The Making of a Musical (part 2)

Tuesday January 9


The triple threat - actor, singer and dancer - defines a complete performer. In the making of a musical the production numbers are the backbone and at BYPC are the key to our success.  The dancer is gold.  Several years ago I met a member of the auditioning team for the Beauty and the Beast Broadway revival.   He recalled stories of over 1500 hopeful performers attending one day's audition.  (Can you imagine standing in that line or sitting to watch all of those auditions - yikes!)

 So I asked him how they are able to whittle the crowd down to a more manageable number.  I assumed - singing. His answer - dance.  Dance is the first cut.  Easy - pirouette right, pirouette left. And half or more of all auditioners are sent packing.

It is not enough to execute each move each step with stability and fluidity but an adeptly trained performer is able to nuance each of the moves with the understanding that each head, arm, and leg position has meaning as they serve as the building blocks of our story.  They create the texture, the depth, and the embodiment of that story drawing in each audience member as in a virtual reality experience that only live theater can provide.

Watch as a group of our top performers enunciate their movements in sharp deliberate postures careful of the connecting movements as well.  They are coached by Rockette precision dancer, Jess Davison - lucky ladies! Watch and you might see a hint of The Toy Soldier March in these dancers - the goal - precision, sharp, deliberate.  Enjoy.

Friday January 12

Ingenious, imginative, vivacious, sparkling,

I love the ensemble.  In fact, I would say that the success of any performance depends upon a vibrant ensemble.  Grace Steward exemplifies the power of ensemble.  At the beginning of "Supercalifragisticexpialidocious" our cast is directed to react to Mary Poppins who is introducing them all to her unusual word.  My eye goes right to Grace.  She is animated, vivacious, and totally committed to her character's story. She just makes me smile. And then there is Gabrielle Souther, who just giggles with delight each time the music starts and she is called to perform. And then I smile again.  The ensemble brings sparkle and dimension making a stellar performance shine bright. Sure to make you smile.

Saturday January 13

Building choreography is like making sausage - a bit messy but the ending result is pure delight.  Our choreographer, Jess Davison, structures her pieces in layers.  Each layer is designed to challenge the skill level of our cast members.  So whether a cast member is a trained dancer or a beginner performer, they are challenged but in a manner that insures success.  The choreography is energetic, dynamic, and just plain fun.  Teaching the same choreography or blocking to the entire cast would be simpler but not as interesting.  And our mission is always to teach, to challenge, to grow stronger performers - so we make sausage.  Check out "Step in Time" - first the dance corps with our most experienced dancers...

...and then our musical theatre performers.


The Making of a Musical (part 1)

Friday January 5, 2018

And curtain! The rehearsal run of BYPC's Mary Poppins Junior is underway.  We started rehearsals today but our production truly began with auditions back in December 2017.

Auditions - a word that can make grown men and women weep.  It is nerve wracking for all concerned.  For the performers it means working hard to put their their best performance forward as they strive to land their dream role.  For the directors it will set the fate of the production.  It is a task that defines daunting for all concerned.

At BYPC it runs deeper.  Our mission is to grow the gifts within each of the students that we have the honor of working with.  What we can teach these performers.  Who is ready to learn and at what level?  What role will be their key to growth. We are also burdened with the thought that we will disappoint some of our actors and that is always heartbreaking.  So the casting decisions that we make are done with deliberate care.

But, cast we must and here they are - our cast.  They are a great, energetic, and diverse group of actors, dancers, and singers.  Can't wait to watch these performers learn and grow and we look forward to sharing the journey in Making of a Musical - Mary Poppins Jr.

MaryPoppins Cast Photo.jpg

Saturday January 6, 2018

Jess Choreo (1).jpg

Here she is - our mighty choreographer - Jess Davison.  We are so lucky to have her expertise, creativity, and passion in every step that she choreographs.  And what the kids who come back each year will tell you is that she is also just plain fun.  Her goal is to let every one of our performers shine - challenging each performer to reach a bit further building confidence and skill - to be their best selves. 

Jessica's impact is best exemplified by what we witnessed on Saturday from Sarah Dobbins, we call her Dobbs.  When Sarah first came to BYPC two years ago she was paralyzed by the mere idea of dancing.  It shook her to her core. But, she faced that challenge with humor and determination and she persevered. So, imagine our great surprise on Saturday when Sarah volunteered to coach another student in the choreography that was being taught. Dobbs stepped up to teach dance! Well, of course, that immediately earned her the coveted title of "Dance Captain".  Well done Dobbs and Jess. 

The entire rehearsal was simply Supercalifragisticexpialidious!  Here your first peak at the Making of Musical - Mary Poppins, Jr.

How Do You Teach a Preschooler to Dance?

My career as a Mom in a Waiting Room began about 28 years ago when our oldest daughter, Kate, took her first dance class.  Little did I know that my waiting room residence would continue for more than a decade and that I would eventually be upgraded to a front and center seat at Radio City Music Hall where our youngest daughter Jessica would be cast as a Rockette.  

As you can imagine, I have seen my share of dance classes where I’ve met my share of dance teachers and through the years I have learned a lot about dance and the building blocks that comprise a well executed dance skill.  There was a definite learning curve for me because, unlike my daughter, I am not a dancer - I am a teacher with a specialization in Early Childhood Education, so I have an understanding of the unique ways that a preschooler learns. 

Over the weeks and months and years I observed little dancers of all shapes and sizes through glass doors and windows.  I delighted in their giggles and squeals as they twirled about the dance floor trying to make sense of tendus, plies, and first position.  For a little one still figuring out right from left, it was clear to me that some of the skills being asked of them were simply not possible at that stage of their cognitive, physical and emotional development.  Their teachers were loving, kind and enthusiastic with a passion for dance and an understanding of the methodology of teaching dance.  As an educator it seemed to me that what was missing most often in these preschool level classes was the understanding of the unique ways in which a young child learns.  

So how do you teach a preschooler to dance?  You blend a mastery of pedagogy with the expertise of child developmental psychology to produce a perfectly balanced and age appropriate curriculum.  About ten years ago I set out to find such a program to best teach our young BYPC dancers.  

Much to my surprise such a program did not seem to exist.  Music educators had developed programs such as Musikgarten and Kindermusik that were founded in developmental psychology but there was nothing for dance.  It started to seem that the best answer was to write our own curriculum until one day I saw a promotional ad for a preschool dance pedagogy workshop being held at the Alvin Alley School of Dance.  I didn’t have to think twice.  I booked my trip and was thrilled to find a perfectly packaged dance program all wrapped up with a shiny bow - The Leap N Learn Dance Curriculum.  


Over the course of that weekend I would learn that the Leap ’n Learn Dance Curriculum is written by Ballet Master Beverly Spell and Child Psychologist Dr. Annie Spell.  The classes are broken up into a series specific for each age group beginning with children three years old, then four, five and so forth through the age of twelve.  Each yearly curriculum is comprehensively designed with hundreds of pages of lesson plans carefully crafted for the young dancer at their specific stage of development physically, emotionally and cognitively.  

Leap ’n Learn IS how you teach a preschooler to dance and BYPC is proud to be a leader in teaching the curriculum that is now employed in dance programs around the world.    

Journey to Radio City - Part 2

On Thanksgiving morning my alarm went off sharply at 5AM. It was a quick night's sleep (or should I say nap) because we had an 8PM show the night before.  But, it was Thanksgiving morning, which means the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade!  It was my third time performing with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes but it was actually my fourth time performing in the parade. Long before I dreamed of kicking eye high at Radio City, I marched in the Thanksgiving Day parade with BYPC! 

It was another warm Thanksgiving Day in 2002 when I joined my BYPC family as we marched down Broadway right in front of Santa - a position of such honor!  We were all sweating in our winter costumes complete with white gloves and even whiter sneakers - yuck!  But we didn't care because we were marching down Broadway where thousands of parade goers lined the sidewalks and draped the walls of apartment buildings taking festive to a whole new level.   We had a blast. I was hooked and I wanted more.  And more is what I got.

In my years at BYPC I performed in musicals, concerts, musical revues, dance recitals and on the professional stages of Disney and Royal Caribbean.  I danced in pieces choreographed by Broadway performers, attended workshops by professionals who I now audition for and I was even coached by a LA casting director. I believe that the wide variety of performances staged by BYPC was invaluable to my training but it is more than that.  It is what I learned about performing and about myself as a performer that has made such a difference for me. I was recently reminded of that when I ran into to an old friend and fellow Boston Conservatory alum, Alison McCartan.

Alison was in between shows having completed the Shrek tour and about to start a new show in Boston.  Lucky for me she was taking her break in NYC to take class and to catch up with friends.  Over lunch we reminisced about our days at Boston Conservatory and Alison talked about her days at BYPC.  After her sophomore year Alison accepted an internship at BYPC to teach in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program and to perform in BYPC 's Summer Family Theatre in the Park. 

Alison wanted me to know how much that summer meant to her and to her professional career.  The work in the Circle of Giving Outreach Program was so meaningful and life enriching but it was the performing that she talked about.  She remembered the rehearsal schedule as intense and fast paced.  And that the cast was so well trained that they were prepared to handle any mishaps causing last minute changes to the performances.  She talked about one show in particular.


We were performing "Bye Bye Birdie" in Greeley Park in Nashua before a few hundred theatregoers lining the lawn with lounge chairs, blankets and picnic baskets.  It was the end of Act One when calamity struck.  A stage punch missed or should I say hit its mark blooding the nose of our Conrad Birdie.  The stage was now dotted with blood and our Birdie was out of commission.  Our director was filming and unaware of the mishap so we had to jump into action.  A small group of BYPC cast members went out onto the stage posing as lovesick fans cleaning up the blood of their idol, Conrad Birdie ending our first act and giving us intermission to figure out a plan.  Our director gathered us all together to tell us that we could go on with the show.  She reassured us that we were trained and well rehearsed and that we could make this happen. Alison was stunned but our cast quickly brainstormed alternatives to our original staging and completed the show without our main character, Conrad Birdie, who went home to an evening of ice packs.

It was an accident but the show had to go on and on it went.  And you know, our audience did not even realize what had happened.  They all went home happy eagerly awaiting the next weekend's performances.  But, we knew that we had stepped up and that we had done something special. Alison confided that the experience had best reflected her time on the Broadway tour of "Shrek”.  She landed the role of understudy and she was the go to person when things went wrong and she was ready and up for the task.  It was heartwarming to learn of her gratitude.  And that is another thing that we have in common.


So when I fell flat on the Radio City Music Hall stage I jumped back up and kept on dancing, or when I lost my balance on national TV (luckily not on camera) I kept going, and when I was squeezed into a costume that was obviously two sizes too small I literally sucked it up and I kept going.  I kept going because I believed that I could because all those many years ago someone believed in me. For me it has made a difference. 

It is a four-show day today.  And I am ready.  Radio City here I come.

-Jessica Davison


Journey to Radio City - Part 1

The date is Friday November 13.  The place is Radio City Music Hall.  It’s opening night for the Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.  And just left to center is BYPC’s own Jessica Davison shining bright and ready to kick eye high.
With long rehearsal hours of endless kick lines about to come to an end with opening night, Jess has taken some time to reflect on the road that has led her to Radio City Music Hall.  And in particular in this three-part interview she looks back on the pivotal role that BYPC played in her journey.  

First - The Teachers

When I think about BYPC I think about the people who have became family to me. For me, BYPC is filled with people who have touched my life in such a meaningful and loving way. Not only have they helped me to develop the skills that I needed to build a professional dance career but they have been there every step of the way believing in me.  So as I step out onto that stage my BYPC family will be with me. 

Jana Pond launched BYPC's dance program and was my first dance teacher. She brought a joy of dance by creating a fun and welcoming environment in a structured class. It was a place for all of us to belong, to learn, to grow, and to be a part of a dance community exploring a wide variety of dance styles.  For me that is what BYPC is all about. Jana now lives in Connecticut. 

Julie Smith brought musicality to dance for me and she focused on the playfulness of performing.  Julie introduced me to the practice of Floor Barre and sent me on the quest to learn how my body moves and how to produce a high quality of movement.  I think that above all else Julie opened my eyes to the possibility of a professional dance career.  She continues to mentor me with the insights that she has from her own experiences as a Broadway performer. Julie encourages me to reach for the stars and has helped me each step of the way. Julie now lives and teaches in Florida but returns to guest teach at BYPC whenever possible because she believes in what BYPC stands for. 

Dee Keri Mattox, who also currently lives in Florida, taught me to go for it - to dance big.  Dee taught lots of fast moving choreography at an equally fast pace building stamina and the ability to pick up choreography quickly.  Her ability to tell a story and to bring character into a piece of choreography is one of the elements that sets BYPC’s dance training apart from the others and has been key to my success on stage. We are after all - storytellers. 


Melissa Desrosiers and Janet Armstrong reinforced the importance of professionalism and helped me to build a solid ballet foundation for my dance.  They are masters of technique. I also appreciate the time and care that these teacher take to teach the vocabulary necessary to be successful in dance and are often overlooked.  Their attention to detail is exceptional. 

Allyson Kachanian provided me with insights into how my body moves and where movement comes from, concepts that I learned at Boston Conservatory, but first learned at BYPC.  I continue to be impressed with the detailed approach that Allyson takes in teaching the very fundamentals of dance, breaking it down to its core so that her students are able to understand how to move. I remember returning from Boston Conservatory on vacation to take Allyson’s level III jazz class and I was challenged.

Over the years, BYPC provided me with the opportunity to study with a variety of guest artists. Some guest artists traveled to BYPC but we often traveled to attend master classes in such places as NYC, Orlando, college campuses and even cruise ships.  Always striving to provide students with excellence in dance and performance training is the hallmark of BYPC. 


So Friday the curtain will rise on my fourth season with the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes and as I look out over that vast sea of faces I will tell my story and kick eye high.  Thank you BYPC. 


Radio City
-Jessica Davison

Notes from a Broadway Director

Holly-Anne Palmer (, visited
BYPC's Intermediate Musical Theatre Class
via Google Hangout on October 20, 2015.


Throughout the class Holly-Anne shared her experiences with students invited them to perform a prepared monologue.  
She shared some insights with each student and them all tips on choosing monologues, songs and audition preparation. 


Below are the top 10 insights that resonated most with students.  

1.         Commitment
Commitment is key is reaching all of our goals.  In acting commitment has a few different meanings. 

            - First is to commit to yourself - to your goals - to your art. 

            - Second is to commit to weekly training.  Holly-Anne emphasized the importance of weekly training to realize optimum benefits.

            - Third commit to your character - to give yourself over to the work fully and completely.

2.         Be Prepared
Whether attending an audition or a rehearsal to be prepared is essential and will set you apart from others.  Holly-Anne often hires the same actors because she knows that she can trust their preparedness.

3.         Choose a relatable monologue
When choosing a monologue pick something that you can relate to - a character with a story that is true to you.

4.         Research
Do your research.  When auditioning know your character, their history, their role within the story and research the time period or other elements that will influence how you present yourself as your character.  Dress in a style that is reflective of the play that you are auditioning for but do not wear a costume. 

5.         Be Ready to Play
 Directors seek actors who are willing to be flexible and to be playful in their acting.

Actors need to be open to discover about movement, emotion, reactions in both themselves and their characters.   An actor who is flexible is directable.

6.         Be physical
Explore movement within yourself and your character.  Be open to moving in different directions and levels.  

7.         Discover the details
The best actors discover smallest details.  Commit to them.

8.         Find your level
When working a scene find your own level.  

9.         Discipline
Actors must be disciplined in their training and in their performances.  

10.       Value education
Explore all aspects of the arts and of your own interests.  Holly-Anne began her college career as in acting and discovered her passion for directing.  She currently has a production company with ten companies who perform worldwide.  Live the journey. 

Arts Make a Difference

Why the Arts make a difference – and why we Teach it.

Jeff Davison. BYPC Music Director

October 1, 2015


On April 15, 2013 the 117th running of the Boston Marathon came to an abrupt halt when two bombs went off near the finish line.  Three spectators lost their lives, 260 people were injured and countless Bostonians - including those who are only Bostonians on Marathon Monday - were heartbroken and afraid.  Like so many of us, Linda had been having a hard time sleeping, she was moved by the picture of 8 year old Martin Richard holding a poster he had done for an art project.  This image of a beautiful life taken too soon had shaken Linda to the core.  She felt the innate urge that all artists feel when the world doesn't make sense, she needed to create. 

A few weeks after the bombing I attended my Lincoln-Sudbury H.S. class of 197x reunion.

--- I pause here for you to connect with my nice, comfortable, high school reunion frame of mind ---

Jeffrey! How are you? You look great!” (Linda called me Jeffrey) “So listen – I just wrote this song about the Marathon bombing and I NEED to get it recorded while I’m in town – do you know anybody who has a recording studio? – maybe for free? – and Oh! – You teach music to kids, right? – I hear children singing in this song – do you think you could put together a group of kids to come sing in the studio – and Oh! – could we do this the day after tomorrow??

Whoa! - - - But in the next moment I understood her motivation and urgency when she pulled me into a quiet corner and played a video recording on her iPhone. That rough cell phone video conveyed the emotion and her need to have this creative seed seen through to completion.

Linda Chorney and I were classmates at Lincoln Sudbury, so we go way way back.  She is a career singer-songwriter – one you may have never heard of, even though her album Emotional Jukebox was nominated for a Grammy award in 2012 (along with Emmylou Harris and Lucinda Williams- Levon Helm won).  

Two days after my reunion, on Monday May 27 – Memorial Day – seventeen BYPC students spent the entire day at Studio 101a in Amherst, owned by BYPC good friend Tom Holmes, learning, singing and recording Linda’s song, “Martin”.  I suppose, from a strictly academic perspective, that this experience was a great musically educational opportunity. The students had to learn a new song on the spot, learn how to put it into their vocal range, using proper breathing, phrasing, they truly experienced how a professional recording studio works and how a final musical result is produced. But this day taught them SO much more about music than that.

The recording session started when Zach arrived early. Linda thought she'd need to audition all of the kids so she asked him to come in to the studio and sing a couple of phrases for her (I assured her that all of these BYPC kids could sing.) Well, not only did Zach resemble Martin Richard with his short black hair and big eyes, but when he sang the phrase …

"No more hurting people
Peace and Love"

well … he nailed it. Linda was floored. Right then we knew we were creating something special.

Linda sat with everybody, explained why she wrote the song and sang it for us to learn.  Remember, this was Memorial Day weekend, not even two months after the bombing.  The kids all knew about it and had seen it on TV,  many had discussed it with their parents and most knew who Martin Richard was. The kids all sang the chorus: 

Boston loves you.
Boston misses you.
Boston will remember you.           
You are the face of Boston Strong.

We were in tears. These kids knew that creating this music had meaning and that they were playing a part in a step toward healing.  MUSIC had just made a difference in the lives of these BYPC students.

ART – and the artists who are inspired to create art - truly make a profound difference in our lives.

Linda had created this beautiful song, but it didn't end there.  She had a notion that there should be some kind of memorial to Martin and the Marathon bombing victims. She made a music video, posted it on YouTube and made the song available online for purchase to download. Linda decided to use any proceeds from the sale of the song to contribute towards a memorial – her ultimate vision was a statue. Well, I don’t know how much you folks know about the profitability of music downloads – but it's not much. However, enough was raised for seed money for a portrait to be painted by an acclaimed artist, David Wells Roth. The painting was presented to the Richard family through a third party. In addition, sculptor Victoria Guerina created a bronze statue of Martin.  It should be noted here that none of these creative artists received any compensation for their efforts, it was enough for them to share their gift and create a tangible remembrance of this special boy.

Eighteen months after writing and recording "Martin" – Linda received a call from Bill Richard, Martin’s father. The family was deeply touched by the painting, the model – and the song.

On September 26, 2015, Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts dedicated the Martin Richard Institute of Social Justice. The feature of the ceremony was the dedication of the full-size bronze statue of Martin created by artist Victoria Guerina, the oil portrait painted by artist David Wells Roth – and the song “Martin” sung by artist Linda Chorney.  


The BYPC students who are reading this and were involved in recording “Martin” over two years ago all share some very special memories from that day and probably didn't imagine that the song you sang was only the beginning.  Sure – it was cool that you got to record in a real recording studio, and were briefly in a music video on YouTube, but the amazingl thing is that the music that you helped create – made a difference.

This is why we Teach the arts.


Photos by David Baron

BYPC Chosen as Business of the Month

Straight "A" Nation Television has chosen BYPC as Business of the Month, February 2015.  BYPC's own Jeff Davison sat down with Felix Alvarado of Straight "A" Nation and talked about BYPC's history since opening in 1996.  

Straight "A" Nation's BCTV Television Program is designed to be both informative and entertaining!  Mr. "A" covers important topics about which parents and students want and need to know.  The Straight "A" Nation Television Program is part of a greater community-wide initiative to elevate the level of education in Bedford and beyond.  The monthly tv program is designed to be as fun as it is informative. Special segments highlight individuals in the community who are making a difference.  And the Straight "A" Nation Team challenges the entire community to increase its vocabulary and collective IQ.  The Program will available daily at select times on BCTV Channel 16 or 23.