trapp family in all of my adventures, and really solidifying my identity as a musician among a group of other talented artists. Without YAA's consistent dedication to making us feel valuable and at home in an orchestra, I would not be the same courageous person.

What are you most looking forward to when you get on the stage?: The performance is endgame! I won't get the chance to play this music again, at least not for a very long time, so it's the last opportunity to really express it the way I want to. A performance should be for the community, and for the audience to enjoy, but it is just as much for us as it is for them. We have spent weeks working hard to prepare this, and finally we are at the point where we can confidently walk on the stage and play all of what we worked toward. When I get on stage, I make sure I remind myself of this, because it's more important then than ever to perform at my utmost potential, give people a show worth watching, and give myself something I can feel proud of.

What's your favorite thing about performing?: Many people find performing to be nerve-wracking, but I always find the pressure of it to be really exhilarating. I may not always play perfectly in a performance, but it doesn't matter, because that's not what it's about. Performing is the one chance we have, after all of our rehearsals, to show what we're made of. I don't think about trying to impress people, and by not setting that as an expectation, every time we get standing ovations or roaring applause, it is a wonderfully fulfilling feeling. My favorite thing is hearing all of this applause, because it reinforces all of our hard work.

What are you thinking about when you're performing? : My mind generally goes blank. It's not as much of a good experience if my mind wanders throughout performing -- in my opinion, it's much better to live through every note played, and even more importantly, breathe through every silent moment. Playing and listening music is supposed to be therapeutic, cathartic, and overall enlightening. All I can think about when performing is this, and how important it is for me to take every note played as a chance to experience something uniquely beautiful.

Tell us something surprising about you.: I'm a purebred violist! Most people who play viola began on violin and were asked to switch, or started off on some other instrument. I knew from the moment I heard the sound of a viola when I was 8 that that was the instrument I wanted to play. I know we are often the subject of most jokes, and are often forgotten, but I could not be more proud to have chosen and stayed with the viola. It changed my appreciation for string instruments into a love that has only grown, and now, I am even teaching myself how to play the ukulele!

Watch Aliya play on Sunday, October 29th! Get tickets here

Young Artists Spotlight: Rachel Wei, Vocal Ensemble

Young Artists Spotlight: Rachel Wei, Vocal Ensemble

Rachel Wei, Young Artist of America

Meet Rachel Wei. Rachel's a senior at Wootton High School and is in the Vocal Ensemble in our upcoming Fall Production of YAA Presents: The Sound of Music in Concert. We sat down with her to talk about how rehearsals are going and what she's most looking forward to about getting on stage. 

What do you think about the music in the fall production? Is it challenging? What do you love? What do you not like? : I really love the music in The Sound of Music. Rogers and Hammerstein are a fantastic team. Their music and lyrics really make the story come alive. The lyrics in particular, are very clever and intentional and add a lot to the show. I think the music is moderately challenging; it's a lot of fun to sing in five part harmony and a lot of modern shows don't have that anymore. I also love the lush score that's written for a full orchestra and not just a small band. The Sound of Music is really such a funny, cute, and entertaining classic story with a beautiful score.

How is YAA helping you prepare?: Rolando has been working with us to get our church Latin down and vowels straight for all the nun choruses. We've also talked about and reviewed the points of the story that are important for us to know so we're singing the music with the right intent, mood, and effect.

What are you most looking forward to when you get on the stage?: I'm looking forward to being able to perform this wonderful musical and share it with the audience. I also really enjoy hearing the vocal part of our music with the orchestral score; it really is so beautiful to hear musical theater songs (especially such classic songs) with a full orchestra. It's also fun to see the two "parts" of YAA come together (orchestra and vocal) at last!

What's your favorite thing about performing?: I love being able to share beautiful music and a meaningful story with the audience. The adrenaline rush and excitement from performing and being able to share what you've been working on for months is always special. It's also fun to see the audience's reactions to your favorite songs, lines, effects, etc.

What are you thinking about when you're performing? : I'm thinking about what songs are coming up next, what I'm singing at the moment, what I'm trying to get across to the audience, and really just enjoying the music! At the concert, you only get to perform this piece of music in this way with these people once, so I always try to enjoy it as much as possible.

Tell us something surprising about you.: I've been a part of both the YAAOrchestra and YAACompany Vocal Ensemble. I played the flute in Jekyll and Hyde in Concert under the baton of Mr. Sanz, which was so much fun and really entertaining. I then switched over to the vocal ensemble to get the other side of the experience. I've also been an instrumentalist for the majority of my musical career and play the piano, flute, and piccolo. I've also been in flute choirs and Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras before. Singing is kind of a new thing for me, but I'm loving it!

Watch Rachel shine on Sunday, October 29th at The Clarice when YAA presents The Sound of Music. Get tickets now