Approximately 260 students in the Algoma District School Board had the opportunity to participate in a three-day performing arts workshop and performance this week, in hopes that it lights a fire in the community to keep the arts alive.
The Young Americans, a non-profit group that was founded in 1962, is an organization that travels the world, both performing and going into schools to teach students a show – which they learn in two days – involving singing, dancing and acting.
“We basically bring music and life and love back into schools, so we teach the kids a (variety) show, but really it’s teaching encouragement and passion and love and stepping out of your comfort zone,” The Young Americans Company Manager Taylor Andersen told SaultOnline.
“We’re losing music in schools all around the world, and it’s happening everywhere,” she continued, explaining why they do what they do.
“Music is the universal language and it’s really, really important that we keep that among the kids because they’re the next generation.”
Andersen, a 23-year-old resident of Omaha, Nebraska, graduated from The Young Americans College of The Performing Arts in 2017. She’s currently on her 10th tour with the company.
She met Central Algoma Secondary School (CASS) teacher Alicia Annett in Boyne, Michigan, in the fall at a workshop, which resulted in Annett getting the group to the Sault. Prior to that, The Young Americans had only been to London, Ont.
“The Young Americans are great role models for our students, not only in terms of the performing arts and getting them to step outside their comfort zone – that’s huge; their positive energy is huge, their resiliency is amazing – but it’s also the leadership that they demonstrate is so great, especially for our older kids, that we’re trying to create leaders in our communities and in our schools,” Annett told SaultOnline.
“I have never come into contact with a group that is more positive and talented, and they’re such wonderful leaders, especially in the arts, for kids in our community. So it’s just great to see them…seeing our kids interact with them and what a positive influence they have on our kids. It’s just such a great boost of energy for our community.”
One participant involved in the workshop was 16-year-od Kassi Goslow, a gr. 10 student at CASS and a part of their Dance Squad.
“(The workshop) is pretty fun,” she said.
“All of the people have really high energy, and I’m really glad that I get to be here to participate with all of these dancers from across the (world).”
Goslow’s dance squad went to a workshop in Boyne, but she couldn’t go due to prior commitments, so when the squad came back and said they enjoyed it and had fun, she decided she wanted to participate when they stopped in the Sault.
“This is a great opportunity, because so many people dance and sing,” she said.
“We have so much talent in Sault Ste. Marie, and I feel like it’s just a great opportunity for everyone.”
“The transformation (of the kids from start to finish) is always insane,” Andersen said.
“I always like to say it’s like we’re planting seeds that we never really get to watch grow because we do this and then we leave. But we know that the communities are changed and the kids are changed and we know that they’re just going to affect everyone around them. (Even if) they’re the shyest kid on the first day, they’re always the most bright, shining kid on the third day, because they got to do something for them; it was super special for them.”
She said her favourite part of this experience is getting to change lives while performing and doing what she loves.
Annett said she hopes this experience lights a fire for the performing arts, both in the community and throughout the ADSB.
“The arts are so important because it gives students another outlet to express themselves,” she explained.
“It’s not always the student that you think is going to be the most outgoing that is a performer. Sometimes it’s quiet kids, and it just gives them another persona when they get on stage. So you just see how much confidence it boosts in them, and it shows them how to step outside their comfort zone and try new things, which can easily translate to learning – if you don’t get something on the first try, you just keep trying and then eventually it comes.
“So doing these performing arts workshops teach them life lessons and it definitely translates into the classroom and it gets kids excited to go to school, which I think is really important.”