The ASPIRE production is over for another year and as I reflect, and plan for 2016, I look at the successes of this year. All too often the real success stories in the performing arts are not the final product on the stage, but what emerges from the rehearsal process.
One of the great things about the ASPIRE program, and indeed any high quality performing arts program, is the fact that from the outset it fosters a culture of teamwork. There’s a family feeling where each cast member is valued for his or her talents. This year we accepted two young musicians to work alongside more senior members of the stage band. It has been an overwhelming success for both mentors and mentees.
I observed each week as the older band members stepped up and took their roles as mentors seriously, advising their young counterparts in learning music, in playing together as a band and offering their own pearls of wisdom, having been through a rehearsal process before. The younger students eagerly took in the advice and looked up to their mentors. It was beautiful to watch and an example of everything I love about working with young people in the arts.
I see this type of relationship in every ensemble, every year. The older, more experienced cast members offer advice and support to new performers, from learning lines or helping teach choreography, to organising themselves in production week and putting on stage make-up for the first time. It’s inspiring, a significant part of the ASPIRE program and one reason students enjoy it so much. I am currently working with our schools in Merriwa, Glendale, Edgeworth and Wallsend. Each school is performing a script the students have had a hand in writing. In the same way part of the ASPIRE production is written, I spend time workshopping ideas with classes. This ensures the script includes elements of the students’ ideas. It’s their play. Their ideas are realised on stage. They feel ownership and therefore have more invested in it. The confidence with which it provides young people, some of whom have never thought of setting foot on stage and performing, is obvious and powerful.
People tend to assume that the performing arts are all about the individual and I acknowledge the industry in general has a reputation for having more than its fair share of oversized egos. Believe me, I have met many of them. But it’s important to remember the performing arts are a great way to encourage students to work together towards a common goal. It gives them the opportunity to be creative in a safe environment where there are no right or wrong answers, just ideas and possibilities.
ASPIRE 2016 audition forms are available online now and I would encourage anyone with an interest in the performing arts to find out what we’re all about.