Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks 'Circle of Life'

Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks 'Circle of Life'

With tickets going quickly for the upcoming production of The Circle of Life, Kristofer Sanz, our Music Director, chats about the show's musical scores and rehearsing with his YAA orchestra. 


 

What is particularly challenging about the orchestral playing in this production?

Of all the shows that we've done at YAA, for the orchestra, this is probably the most difficult to date. First, because they're playing over two hours of material, which is of course fatiguing to stay concentrated for that long, even for a professional player. The other challenge is that, even though all of the material comes from a single lyricist, Sir Tim Rice, he's worked with so many different composers that it covers such a wide range of genres of music -- everything from symphonic music, to pop music, to hard rock music with a rock combo. So the orchestra needs to play a bit like a jukebox. You put a quarter in, and a new style pops out! All of the sounds have to be there perfectly at all times. So for the students to be able to accomplish that, it's challenging, especially because they're coming from a primarily symphonic background. 

And playing rock as an orchestra is always complex. With a wind and brass instrument it's a little easier, but with a string instrument, a violin for example, doesn't naturally fall into the type of articulations and sound that a rock band would make. So the students are learning a lot of new techniques to accomplished a unified sound.

Which of the genres do you like most when it comes to working with your orchestra?

For me, it's always the lush music! For example in this show, all the arrangements for Beauty and the Beast, the ones that are actually orchestrated for a full symphony, are really beautiful and sweeping. And having the well-trained kids that we do, those are the ones that they tend to gravitate toward the most in terms of wanting to dig into. But they also do like the rock 'n' roll material as well, when they get to sit back and be a rock musician on the flute for once in their lives!


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Notes from The Maestro: Rolando Talks 'The Circle of Life'

Notes from The Maestro: Rolando Talks 'The Circle of Life'

With tickets for The Circle of Life available starting Monday, February 6th, we decided to sit down with Rolando Sanz, our Artistic Director, to ask him more about the production from an inside-look! 


What are you finding most interesting about the music that you're working on right now with ?

What's cool about this production that we're putting together with Hugh Wooldridge is that it showcases the lyrics from Tim Rice's greatest shows. It's very different putting a show like this together than producing a full book musical like we've done in the past. We are now actually having to create the material between the selections. So we're crafting the flow of the prodution from beginning to end, along with Hugh, who is devising and directing the show. 

Do you see a difference in some of Rice's earlier work versus some of his later work?

The early work, namely Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat) and Jesus Christ Superstar are very rock-based because that's kind of the world where Tim Rice came from. He and Andrew Lloyd Webber had that in common. These early shows are the Andrew Lloyd Webber years of course. And the material is so rich that it makes up all of Part One in our production.

Part Two our production goes into the second phase of Sir Tim's collaborations with Elton John as well as his work for Disney. This material is different in that Sir Tim worked with new composers, which of course influenced his writing. As a result, the lyrics he wrote for his shows with Andrew when he was younger are very different than the ones for Lion King or Beauty and the Beast. So yes, there is a difference and it's fascinating to see the development of this great lyricist from his youth into a  true master of his craft.

So is there any of this music that's tougher for our kids to sing?

No not necessarily tougher. The style is different. The rock music style is new-ish for many of our YAA musicians. And rock music is of course the backbone of Tim Rice's work -- especially with scores like Chess, Aida and Superstar. So our kids are having to master a different style, but they know how to do it. If anything the faculty is having to learn how to effective teach a different style of music!           

What is it like to be an opera singer and coaching kids in rock?

Personally, I'm finding I am having to learn how to efficiently and healthfully teach the rock vocabulary. If anything, being an opera singer is helping me teach them how to best put this music in their voices without straining themselves, which is very tempting in this style of rock singing.

So what are some tips you can give our students so they don't vocally strain themselves?

There's a different way for approaching the belt in women, for example. There are many different ways to sing a straight tone in the middle of your voice where a lot of this music is written. One of the ways to accomplish this sound is to bring your chest voice as high up as possible. And we hear that a lot. That's how Idina Menzel sings...very successfully. But what we're teaching the girls, for example, is that it's possible to find a really forward placement in the middle of their voice and not necessarily bring up all the chest voice. So it's a very forward-placed mixed sound that actually sounds like they're belting, and matches like the rock style, but that they can achieve over and over successfully without straining their voice.

 

YAA to Perform at The Kennedy Center!

YAA to Perform at The Kennedy Center!

On February 27th, a group from Young Artists of America will have the honor of performing at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Millennium Stage.

They will present highlights from our current 2016-2017 season, including selections from The Wizard of Oz, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, The Lion King and In the Heights.

The performance will be free and open to the public. Doors will open at 5:30pm and the performance will run from 6pm to 7pm. Please note that here is no free parking for free events at The Kennedy Center.

YAA Student, Ethan Miller, Performs in Arena Stage Production

YAA Student, Ethan Miller, Performs in Arena Stage Production

Young Artists of America's very own Ethan Miller will be performing in Arena Stage's Watch On the Rhine from February 3rd to March 5th. This professional production is part of The Lillian Hellman Festival and starts Golden Globe Winner, Marsha Mason. Ethan sat down with us in between rehearsal time to talk about working in the professional theater world and his hopes for the future.

Tell us a bit more about the Arena production and your role.

The play that I am performing in at Arena Stage is called, The Watch on the Rhine by Lillian Hellman. It takes place during WWII and is about a family who’s father is a working anti-fascist, trying to dismantle the Nazi party. I am Joshua, who is the eldest son of the family. I have two younger siblings. I am very intelligent, and interested in my father's work. I speak many languages due to the fact that we have lived in so many countries, and I am very mature.

What are some things you have learned while being part of this Arena production?

I have learned to trust my own instincts while rehearsing. Because my character Joshua and I are are the same age, I have a much easier time creating a connection and relating to him as a person. I have learned to trust my own teenage instincts when it comes to my actions on stage.

How has YAA better prepared you for your professional work?

YAA expects their students to be prepared for rehearsal and work hard.  The rehearsals, working with  professional mentors, and the expectation to give our all at each rehearsal and performance adds up to the proper preparation of a professional actor.

How are you feeling heading into opening night on February 3rd?

I am incredibly excited, but also very nervous. I am working with people who have been on Broadway and in movies and I don’t want to let them down. However, I also know that as long as I focus and practice I’m going to have an incredible experience.

What are your hopes for your future career?

It’s very important to me to earn a college degree and my goal is to pursue a degree in acting or musical theatre. My future is wide open.


Four-time Academy Award nominee and Golden Globe winner Marsha Mason (The Goodbye Girl) leads an ensemble cast as Fanny Farrelly in Lillian Hellman's suspenseful masterpiece Watch on the Rhine. With America on the brink of entering World War II, Fanny's daughter escapes to the D.C. suburbs with her German husband, a man deeply involved in anti-fascist movements. But with an Eastern European guest with ulterior motives also living in their midst, tensions rise as it becomes clear that no one's safety can be guaranteed — at home or abroad.

If you'd like to see Ethan and Watch On the Rhine, call the Arena Stage Box Office at 202-488-3300. Mention that you know Ethan Miller and receive a 20% discount.

Alumni Check-In: Cassie Mandalou

Alumni Check-In: Cassie Mandalou

As part of YAA's Alumni Check-In Series, we ask Cassie Mandalou ('15) how she's doing in her Sophomore year at college.

Current School: Shepherd University

What have you been up to recently?: I'm in my second year of college. Still singing! I spent my summer working for a girl scout sleep away camp. It was very life changing. I learned a few things about myself and it will help me move forward in the next few years. I miss YAA and hope to come to the next performance.

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: I learned that I had alot more confidence then I thought I did. I learned to expand my vocal range and that really helped me get into college in the first place. If I want taught how to expand my rang the way it is now, I dont think I would have gotten into the music program I'm in. I thank Rolando and Reenie for that, you both were a big part of that. Thank you YAA!

Thanks for your awesome update, Cassie! If you're an alum, you could be highlighted in this series as well. Send us your update at this form.

 

Best of 2016: Children of Eden!

That's right! DC Metro Theater Arts, the area's most widely read blog about the performing arts honored our production of Children of Eden with various Best of 2016 nods!

Children of Eden was named one of the Best PROFESSIONAL Productions of 2016, alongside professional productions at The Kennedy Center, Signature Theater and Arena Stage!

In addition, three of our young artists were named in DCMTA's Best Performances in Musicals in PROFESSIONAL Theaters in 2016. Congratulations to Ari-Goldbloom Helzner, Julia Fanzeres, and Bobby Gallagher!

Last but not least, congratulations to Guest Mentor, Noah Himmelstein, who was honored by DCMTA for his direction of our production of Children of Eden in the Best Direction in Musicals in PROFESSIONAL Theaters in 2016 category.

We couldn't be more proud of all of the people involved! Click the links above to read the complete lists.

Alumni Check-In: Ari Goldbloom-Helzner

Alumni Check-In: Ari Goldbloom-Helzner

As part of YAA's Alumni Check-In Series, we ask Ari Goldbloom-Helzner ('16) how he's doing in his Freshman year at college. Oh, and check out this great Bethesda Magazine article he was featured in back in June.

Current School: Brown University

What have you been up to recently?:  I'm a freshman at Brown University and am currently taking courses in Math, Music Theory, Voice and Playwriting. My passion lies with Math and Music, though I’ve been particularly inspired by my Playwriting course this semester. I’ve written a number of short plays and am in the process of writing my first musical, which I hope to eventually produce at Brown. I also applied for and was selected to join the board of Musical Forum, Brown University’s student-run musical theatre company.

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.:  I've learned so much from my years at YAA and am extremely grateful for the mentorship of all the guest artists and teachers, particularly Rolando. I use the vocal techniques I've learned from him every time I study a new song, audition for a part, or perform in a show. He taught me how to analyze the details in a song and learn music quickly for an audition. He also gave me the confidence to sing in new styles and try new things with my voice that I hadn’t tried before. This past Fall, I auditioned for and was cast in my first show at college -- I played the role of Mike in A Chorus Line in November.  

Anything else you want to say?: My experiences at YAA were fundamental in helping inform the choices I make now – in my voice studies, in my compositions, and even in my playwriting. When I participate in a master class, an audition, or a juried recital here at college, I can’t help but draw from what I’ve learned from Rolando, Kris, and other YAA mentors with whom I’ve had the honor to work. 


Thanks for your awesome update, Ari! If you're an alum, you could be highlighted in this series as well. Send us your update at this form.

Alumnus Update: Wesley Diener

Third-year music student Wesley Diener plans to pursue opera professionally after graduation. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

Third-year music student Wesley Diener plans to pursue opera professionally after graduation. (Photo by Sanjay Suchak, University Communications)

We are so proud of our YAA alumnus, Wesley Diener ('13). He was featured in University of Virginia's UVAToday Magazine's recent article, "One Aria at a Time, Third-Year Student Builds Professional Opera Career," where he speaks about his love of music and his hopes for the future. 

Read the full article here and comment below to congratulate Wesley!

Matching Donations on #GivingTuesday!

Dear Friends,

On this Giving Tuesday, can you help us double our donations!

Giving Tuesday is a nationwide day of people giving back to causes that touch their lives. If Young Artists of America at Strathmore has been meaningful to you and your family, please consider donating today, at whatever level you can.

Thanks to three generous donors who have offered to match each contribution up to $20,000, even small gifts will double in size and make a big impact on YAA's programming!

What's more...Your donation will help take YAA from "Stage to Screen" in 2017!

On March 12 at Strathmore, YAA will perform a world premiere, The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice in Concert -- an homage to the legendary lyricist of Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita, Chess, and The Lion King -- devised and directed by London director Hugh Wooldridge and including the special participation of Sir Tim Rice himself!

One week later, YAA will tape a one-hour version of The Circle of Life for PBS's Maryland Public Television (MPT), which will air later in 2017, in living rooms like yours throughout the Mid-Atlantic!

This collaboration with MPT is an extraordinary honor and opportunity for YAA to reach a vast, new audience. However, it comes at a greater financial cost than any project in YAA’s history.

Instead of raising our tuition,
we are asking our friends to…

Help take YAA from
STAGE TO SCREEN!

We have set an ambitious goal
to raise $40,000 by the end of 2016.

"STAGE TO SCREEN" SUPPORTING MEMBERSHIPS begin at just $25, and all donations are tax-deductible. 

Your donation will support both the stage and screen productions of The Circle of Life, plus:

YAA's tuition assistance fund
Free Masterclasses with nationally-recognized artists from Broadway and beyond
The quality productions, summer intensives, and classes you've come to expect from YAA

Since our humble beginning in 2011, YAA has reached more than 500 students and 10,000 audience members in our community.

If you or your child has been touched by a recent YAA program, we hope that you will consider a donation as we launch our students’ talents from "Stage to Screen"...from Bethesda to the entire Mid-Atlantic region!!

Always,

Rolando Sanz, Producing Artistic Director

Kristofer Sanz, Music Director
Lisa Larragoite, Executive Director
Young Artists of America at Strathmore

 

Alumnus Update: Cameron Mitchell

Cameron Mitchell, YAA Alum ('15) and current Ithaca College sophomore

Cameron Mitchell, YAA Alum ('15) and current Ithaca College sophomore

 

We are so proud of our YAA alumnus, Cameron Mitchell ('15). He was featured in PLAYBILL's recent article, "Dear Freshmen: Advice from Sophomore Theatre Majors to the Incoming Class," which interviewed students from some of the best known college theatre programs about their tips for a successful first year.

Here's what he had to say:

Breathe. Take your first year of a BFA program one step at a time. Remember that you are not only a theatre student but a college student, and that it is okay to have a balanced college experience. Think of sleep as your best friend. Mental health is just as important as physical health, and no matter how hard it gets, remember why you chose to be a theatre major in the first place. 

YAA - From Stage to Screen!

Maryland Public Television to air and produce Young Artists of America at Strathmore's Winter Production with Tim Rice.

Alumni Check-In: Hayley Abramowitz

As part of YAA's Alumni Check-In Series, we ask Hayley Abramowitz ('13) how she's doing in her Junior year at college.

Current School: University of Maryland, College Park

What have you been up to recently?: Over the summer, I spent five weeks in Arezzo with Oberlin in Italy, singing in opera scenes and in Puccini's Suor Angelica. I'm now in my junior year at the University of Maryland, pursuing a dual degree in voice performance and music education, and gearing up for a recital in May with another YAA alum, Noah Calderon!

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: When I was singing in Phantom, I remember feeling my heart soar onstage for the first time. YAA taught me that not only is that feeling possible, it's something I should be seeking every day for the rest of my life. I also learned to trust myself - to trust my own voice to do its job and to love the art that I'm lucky enough to be a part of.

YAA was also the first place I ever really experienced opera. I didn't know anything about the art form at all, but at the Summer Institute in 2013, we would watch opera every day - Boheme, Traviata, you name it. I fell in love immediately, and I haven't looked back since.

Anything else you want to say?: I’m so unbelievably grateful to YAA for opening my eyes to an entirely new world - a world I’m lucky enough to live in now. There are days in my lessons when I still remember advice Rolando and Kris gave me five (wow) years ago in Phantom rehearsals, and I’m still singing the songs we learned at the Summer Institute. YAA is such an amazing foundation for classical singing and I’m so thankful I got to be a part of it.

Thanks for your awesome update, Hayley! If you're an alum, you could be highlighted in this series as well. Send us your update at this form.

Notes from the Maestro: Kris on Rehearsal

After a week of auditions we are extremely excited with all of the new and returning talent that we have this year for YAA’s production of Wizard of Oz. On Thursday, September 22nd we began the rehearsal process of Arlen and Harburg’s beautiful and lush score.

Both Rolando and I are greatly looking forward to working with some of the area’s most talented and passionate young artists as we begin our journey towards musical artistry and excellence into a world where “Dreams Really do come true!”

May We Introduce...

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With the EXCITING ADDITION of our newest program - YAAJunior for middle school students - comes the introduction of a new team member - Paul Heinemann!

Paul is known for his tremendous gift of connecting with middle school adolescents, and his energy and enthusiasm have inspired his students to achieve at high levels. He has been invited to serve as a guest conductor for numerous middle school honors choruses as well as a guest clinician and adjudicator for festivals throughout Maryland. Most recently, he finished his 9th and final year as the Middle School Honors Chorus director for Montgomery County. Additionally, Paul has also served as an artistic and musical director at the middle and high school levels at Kensington Arts Theatre.

Paul is the choral director at Rocky Hill Middle School in Clarksburg, MD where he has taught for 17 years and grown the program to five school day choirs. He was recognized with the Montgomery County Gazette’s Favorite teacher award in 2011, and his choral program was awarded the ‘Program of Excellence’ award from the Maryland Music Educators Association in 2012. Paul’s choirs have consistently earned superior ratings at county, state and interstate festivals and competitions and they have performed as a demonstration chorus for multiple MMEA conferences. 

Welcome to the YAA family, Paul! 

Vote for Us for Best of Bethesda!

VOTE FOR YOUNG ARTISTS OF AMERICA!  Help Young Artists of America win Best of Bethesda 2017 by voting for us before September 22nd in the following categories:

- Children’s Theater

- Summer Camp (Day)

- Summer Camp (Overnight)

If you love our programming, help us get recognized!

YAA Featured on Voice of America

Voice of America, the official US broadcasting institution, featured our 2016 Summer Program. We are thrilled to share the piece with you, which can be viewed below. 

Featured in the piece are Young Artists of America students Ari Goldbloom-Helzner and Amanda Yuan as well as Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz. The piece was produced by June Soh and features footage from four/ten media.

You can read the full article here.  

Voice of America report on Young Artists of America's Musical Theatre Intensive Summer Camp August 2016

You can also see that we were featured on the front page of the VOA website. This is viewed by people all over the globe.

Young Artists of America on Front Page of VOA

Welcome to the new YAA website!

Welcome to the new YAA website!

August greetings from our YAA offices at the Mansion at Strathmore. Everything on campus here is very quiet during the month of August as we all are hard at work planning our upcoming season.

We're so excited to share our new website with you! Please have a look around and learn about all the exciting offerings we have for young performers in our various programs!

We will be updating this blog with new information about our upcoming 2015-2016 season, as well as introducing you to our newest YAA team members.

Have a great rest of your summer, and we can't wait to get started in a little less that a month on rehearsals for our fall production!!

Always
- The YAA Team