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.

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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.  
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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. 

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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 (http://www.hollyanneruggiero.com), 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.  

Let Your Freak Flag Fly

Rehearsals for BYPC’s spring production of Shrek the Musical began January 9th and are now in full swing.  Saturday January 17th the cast had their first day of choreography and BYPC’s Nikkie Stroumbos spent four hours teaching full cast the choreography to the song Let Your Freak Flag Fly.  Freak Flag is a turning point in the show where the fairy tale creatures convince Shrek to take on a quest to confront the evil Lord Farquaad who has banished them from their homes!

 

Talent

Coming in to this morning of choreography Nikkie expected the cast to be familiar with the script but was blown away when everyone arrived ready to sing the song in it’s entirety. They had not only memorized the song but understood the feeling and the story that they needed to convey to make the song come to life.  

 

Teamwork

Throughout the morning the actors stayed focused and were all business but at points joked around with one another and had a lot of fun together.  Nikkie was struck by how well the cast worked together and encouraged one another.  A perfect example was when four of the actors, Hannah, Lauren, Sarah and Emily who had performed this dance at BYPC’s Year End Performance in 2014 stepped up by helping the cast with some of the more challenging steps and encouraging everyone to do their best.  Their leadership and the cast’s willingness to benefit from their experience shows that this group is well on their way to being an amazing ensemble.  

 

A production like Shrek the Musical requires talent, experience, teamwork and dedication.  This cast has it all in spades.  Each and every actor has come to the table with an array of gifts that they are willing to share and we are thrilled to be working with them to make a great show! 

 

 

All the things that make us special

Are the things that make us strong!

What makes us special,

Makes us strong!

Let your freak flag wave!

Let your freak flag fly!

Never take it down, never take it down

Raise it way up high!

Let your freak flag fly! Fly!

 

Click here to purchase tickets for Shrek the Musical or by calling the office at (603) 472-3894. 

 

Welcome to BYPC's New Website & Blog!

Bedford Youth Performing Company is proud to present our new website and blog! We hope you enjoy exploring all about our nonprofit performing arts school online, and we can't wait to continue telling you more about us and what's happening at BYPC. We'll use this blog to share information about music, theatre, and dance education, as well as post announcements on upcoming events, new offerings, and more! Whether you're an alum of BYPC, currently involved with our school, or looking for a place to start or continue a performing arts education, we hope you'll follow along and join the BYPC family.

Tell us if you've stopped by the new BYPC.org site and blog by saying hello below. Feel free to comment on your favorite part of our new website too!