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:

Happy Veterans Day!.jpg

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!

Screen Shot 2017-12-20 at 1.15.49 PM.png

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

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!

Screen Shot 2017-12-01 at 2.52.10 PM.png

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

Alumni Check-In: Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf ('14)

Alumni Check-In: Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf ('14)


We checked in with 2014 YAA Alum, Jamie Joeyen-Waldorf as she heads into her last year at Northwestern University. She shared some big Broadway news with us...

What's your news!?: I'm going into my last year at Northwestern University as a Theatre and Sociology double major. This summer, I'm interning with Broadway producer, Daryl Roth (Kinky Boots, Indecent), and am enjoying the breadth of art that surrounds me in NYC. On campus, I've produced multiple full-scale productions, which entails anything from raising money for the production, to choosing designers, to working with university officials to make sure we're following proper safety regulations. After college, my dream is to produce in the commercial theatre world.

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: YAA treated us all as professionals from the very beginning, even when they were just starting off as an organization. To be given that level of responsibility as a young performer was worthwhile, and gave me a dedication and work ethic that has stuck with me throughout my academic and professional endeavors. While I never planned on pursuing a music degree, my time at YAA fueled a love for the performing arts that has never left me, and I continue to be involved in the administrative and management sides of things.

We love it, Jamie! Break a leg! 

Alum? Tell us what's up at this form

Notes from the Maestro: Rolando's Tips for Vocal Auditions

Notes from the Maestro: Rolando's Tips for Vocal Auditions

With vocal auditions for YAACompany and YAAjunior coming up on September 14, 15, and 16th, we sat down with Rolando Sanz, our Artistic Director, to talk best practices for vocal auditions. Learn more about our vocal program and register here. And, if you're an instrumentalist, learn what our Maestro, Kris Sanz, has to say about nailing your audition here.

Kids always get so stressed out for auditions. How should they approach nerves, and how do you approach your nerves?

I have always found that we get most nervous, whether for an audition or a test, if we are either not prepared or if we prepared at the last minute. Preparation far in advance is key. This is one of the things that drives how we rehearse at YAA, for example. We always front load our rehearsals early on in each production, so that by the time we get closer to performance and things get busy, everything is well learned and prepared.

I believe it's the same for auditions. If you're choosing your audition selection, even two days before your audition, it's probably too late to perform a successful audition that you're comfortable with and to keep those pesky nerves at bay. So what I do personally is that at least two weeks before an audition, I decide what repertoire I'm going to be performing Then I start prepping it with my teacher, and run through it with my collaborative pianist, always making sure my music is in the right key for my voice. These are all the little details that sometimes you don't think of it until an hour before an audition that can cause stress and nerves.

The students who come to audition at YAA and are most successful are the ones who've done their prep work ahead of time?

Yes, absolutely! Another tip for a successful audition is making sure the repertoire is appropriate for the student as well as for the show being auditioned for. So if you are a 15-year-old ingenue soprano (think Julie Andrews), and you come in to an audition for Rent singing Anita's music from West Side Story...there are so many things wrong with that. And yes, who doesn't love singing Anita's music from West Side Story, but it's not appropriate for the situation or for the student. So if it's a rock show, it has to be pop or rock music, and it also has to be in the right 'vocal zone' for you. So just because you like a song, that doesn't mean that it's the right song for you to audition with for that specific show.

So five minutes before an audition is there anything that you do to get yourself in the right space before you go in?

I usually go into a corner, often it's a bathroom, especially if I am in New York City where space is at a premium. I seek out a stairwell or a quiet corner and think of the character I'm auditioning for. I shouldn't at that point to have to run through my lines or my music because I prepared it so far in advance that it's ingrained. If I've had to learn something last minute for whatever reason, I will run through lines in the corner and hope for the best. However, I found that if I am working to remember text or music five minutes before the audition, it makes me nervous, so I tend to try to avoid that that. And I just remember that I'm going into an audition just to show them who I am. And it's not about nailing this song. It's about showing the best you that you are in those five minutes.

Learn more about our Performance Ensembles (both vocal and orchestra) here, and register for your audition here. Learn more about how to nail an orchestra audition here.

Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks Audition Prep

Notes from the Maestro: Kris Talks Audition Prep

Maestro Kristofer Sanz

Maestro Kristofer Sanz

With YAAOrchestra auditions coming up September 14th and 16th, we sat down with Maestro Kris Sanz to hear his tips on nailing the audition and why you should eat a banana! Register now for orchestra or vocal auditions. Also, check out this blog to hear what our Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz, has to say about nailing your vocal audition here.

What should students do to prepare for an audition for orchestra?

The best way to prepare for an audition is the same way you prepare for a concert. You need to know the music so well that it comes to you like breathing. I always recommend kids perform in front of their peers if they can, or teachers, or parents. Even sometimes for the younger kids, we recommend they set up their stuffed animals for a concert, just so they can get a feel of performing and being under that pressure. Then, when you get into the audition room, it helps to ease that pressure.

And then my secret, which I pass on to all my orchestra kids, is bananas. Bananas have natural beta blockers in them. So most musicians usually eat a banana before they go out on stage. It fills your stomach if you're hungry, but it also has those beta blockers in there to kind of calm you down.

Besides bananas, any other tips for alleviating your nerves before an audition?

Before auditions for high school age groups, they usually put all the musicians into one room. And this can be very intimidating because kids could be playing more difficult solos in front of them, or there are some kids who will actually posture in the middle of the room and play really loudly and intensely to kind of scare off the competition. So I always recommend finding whatever corner you can, come up with some kind of routine before the audition, whether it's playing through scales or just playing some of the softer passages. 

What I don't recommend is to go into the practice room and find the hardest part and just sit there and play it over and over again. Because since it is the hardest part, by the time you get into the room, you will be tired and that's all you'll be focusing on. And whoever is judging you knows kids make mistakes, and so they're expecting that. But if you focus all your energy on that one passage, all the other passages will suffer. 

Make sure that whatever you do is highly musical. I know personally for me, that's what I'm looking for. Because anyone can learn technique over time. But being musical is something that is inherent and harder to learn.

What are lessons that can be learned from an audition, especially if it didn't go well or if you didn't get in?

I think this is true for both the orchestral and the vocal side, and that is-- the wrong repertoire. You want to pick some repertoire that actually shows off your strengths. A lot of kids try to come in and play these really fast pieces. And they can kind of play them. But at the same time, it doesn't come off. To me it shows a lack of preparation and a lack of maturity, because they are auditioning to show off and not to show what they can actually do. 

We don't need to be impressed. We just need to know that they are musicians and they are musical on the inside. Because a big part of our job is teaching them, and so we want to find someone who is teachable.

Learn more about YAAOrchestra and how to register for your audition here. Or, if you're a vocalist, learn more about how to nail that audition from our Artistic Director, Rolando Sanz, here.

Alumni Check-In: Chani Wereley (2013)

Alumni Check-In: Chani Wereley (2013)

Chani (left) pictured with Director Hugh Woodridge.

Name: Chani Wereley

Year of Graduation: 2013

Current School: Catholic University of America

What's your news!?: I currently work in DC in the fitness community while pursuing my career in musical theatre. This summer, I'm working on Bonnie and Clyde with Monumental Theatre Company as a member of the ensemble and as the Bonnie understudy. One of my recent shows, American Idiot (The Extraordinary Girl), played at Keegan Theatre and was nominated for a few Helen Hayes Awards, including best production and best ensemble. This past year, I did a show at school, a couple cabarets, and a reading of Water by the Spoonful at Olney Theatre Center. I also had the opportunity to come back to YAA as a mentor for The Circle of Life concert at Strathmore!

Chani (center in red skirt) on stage at YAA's  The Circle of Life.

Chani (center in red skirt) on stage at YAA's The Circle of Life.

Tell us about something you learned at YAA and applied to your life today.: I learned to never give up. The last show I did with YAA as a student was as Kim in Miss Saigon/Madama Butterfly. During that process, I was rejected from the musical theatre programs I applied to. Rolando and Kris helped teach me to accept my failures with grace, and to use them to keep pushing towards my victories. Through their guidance, I learned resilience. I learned patience. I learned humility. I watched Rolando and Kris build YAA from the ground up (not without a lot of help and support, of course), and their work ethic inspired me then, and continues to drive me now.

Are you an alum? We'd love to spotlight you. Just fill out this form!

The Best Thank You Note

The Best Thank You Note

Earlier this year, we raffled off Hamilton tickets and an all-expense-paid trip to NYC. Read more about that here. One of the lucky winners was Jo Anne, who happened to be a Strathmore usher. Here's what she had to say after seeing the show!

Jo Anne and her husband outside of  Hamilton

Jo Anne and her husband outside of Hamilton


Dear YAA,

Thank you!  Thank you!  Thank you!

My husband and I had a great time in New York and enjoyed staying at The Phillips Club at Lincoln Center.  The accommodations were wonderful - roomy and very convenient.  We attended the matinee performance of “Hamilton” and, as expected, the musical was fabulous. The seats were great (Orchestra, Row G, seats 13/14) and one of the ushers even commented that these were great seats.

As an added bonus, we caught sight of Josh Groban, who was performing next door in “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812.”

We thank the Young Artists of America at Strathmore for this not-to-be-missed experience. Thank you for arranging everything, from transportation to accommodations to the show. Thank you for giving us such a wonderful trip.  We are really grateful for this opportunity.


Jo Ann

Summer Intern Spotlight: Kathryn Bailey

Summer Intern Spotlight: Kathryn Bailey

Summer is here and so are our YAA Interns. They will be working hard to make sure that our Summer Performing Arts Intensives are a huge success. Learn more about one of our interns, Kathryn Bailey below!!

How did you find out about YAA?

I am from Northern Virginia, so I heard about YAA through word of mouth. I had a few friends in their production of Phantom of the Opera in 2012, and was blown away by the professional quality of the show. I then auditioned for their first summer institute, and tried to participate in as many of their programs as I could until I graduated high school, including Miss Saigon/Madama Butterfly, Requiem, and Songs for a New World.

What made you want to be an intern over the summer for YAA?

I learned so much during my time with YAA, and always said that I had hoped to give back in some way when I was older. When I realized that my interests have shifted towards the administrative side of the arts, I decided to reach out to YAA to see if there were any opportunities to get some experience in this field. So here I am, excited to learn and grow, and begin giving back to this incredible organization!

What are you most looking forward to for this summer's program?

I am looking forward to being on the other side of a program that gave me so much as a high school student, and means so much to me even to this day. I am hoping that the work I do, both for the organization and for the summer program, somehow positively contributes to the experience of the students.

Do you have a personal connection to the performing arts? If so, can you elaborate what that is here?

Of course! I have been involved with the arts, specifically music and singing, for as long as I can remember. I am currently in my last year studying vocal music education, and am excited to see where that leads me once I graduate! I plan to get my masters in Arts Administration once I graduate to involve myself in programs like YAA for the rest of my life!

If you're in school, where?

I will be a Senior at James Madison University in the Fall finishing up my bachelor’s degree in Vocal Music Education.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that someone wouldn't guess about you.

I enjoy baking and decorating custom cakes for friends and family! (follow me on instragram @cakesbykathryn)

YAA to Sing The National Anthem at Nat's Park!

YAA to Sing The National Anthem at Nat's Park!


We are thrilled to have been invited by our friends at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington to sing the National Anthem as the Nationals take on the Mets on Jewish Community Day at Nats Park: Grand Slam Sunday! Come join us!

When: Sunday, August 27
Pregame fun begins at 11:30am with first pitch at 1:35pm.

Where: Join us for two hours of programming before the game in the Family Picnic Area behind sections 142 and 143.

Tickets: Only $25 at this link!

YAA Senior Spotlight: Camila Maric

YAA Senior Spotlight: Camila Maric

It's summer time! That means that our seniors have graduated and are looking ahead. We'll be spotlighting seniors throughout the summer, sharing their summer plans. If you'd like to be included, fill out this form.

Name: Camila Maric

High School: Langley High School

What's your plan for next year?: Over the summer I'll be backpacking through Europe with my friends before starting school at James Madison University in the fall. I plan to receive a BM in choral music education.

What is something you learned from YAA that you will take with you?: I learned that the DMV is even more talented than I already thought! I got to work in an extremely strong ensemble of performers with kids who really wanted to be there, something I don't always get to do.


Notes from the Maestro: Rolando on Selecting Your Repertoire

Notes from the Maestro: Rolando on Selecting Your Repertoire

With fall auditions around the corner, we thought we'd sit down with Rolando to hear his tips on selecting the best repertoire for your voice. Here's what he had to say, including what he never wants to hear at an audition.

How do you know what kind of songs to pick for yourself as a vocalist? I'm sure many of our students have voice teachers, who may select pieces for them, but ultimately how do you know what to pick that works for you?

As a student, you don't. As a professional singer myself, even I have to go to people whose job is to see things from the outside. Only people from the outside can help us understand where we fit in the world. So you need one to two people in your life who you really trust, and whose opinion you value. This person will ideally have worked in professional musical theater or classical music, and has a firm grasp of what material best showcases you as an artist.

What are good resources to draw on if you just want to look around and present some of these people with some ideas of material that you might like. 

I always tell my students that the musical theater world lives in types. And so what you can do is take a step back from yourself and see what type a performer is most like you. Are you an ingénue soprano who easily sings high? Are you a belter? Are you a sassy comedic type? So you prefer to perform as part of a larger ensemble? Are you a stronger dancer? Are you an actor who enjoyes delivering text more than music? And when you see which of those types you feel you best fit into, I send students down the YouTube wormhole. There you find a musical theatre role model. You don't necessarily have to like all of the performers you find. You can like them. That's a bonus. But those singers whom you discover may be someone you feel can be a role model for you as a young artist. Once you find  few artists like you, then continue down the wormhole and see what kind of repertoire they sing in their career. If you are in ingénue soprano and you like Laura Osnes, you will probably see that Laura Osnes is has not sung … what's a good example?

She's not singing Mama Rose from Gypsy?

Exactly! She's not singing Mama Rose from Gypsy. So if you feel that you fall into her type, you see what she performs, what roles she does.

How do you feel about students performing repertoire written for older people, because the music written specifically for younger performers is a bit limited?

Right, we call it being age-appropriate. Not necessarily that the song or role has to be written for a 15 year-old performer, but it has to be something that is age-appropriate. So it's the same as the idea that you don't wear certain things to synagogue. There is certain material that you just shouldn't present. I'm not saying that young people can't present something that is edgy if that performer is emotionally ready, and vocally ready, to present something that's edgy. But performing something too advanced when not ready to do so actually makes a performer seem younger rather than older. 

Are there certain songs that you never want to hear a young singer sing in an audition?

I can tell you in the classical music world, I never want to hear a classical singer in high school audition with an operatic aria. I just don't. Likewise, I never want to hear a musical theater singer sing something that is very brassy, for example, if that's not what their voice is. So age-appropriate is part of it, but also appropriate for what you are as a performer. Now that's of course only in audition. I truly believe that in lessons and in the practice room that we should absolutely try out different styles of music to help us better understand who we are as a performer. Our teachers and coaches are again our outside ears that help us determine if the material is the best way to showcase ourselves in auditions and performance. So, yes, play with different styles in private, but in public, only perform what makes you shine!