Senior News: Gabriella Anifantis

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It’s graduation time again. A bittersweet time when we have to say goodbye to our seniors but know they will go on to do great things! For this week’s blog we sat down with Gabriella Anifantis, a graduating senior from Woodrow Wilson High School, to hear what’s on her mind for next year and beyond. Check it out…

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High School: Woodrow Wilson High School

What's your plan for next year?: In the fall I will be attending University of Southern California, where I will be pursuing theatre under their School of Dramatic Arts.

What's your favorite YAA memory?: My time at YAA was short, and not starting sooner is one of my biggest regrets. Though the time was limited, I was still able to make lasting memories. One of my favorites was getting to perform the national anthem at the Nationals baseball game.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: YAA taught me a lot about professionalism, and the importance of balancing discipline with elation.

MATILDA at Olney Theatre Center Spotlights YAA Talent

MATILDA at Olney Theatre Center Spotlights YAA Talent

YAA students, Ellie Coffey and Ella Coulson on Opening Night of MATILDA

YAA students, Ellie Coffey and Ella Coulson on Opening Night of MATILDA

Until July 28th, Olney Theatre Center will be performing MATILDA. We here at Young Artists of America are particularly excited about this production because 7 YAA-affiliated creatives are part of the show. This includes two current students (Ellie Coffey and Ella Coulson), two YAA Alum ( Tiziano D’Affuso and Michael Mainwaring), and three current/recent YAA faculty members (Rayanne Gonzales, Tracy Lynn Olivera, and Chris Youstra). On July 4th, 70 of our students attended the performance.

To honor this great relationship with Olney Theatre Center, we sat down with their Associate Artistic Director of Music Theatre and MATILDA’s Music Director, Chris Youstra (who was recently profiled in The Washington Post by Nelson Pressley), to learn more about the show and what he loves about YAA.

 
Chris Youstra

Chris Youstra

Why did you all choose this production now?

We thought it would be a fun summer show for our audiences! Jason (Loewith, Olney’s Artistic Director) and I are both big Roald Dahl fans and Tim Minchin's (MATILDA’s Composer and Lyricist) music is so much fun.

Have you found a certain quality in working with the YAA alum and current students in the production? If so, can you elaborate?

YAA alumni tend to be VERY professional and quite talented singers. I have been impressed with all of them!!!

For whom is this production best suited?

Probably for children who are at least 7 or 8 but we are finding that adults enjoy it a lot as well. The humor is so smart and we have top actors in this production (as we try for all of our productions).

To our students reading this looking to get cast in your next productions, what would you tell them?

Continue to work in all 3 disciplines of singing, acting AND dancing and make sure to show off your own uniqueness in the audition. Directors want talented actors but also interesting people as well.

Anything else you'd like to articulate about YAA and Olney's partnership?

We always love having you join us -- your work is wonderful and I always enjoy your performances!!!!

70 YAA students at the July 4th show

70 YAA students at the July 4th show

A YAA Alum in the Spotlight (in NYC)!

YAA Alum, Mateo Ferro with Artistic Director and Co-Founder of YAA, Rolando Sanz

YAA Alum, Mateo Ferro with Artistic Director and Co-Founder of YAA, Rolando Sanz

On the first day of our first session of Summer Performing Arts Intensives, we thought it would fitting to share some wonderful news about an alum to the program, Mateo Ferro!

This week our Artistic Director and Co-Founder, Rolando Sanz, saw Mateo on stage in New York City alongside his cast mates including Helen Hunt, Christopher Jackson, Javier Munoz, and Andrea Burns in Encores! Off Center presentation of Working: The Musical at New York City Center.

The cast of Working: The Musical including YAA alum, Mateo Ferro and award-winning actors like Helen Hunt.

The cast of Working: The Musical including YAA alum, Mateo Ferro and award-winning actors like Helen Hunt.

This is the most recent in a step of incredible professional roles he’s landed since our summer program in 2017, beginning with Kennedy Center’s production of In the Heights. We are so proud of Mateo and the accomplishment of his dreams!

Senior News: Mikey Votaw

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It’s graduation time again. A bittersweet time when we have to say goodbye to our seniors but know they will go on to do great things! For this week’s blog we sat down with Mikey Votaw, a graduating senior from Churchill High School, to hear what’s on his mind for next year and beyond. Check it out…

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What's your plan for next year?: Will be getting a BFA in Musical theater from Illinois Wesleyan University. I am 1 of 11 students selected to be in the program.

What's your favorite YAA memory?: Singing the last note “Home” from In the Heights was a surreal moment and was a great way to cap off a fantastic two weeks of camp.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: I am my best self when I am doing something that I love. YAA taught me how to be my best self.

Senior News - Vinny Douglass

Senior News - Vinny Douglass

Vinny helping to direct YAA’s Production of  Les Mis  (2019).

Vinny helping to direct YAA’s Production of Les Mis (2019).

It’s graduation time again. A bittersweet time when we have to say goodbye to our seniors but know they will go on to do great things! For this week’s blog we sat down with Vinny Douglass, a graduating senior, to hear what’s on his mind for next year and beyond. You may remember Vinny from our student co-directorial debut in this year’s Les Miserable production. Looks like he’ll be taking those skills with him! Check it out…

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Name: Vincent Douglass

High School: Winston Churchill

What's your plan for next year?: I’m going to study Theatre Directing at Suffolk University in Boston next fall. I plan to join the university’s choir and a cappella groups as well as participate in the school musical/play performances.

What's your favorite YAA memory?: My favorite YAA memory is from In The Heights when we were all learning the Finale music for the first time and the sense of family and community that was in the room brought me to tears.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: I’ve learned that the most important thing is how much effort and hard work you put into a show.

Senior News - Maanav Goyal & William Carter

Senior News - Maanav Goyal & William Carter

It’s graduation time again. A bittersweet time when we have to say goodbye to our seniors but know they will go on to do great things! For this week’s blog we sat down with two graduating seniors to hear what’s on their minds for next year and beyond!

Want to be featured too? Fill out this form.

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Armato Photography

Name: Maanav Goyal

High School: Clarksburg High School

What's your plan for next year?: Attend New York University in order to receive a B.F.A. in Drama.

What's your favorite YAA memory?: That first rehearsal back in the Fall, and hearing the sound that was made. I never had the opportunity to work with such a talented and committed group of people, and that first sound we made in harmony really left me blown away.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: YAA has been the closest in my experience to a professional opportunity. The level of professionalism and acumen that each individual is required to uphold while maintaining so much heart, character, and passion was something I've never seen before, and that level of discipline in balance with euphoria is something I'll always remember in anything I do in the future.


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Name: William Carter

High School: Winston Churchill High School

What's your plan for next year?: I will be studying biology at Washington University in St. Louis!

What's your favorite YAA memory?: Performing Les Mis!

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: Responsibility. It was so different from school ensembles, where the teacher will push and push to get you to work. In YAA, you have to motivate yourself to be on top of it.

Meet Anthony Colosimo, YAA's First Ever A Cappella Director!

Anthony Colosimo, YAA’s A Cappella Director

Anthony Colosimo, YAA’s A Cappella Director

For the first time in YAA history, we are offering an A Cappella program and we are so excited. Leading the program as A Cappella Director at YAA’ Summer Performing Arts Intensive is Anthony Collisimo. We sat down to chat with him about his career, his love for a cappella and what high school students can expect this year if they join us for The Academy!

So, you’re the A Cappella Director for our The Academy this summer. What does that mean exactly?

I'm overseeing staffing, curriculum, rehearsal, repertoire, and performance of all students in the a cappella program. The goal of that program is to take dedicated, talented young singers and teach them high-level a cappella technique and create a professional-level a cappella performance at the end of the program.

You have been competing in quartets since you were 12. What words of advice do you have for our young artists who are looking to keep singing into their adulthood?

To be a lifelong performer and singer is to be a student of vocal music. Singers before us have built a culture of listening and enjoying a cappella and accompanied music which gives our music an engaged, excited audience. Listen to their music and their audiences. Wrap yourself up in their legacy, and emulate their styles until you find parts of what they do that express EXACTLY what is inside of you.

Never quit being a student of singing.

Listen to the Hi-Lo’s, the Nylons, Manhattan Transfer, Rockapella, The Suntones, The Mills Brothers, The House Jacks, M-pact, Pentatonix, Street Corner Symphony… and then keep going. You'll never run out of great musicians who sing. Talk to those artists that still perform and ask what they love about singing. Ask how they do it. And then sing so, so much. Perform. Sing socially. Record yourself. Sing in public. Sing on stage. Learn from yourself! It's a never-ending well of encouragement.

What can an a-cappella track camper expect for this summer's program?

Our campers will learn from world-class performers and teachers about the best ways to create a cappella music today.

Contemporary a cappella is commonplace in today's college scene, but professional level experience, curated repertoire, and state of the art equipment (and the knowledge of how to use it) is uncommon. Students will learn singing techniques used by the best a cappella singers in the world, how to record and to mix live sound, how to engage audience members during a performance, and how to create and interpret arrangements made for a cappella ensembles. Only a few places in the world offer this comprehensive coverage of the a cappella style.

What is your favorite thing about working with young singers?

Young singers are full of fire, and they learn so incredibly quickly.  The passion that i have for singing is reignited every time I see someone discover a concept, chord, or melodic line that i have known for years.  Seeing the excitement in their eyes and hearing their exuberance about these new ideas reminds me just how great these elements of singing are. It keeps me loving singing to teach and work with young singers.

What do you look for in a dedicated singing student?

Dedicated singing students fail.  Students who work hard only when they are successful or perfect make for tired, uninspiring future artists.  Wide ranges, powerful voices, and hours of voice lessons aren’t nearly as valuable as seeing the joy in failure.  Students who take risks and fail are the same students who take risks that create moments irreplaceable by any other musician.  Growing into a musician who takes risks and who values others who do the same is the number one quality I look for in a dedicated singing student.

What has been the most fulfilling moment in your singing career?

Singing with others can be very special. In 2014, I was singing with a chorus who traveled to France to honor the 70th anniversary of D-day. We sang at Sainte-Mère-Église, Omaha beach, and Utah beach.  We engaged in moving performances of American music intended to honor the lives lost and spread hope for a peaceful, united future. Already, this trip and these performances held special meaning to me. However, the moment that stood out was one of significantly smaller historical scale, a small town called Les Ventes. This town was significant because of a single man who flew reconnaissance missions for the Allied forces named Billy Harris. His wife, Peggy, heard that he was MIA after some time of him being away. He was not found for decades after his death because of mishandled military records. Because of Peggy’s persistence, his grave was found at Omaha beach at which point more came to light about his heroic death.  The small town of Les Ventes has approximately 500 residents today. During the war, it was even smaller. During a mission where Capt. Harris was gunned down in his plane, he was headed directly for this small village during his descent. Instead of risking the lives of the innocent French people, Capt. Harris sacrificed his own life to continue steering the plane away from the town and into a nearby field. He was, and still is, celebrated as the town’s greatest hero.  A statue of him stands in the middle of the town today, and our chorus performed in his honor during this trip. I sang Bring Him Home with the chorus while his wife Peggy, the mayor, and basically the entire town were sitting and listening. The energy, care, and hope sent from the audience to me pulled me through the performance, and I never viewed singing the same way again. Not a single person was without significant emotional connection to the moment, and most people, singers and audience members, were crying. 

What we do as singers is incredibly meaningful and important, and I understand that more now than I ever would have without that experience.


Anthony has been a member of the Barbershop Harmony Society (BHS) since 1991. He has competed in quartets since the age of 12 with many of them being notable competitors in regional, national, and international competitions. Anthony is the baritone singer of Better Together (2018 MAD Mixed quartet champions) and First Take. He is best known for his role as the lead singer in Da Capo (2016 BHS international finalists), as the associate director of the Alexandria Harmonizers, and for being a certified singing judge. He is an active coach and clinician for youth and adults in BHS events. Anthony is a professional singer in the Washington D.C. area. He has performed at the White House, Kennedy Center, Wolf Trap, on TNT, and under many notable choral batons. In 2005, Anthony sang on stage with Andrea Bocelli as the recipient of the NIAF Andrea Bocelli scholarship for music at Christopher Newport University where he received degrees in Vocal Performance and Choral Music Education. Anthony taught choral and general music in public schools for a decade. Presently, he is a freelance voice teacher and coach in addition to cantor and chorister at St. Stephen-Martyr Church in Washington D.C.

YAA Good Neighbor Grant from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

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Young Artists of America at Strathmore Among 12 DC Area Nonprofits Awarded $250,000 Good Neighbor Grants from the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation

Targeted funding will help 7,500 local students pursue high-quality academic programs, college access initiatives, and arts education

Lansdowne, VA — Today the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation announced that Young Artists of America at Strathmore is among the 12 nonprofit organizations from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC that will receive a total of $250,000 from its annual Good Neighbor Grant program. Since 2012, the Foundation has provided 74 Good Neighbor Grants totaling over $1.7 million to 57 local youth-serving organizations. The 2019 Good Neighbor Grant recipients will collectively serve over 7,500 students in a broad variety of programs focused on providing high-quality academic programs, college access initiatives, and arts education.

Young Artists of America at Strathmore — is awarded $25,000 to support the Reach for the Stars program, which awards scholarships for participation in the Summer Performing Arts Intensives (SPAI) to enable promising young performing artists from low- and moderate-income families to study with top teaching artists. Young Artists of America at Strathmore offers world-class training in a professional and nurturing environment, providing a gateway for students to reach the highest levels of professional success in their chosen field of study.

“Though we have a national focus, the Foundation remains committed to supporting high-ability students in our own backyard,” said Seppy Basili, executive director of the Foundation. “Students who have the potential to achieve at a higher level need opportunities to reach that next level of academic excellence. The Foundation is proud to support high-quality programs in our region through the Good Neighbor Grant program.”

A detailed listing of 2019 Good Neighbor Grant recipients is below. Programs marked with an asterisk(*) represent continued Foundation investment in a program or organization.

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The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation is dedicated to advancing the education of exceptionally promising students who have financial need. Since 2000, the Foundation has awarded $190 million in scholarships to nearly 2,500 students from 8th grade through graduate school, along with comprehensive counseling and other support services. The Foundation has also provided over $100 million in grants to organizations that serve such students. www.jkcf.org  

YAACompany Performed with Kristin Chenoweth!

YAACompany Performed with Kristin Chenoweth!

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On Monday night, dreams came true. In case you missed it, students from our YAACompany performed alongside the Broadway legend, Kristin Chenoweth, at her Strathmore concert. The students rehearsed with Ms. Chenoweth for nearly two hours before the evening show. They posed for photos and got to speak with her about her incredible career. In addition to performing two songs with her on stage, she spent a significant portion of the show discussing how inspired she was by all of them and the YAA program. We couldn’t be more honored and excited about this incredible moment!

Read the glowing Broadway World review of the show here and browse through photos of the rehearsal and show below.

Photos by Carmelita Watkinson

Vote for Us for Washington City Paper's Best of DC 2019

It’s been a goal of ours to win a Best Of DC award for a long time. We’re hoping you all can help us achieve it! Please take a second to:

1.) Vote for us for BEST SUMMER CAMP in the People & Places Category.

2.) Share this request widely!

Just imagine…if we win you can actually say you go to the “best summer camp” in DC! :)

Thanks!!!!

Young Artists of America Named: "Best Performing Arts Education for Young Artists"

Young Artists of America Named: "Best Performing Arts Education for Young Artists"

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We are thrilled to announce that we have been named “Best Performing Arts Education for Young Artists” by Maryland Theatre Guide’s Readers’ Choice Awards. An enormous thank you to everyone who voted for us! We won by miles thanks to you! Now, when you’re talking about YAA, you can officially say, “we’re the best!”. ;)

Want to help us win again? Voting for Washington City Paper’s Best Of DC Reader’s Poll ends March 3rd. Vote for us for “Best Summer Camp” in the People & Places Category here.

Thank you!!!!!

Les Mis Inspires Activism Off the Stage

Les Mis Inspires Activism Off the Stage

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We’re Launching Our “Hear the People Sing” Civic Engagement Project in Tandem with Our Spring Production of Les Miserables

We are proud to announce that the Greater Washington Foundation’s (GWF) Donors InVesting in the Arts (DIVAS) Fund has awarded them a grant for a civic engagement social media project titled "Hear the People Sing!" The project will take place in conjunction with YAA's spring production of Les Miserables at the Music Center at Strathmore on March 16, 2019 at 3pm.

Titled after one of the most rousing songs in the score, YAA’s “Hear the People Sing!” project will examine the themes in Les Miserables to inspire students to make connections between the social challenges in Victor Hugo’s time and those in today’s world. Whereas young people during the French Revolution saw injustice between populations and classes and decided to take action through insurgencies, this project will empower YAA students to use non-violent means to identify the injustices seen both in Les Miserables’ and in modern time — including immigration, class inequity, gender-based oppression, and imperfect justice. Peaceful methods of engagement and dialogue will be modeled by teachers and encouraged throughout the musical theatre rehearsal process, as well as throughout the social media component of the project.

Specifically, YAA artistic staff will lead student group reflection and social media journaling, primarily via Instagram posts. YAA staff will also create and post a “students voices” video of final lessons learned that will be made available on their YouTube channel, and an edited version displayed on screen before the performance for audience members to participate with as well. Community members can follow along with the project by searching #HearthePeopleSingYAA and #WhoAmIYAA on social media platforms.

"It is YAA’s hope that this project will deepen students’ understanding of the material we are performing, as well as spark additional dialogue among their peers about contemporary issues," says YAA's Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz. "We are incredibly grateful to GWF's DIVAS."

The final production on March 16th will feature 300 young performers (middle to high school age) and an audience of 1600+. What will make this performance artistically unique will be the scope of this student collaboration, including a full 60-piece youth symphonic orchestra, Seneca Valley High School Chorus of 150, and 80 singers/dancers/actors from YAACompany and YAAjunior. Tickets (on sale next week) and more information can be found at www.yaa.org/spring-production.


GET TO KNOW: Our Student Assistant Director for Les Mis, Vinny Douglass!

GET TO KNOW: Our Student Assistant Director for Les Mis, Vinny Douglass!

For the first time, YAA has invited one of our “young artists” to work on the other side of the table and work along side our Stage Director as an Assistant Director. We’re proud to introduce Vinny Douglass, who will assistant direct our spring production of Les Miserables, featuring over 250 young performers, including a combined chorus from Seneca Valley High School. We had a chance to chat with Vinny. Check out the interview below!

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When did you first start getting interested in directing?
I first developed an interest in directing my junior year when my theatre class put on a performance of As You Like It, and I helped my teacher block a few scenes and helped some of my friends with the delivery of their lines.

What does the opportunity to be an assistant director for YAA's Les Miserables mean to you?

I am so grateful to Rolando and Kristina for trusting me with this opportunity! Les Miserables is such an amazing show to get to explore a lot of different creative ideas, and the Strathmore stage is an incredible venue to do so on. 

What are you most looking forward to in the process?

I’m really forward to working with Stage Director, Kristina Friedgen, and putting our heads together to stage numbers like Master of the House and large scale scenes like Building the Barricade where everyone in the Company is involved.

Who are your favorite stage directors and why?

My favorite stage director has to be James Lapine who directed Falsettos, Sunday In The Park with George, and Into the Woods among other productions. I love the way he can work an ensemble together in any space and his uses of color and light to pull focus in scenes. 

What are you most nervous about in the role of assistant director?

I’m most nervous about getting my ideas across to the actors clearly, as I’ve been told I can be a bit unorthodox when giving directions. I get very excited when ideas come to me, and I don’t want to come across as unprofessional.

What do you view as the most important responsibility you have as an assistant director?
I think the most important responsibility is being reliable and organized when it comes to the work I am given and tasks I am expected to complete. It is my responsibility to be someone both Rolando and Kristina can lean and depend on when it comes to staging and blocking.

What would you like to tell the performers you will be directing?

I want to tell the performers that they can trust me to put my best efforts forward for this production and that my goal is for this to be YAA’s best performance yet. I believe it will be because of the amazing cast we have! 

PACO's POV: The Synopsis of Our Musical

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YAA is excited to bring you a new blog column called Paco’s POV. Our wonderful Orchestra Manager, Francisco José “Paco” Cosió Marron, will be writing these every week to give you a bit more background on the production we are currently working on. Check back often to get your fill of Paco’s POV!


The convict Jean Valjean is released from a French prison after serving nineteen years for stealing a loaf of bread and for subsequent attempts to escape from prison. When Valjean arrives at the town of Digne, no one is willing to give him a job or shelter because he is an ex-convict. Desperate, Valjean knocks on the door of M. Myriel, the kindly bishop of Digne. Myriel treats Valjean with kindness, and Valjean repays the bishop by stealing his silverware. When the police arrest Valjean, Myriel covers for him, claiming that the silverware was a gift. The authorities release Valjean and Myriel makes him promise to become an honest man. Eager to fulfill his promise, Valjean masks his identity and enters the town of Montreuil-sur-mer. Under the assumed name of Madeleine, Valjean invents an ingenious manufacturing process that brings the town prosperity. He eventually becomes the town’s mayor.

Fantine, a young woman from Montreuil, lives in Paris. She falls in love with Tholomyès, a wealthy student who gets her pregnant and then abandons her. Fantine returns to her home village with her daughter, Cosette. On the way to Montreuil, however, Fantine realizes that she will never be able to find work if the townspeople know that she has an illegitimate child. In the town of Montfermeil, she meets the Thénardiers, a family that runs the local inn. The Thénardiers agree to look after Cosette as long as Fantine sends them a monthly allowance.

In Montreuil, Fantine finds work in Valjean/Madeleine’s factory. Fantine’s coworkers find out about Cosette, however, and Fantine is fired. The Thénardiers demand more money to support Cosette, and Fantine resorts to prostitution to make ends meet. One night, Javert, Montreuil’s police chief, arrests Fantine. She is to be sent to prison, but Madeleine intervenes. Fantine has fallen ill, and when she longs to see Cosette, Madeleine promises to send for her. First, however, he must contend with Javert, who has discovered Madeleine’s criminal past. Javert tells Madeleine that a man has been accused of being Jean Valjean, and Madeleine confesses his true identity. Javert shows up to arrest Valjean while Valjean is at Fantine’s bedside, and Fantine dies from the shock.

After a few years, Valjean escapes from prison and heads to Montfermeil, where he is able to buy Cosette from the Thénardiers. The Thénardiers turn out to be a family of scoundrels who abuse Cosette while spoiling their own daughter, Eponine. Valjean and Cosette move to a run-down part of Paris. Javert discovers their hideout, however, and they are forced to flee. They find refuge in a convent, where Cosette attends school and Valjean works as a gardener.

Marius Pontmercy is a young man who lives with his wealthy grandfather, M. Gillenormand. Because of political differences within the family, Marius has never met his father, Georges Pontmercy. After his father dies, however, Marius learns more about him and comes to admire his father’s democratic politics. Angry with his grandfather, Marius moves out of Gillenormand’s house and lives as a poor young law student. While in law school, Marius associates with a group of radical students, the Friends of the ABC, who are led by the charismatic Enjolras. One day, Marius sees Cosette at a public park. It is love at first sight, but the protective Valjean does his utmost to prevent Cosette and Marius from ever meeting. Their paths cross once again, however, when Valjean makes a charitable visit to Marius’s poor neighbors, the Jondrettes. The Jondrettes are in fact the Thénardiers, who have lost their inn and moved to Paris under an assumed name. After Valjean leaves, Thénardier announces a plan to rob Valjean when he returns. Alarmed, Marius alerts the local police inspector, who turns out to be Javert. The ambush is foiled and the Thénardiers are arrested, but Valjean escapes before Javert can identify him.

Thénardier’s daughter Eponine, who is in love with Marius, helps Marius discover Cosette’s whereabouts. Marius is finally able to make contact with Cosette, and the two declare their love for each other. Valjean, however, soon shatters their happiness. Worried that he will lose Cosette and unnerved by political unrest in the city, Valjean announces that he and Cosette are moving to England. In desperation, Marius runs to his grandfather, M. Gillenormand, to ask for M. Gillenormand’s permission to marry Cosette. Their meeting ends in a bitter argument. When Marius returns to Cosette, she and Valjean have disappeared. Heartbroken, Marius decides to join his radical student friends, who have started a political uprising. Armed with two pistols, Marius heads for the barricades.

The uprising seems doomed, but Marius and his fellow students nonetheless stand their ground and vow to fight for freedom and democracy. The students discover Javert among their ranks, and, realizing that he is a spy, Enjolras ties him up. As the army launches its first attack against the students, Eponine throws herself in front of a rifle to save Marius’s life. As Eponine dies in Marius’s arms, she hands him a letter from Cosette. Marius quickly scribbles a reply and orders a boy, Gavroche, to deliver it to Cosette.

Valjean manages to intercept the note and sets out to save the life of the man his adopted daughter loves. Valjean arrives at the barricade and volunteers to execute Javert. When alone with Javert, however, Valjean instead secretly lets him go free. As the army storms the barricade, Valjean grabs the wounded Marius and flees through the sewers. When Valjean emerges hours later, Javert immediately arrests him. Valjean pleads with Javert to let him take the dying Marius to Marius’s grandfather. Javert agrees. Javert feels tormented, torn between his duty to his profession and the debt he owes Valjean for saving his life. Ultimately, Javert lets Valjean go and throws himself into the river, where he drowns.

Marius makes a full recovery and is reconciled with Gillenormand, who consents to Marius and Cosette’s marriage. Their wedding is a happy one, marred only when Valjean confesses his criminal past to Marius. Alarmed by this revelation and unaware that it was Valjean who saved his life at the barricades, Marius tries to prevent Cosette from having contact with Valjean. Lonely and depressed, Valjean takes to his bed and awaits his death. Marius eventually finds out from Thénardier that Valjean saved Marius’s life. Ashamed that he mistrusted Valjean, Marius tells Cosette everything that has happened. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean’s side just in time for a final reconciliation. Happy to be reunited with his adopted daughter, Valjean dies in peace.

The synopsis of our musical is from Spark Notes - https://www.sparknotes.com/lit/lesmis/summary/

Apply to Be a YAA Counselor-in-Training for Summer 2019!

Apply to Be a YAA Counselor-in-Training for Summer 2019!

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The Summer Performing Arts Intensives Counselor-in-Training (CIT) is the primary caregiver for students throughout YAA’s popular summer program. The CIT assists Lead Counselors and staff in a wide range of support duties.

Housing, meals, and a modest stipend is provided.

  • CIT candidates must have completed their freshman year in college and be over 18 years of age.

  • Applicants must be available 24/7 during the dates of June 27-July 26, 2019, and willing to spend the night in the dorms with SPAI students.

  • Previous experience as an SPAI student is preferred, but not required.

The successful CIT candidate will be responsible, energetic, have outstanding interpersonal skills, have a track record of demonstrating good judgment, be willing to take on any task requested, and be passionate about musical theatre.

Applications are due NO LATER THAN March 1, with decisions sent out April 1.

We will only accept applications online at: https://campscui.active.com/orgs/YoungArtistsofAmerica?orglink=camps-registration

More information on SPAI can be found at:http://www.youngartistsamerica.org/summer/
Questions can be directed to info@yaa.org

#YAADreams with Ian Coursey

From now until the end of the year, we’re highlighting our fundraising campaign, I DREAMED A DREAM, by spotlighting some of our students who say their dreams are coming true thanks to YAA. If you want to help our students realize their dreams, consider a donation today. Every dollar will be matched thanks to our angel donors.

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Meet Ian Coursey. He’s a junior at Lady of Good Counsel High School and has been participating in YAA programs for the past two years. He’s performed in The Sound of Music, played Tateh in Ragtime last spring, and Leo Frank in Parade over the summer. He will play Jean Valjean in YAACompany’s spring production of Les Misérables.

Tell us more about playing Jean Valjean.

I am thrilled! This is a dream role for me and I can’t wait to bring my performance to Strathmore’s stage! 

How did you prepare for the part?

I recently preformed Les Mis with a different company earlier this year so the material is not new to me, but I am working with YAA’s awesome faculty, including amazing stage director Kristina Friedgen to polish my performance! 

Do you have a scene you're most looking forward to performing? What and why?

I am extremely excited to preform “Bring Him Home” because it is such an incredible song and the orchestra is going to sound beautiful. It is also a very emotional song and every time I sing it I can’t help but get choked up. 

Do you think that YAA is helping you accomplish your dreams?

YAA is absolutely helping me accomplish my dreams! The staff is incredible and they put all of their energy and time into their productions. I feel I have grown as an artist and that’s all thanks to the staff and company of YAA. I owe a special thanks to voice teacher and artistic director Rolando Sanz for truly changing my life! 

Anything else you want to add about the production, YAA programming, etc.?

This production is going to be amazing! Every single person in the company and the orchestra are insanely talented and I’m waiting for the moment when we all come together and create something magical. There is no program like YAA and every performer should have the chance to be a part of such an amazing group of people and artists! 


Want to help other YAA students realize their dreams? Donate today!

#YAADreams with Ava Benson

From now until the end of the year, we’re highlighting our fundraising campaign, I DREAMED A DREAM, by spotlighting some of our students who say their dreams are coming true thanks to YAA. If you want to help our students realize their dreams, consider a donation today. Every dollar will be matched thanks to our angel donors.

Meet Ava Benson. She’s an 8th grader at Tilden Middle School and has been participating in YAA programs since 2016. She’s performed in The Circle of Life: The Songs of Tim Rice, The Sound of Music (Marta), Ragtime, and Annie Get Your Gun. She also was Rafiki in The Lion King JR and the The Cat in the Hat in Seussical JR. This spring, she will play Bert in Mary Poppins JR as part of YAAjunior.

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Do you have a scene you're most looking forward to performing? What and why?

I’m equally excited about Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious and Step in Time because I know they will have big dance numbers in the show. Big dance numbers are what I love most about musical theater. They bring so much energy to the cast and the audience. I cannot wait to see what we will do with these scenes!

Do you have any thoughts on what it's like to play a male character? How you'll prepare for this?

I’m actually very excited to play Bert in this production. Oftentimes, acting is pretending to be something or someone that you are not, so I honestly think it will be like playing and preparing for any other role. I do welcome the challenge of changing the way I walk and talk. The biggest change will probably be the way that I sing. My preparation will likely include watching hours of Broadway production clips and YouTube videos. I will also practice in front of the mirror, a lot; this helps me see what I look like while I act. I plan on watching the movie multiple times to pick up on Bert’s tendencies, his reactions to other characters and most importantly, to work on his accent. I’m especially eager to see Mary Poppins Returns this winter where Lin-Manuel Miranda plays Bert’s apprentice, Jack. I’ll be taking plenty of notes!

How did you prepare to get the part/audition?

I originally auditioned for Ms. Andrews and I was quite surprised to be called back for Bert. To prepare for callbacks, I cast my sister as Mary Poppins and spent a lot of time singing and acting with her at home.

Do you think that YAA is helping you accomplish your dreams?

YAA is absolutely helping me accomplish my dreams! It has helped me fully decide that I want a professional career in acting and musical theater. I am so glad YAA came into my life. I am grateful for the years of support and encouragement from Mr. Paul Heinemann, Ms. Randee Hahn and Ms. Kristina Friedgen. I truly appreciate the confidence of Ms. Emma in casting me as Bert. Overall, the program gives me a taste of what it would be like to work as a professional because they treat us like professionals. I will never forget one valuable lesson I learned from working with Mr. Hugh Wooldridge during The Circle of Life in Concert: “If you are early, you are on time; if you are on time, you are late; and if you are late, you are fired.”

Anything else you want to add?

The I Dreamed a Dream campaign is so important. It connects so many students from diverse backgrounds and we come together to share our talents with the community. I love that the fundraising campaign opens doors to talented students who have a passion for the arts but may have financial difficulties that make it hard for them to participate in the programs that YAA has to offer. YAA is extremely important to our community and I am proud to be a part of it all.


Want to donate to the I DREAMED A DREAM campaign? Click here.

Support Isaiah!

Support Isaiah!

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Isaiah is our Assistant Conductor and YAA Alumni. Let’s show our support for this beloved member of our YAA family, and show up for him at his conducting degree recital!

Location:

Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall @ Peabody Institute (1 E Mt Vernon Pl, Baltimore, MD 21202)

Date:

Saturday, 19 January 2019 @ 8pm

Performers:

Musicians of the Peabody Conservatory

Isaiah Shim, conductor

Programme:

Debussy // Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune

Tchaikovsky // Symphony No. 5

Free & open to public -- bring friends and families!

Parking: Available at Peabody Parking Garage (606 Saint Paul St, Baltimore, MD) or street parking


What It's Like To Be a Working Actor (from a YAA Alum)

Chani Wereley graduated from YAA programs in 2013. Since then, she’s graduated college (Catholic University of America), and is now a working actress. We sat down with her to talk about what life is like now and how YAA helped her accomplish her dreams. #YAADreams

Chani Wereley (YAA Class of 2013)

Chani Wereley (YAA Class of 2013)

I am just grateful that I get to do what I love everyday, it’s kind of wild.
— Chani Wereley

What was your first professional gig?

I had my first professional gig during my sophomore year at CUA! I auditioned for Dogfight at Keegan Theatre in the spring, and I ended up getting it and doing it for the summer and fall of that year. Keegan is one of the greatest places I’ve worked, honestly. I didn’t really know what to expect since I was so green, but the Artistic Directors are so supportive and welcoming, and so was the cast and creative team. I ended up doing my second professional contract (American Idiot) there as well.

How have you found being a working actor in the DC area?

It has been, for the most part, really wonderful. I’ve had a lot of amazing experiences and opportunities, and it really has been such a joy. We have a crazy supportive community here, and I have felt it so much in the past few months especially. Sometimes I think about the experiences I’ve had and the things I have coming up next year and I’m just like – how did I get this lucky? It can be hard sometimes, but that’s life. I am just grateful that I get to do what I love everyday, it’s kind of wild.

What is your favorite professional gig and why?

I’d say it’s probably Bridges of Madison County at Red Branch Theatre. I did it a little over a year ago. I was Marian/Chiara/The State Fair Singer/Every Other Female Ensemble part in the show, which was so insane but so much fun. My friend Harrison saw the show and dubbed me “The Chansemble,” and that’s been following me around and haunting me ever since.

How often do you go to auditions?

It depends. Last year, when I was in the middle of audition season, I had an audition or a callback every couple of days. Sometimes I had two in one day. I remember one day I had to be at Olney Theatre in the morning, and then I had a tight turnaround to go to Signature Theatre in the afternoon. I still don’t know how I made that one work. A lot of the non-equity theatres have their auditions on a rolling basis, so there’ll be this random audition I have in the middle of nothing, and then all of a sudden, there will be a whole bunch at once. It’s fun, but it’s stressful.

What did you learn from YAA that you use in your professional life? 

There are so many things. I don’t even know what to focus on. It was a really formative part of my life when I was a teenager. One thing I’ll never forget is the support that I received from YAA at one of the lowest times in my life.

My big dream was to go to The University of Michigan, and study musical theatre. I was at the Corner Bakery near Montgomery Mall before rehearsal one day and I got an email from admissions that said I didn’t get in. I had a huge panic attack, drove to Strathmore, and broke down.

Rolando Sanz and Alan Paul were there. I remember them saying “It’s going to be okay. Everything will work itself out. You’ll work. It doesn’t matter where you go to school; it’s what you do with what you have, and how hard you work.” It was honestly less what they said to me in that moment, and more how much they blindly believed in me that sticks with me. I got up, dusted myself off, and did Miss Saigon. They helped me tap into my inner strength and resilience, and that is something I carry with me every day. 

What advice do you want to give YAA students that dream about being professional performers? 

Do not let anyone get you down. As Lady Gaga has stated at literally every single press event for A Star Is Born: “There can be 100 people in the room, and 99 don't believe in you, but all it takes is one who does.” I just think that that one person has to be you. There are so many supportive people in this world, and so many kind friends, but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t believe in yourself. You have to be your biggest fan if you’re going to keep going.  

And honestly, there will be people who try their best to tear you down and dim your light. But there are a whole lot more who will love you. Focus on them. Focus on yourself. Be unapologetically you. Embrace your failures with as much love and light as you would your successes. Bottom line: spread love and accept love. And work your butt off!


 Want to help other young performing artists’ dreams come true like Chani’s did? Make a tax-deductible donation to YAA toward our I DREAMED A DREAM Campaign. Donate today.

Strathmore Chats: Meadows and Nasar

Strathmore Chats: Meadows and Nasar

Welcome our new column, “Strathmore Chats”! Throughout the year YAA students and alumni will get the chance to interview professional artists performing at Strathmore and we’ll publish it here for you to read.

Our first entry is by Sam Nasar, a recent alumnus of our YAACompany. He interviewed jazz musician, composer and vocalist, Mark G. Meadows, a recent Strathmore Artist-in-Residence. Sam and Mark performed on stage together this past fall for Strathmore Founder, Eliot Pfanstiehl’s Farewell Celebration.

Mark G. Meadows

Mark G. Meadows

Sam Nasar (in YAA’s  Ragtime in Concert )

Sam Nasar (in YAA’s Ragtime in Concert)

Read their chat:

Sam: Who is your favorite jazz artist of all time and why?

Mark: Herbie Hancock and/or Quincy Jones - they always stay current, even to this day, all the while upholding their jazz foundation. 

Sam: Why should young people have a love for jazz?

Mark: Because it always goes hand in hand with the social climate. If the world is protesting, jazz is protesting. If the world is cool, jazz is cool... jazz reflects the times.

Sam: What’s your favorite gig that you’ve played?

Mark: Wow! That's tough. Probably a gig I did with Rochelle Rice at All Soul's Church the day after Eric Garner was murdered by a police officer. We played "Wholly Earth" by Abbey Lincoln during a church service, and the energy in the performance was reflective of our sentiments. It was unearthly.

Sam: When did you start writing your own music?

Mark: When I was 13, my first song was "In the Groove". ;) Haven't played it in a long time! :(

Sam: What makes you also enjoy teaching so much?

Mark: It's my way of giving back. I didn't have an "easy road" learning this music, so I love shedding light on others to help them with their process. I think I'm a good teacher not because I am great, but because I have learned from my mistakes, and have a good way of explaining what I did and didn't do that will ultimately help my students.


Want to catch Mark on stage? Check out his website at for shows and/or follow him on all social media platforms at @markgmeadows.
Want your chance to interview a professional artists for this column? Email us!