SALEM - Area kids learning to sing and dance on the Salem Community Theatre stage will display their talents at 7 tonight, showcasing SCT's Performing Arts Program.
The program involves more than 70 students, which is double the number since its inception three years ago, with dance students ranging in age from 3 years old to adult and voice students age 10 years old and up.
"They can express themselves, they can learn something and get a sense of work ethic," SCT Board of Trustees Treasurer Nicole Paolozzi said Thursday.
From left, Suzy Snowflake, played by Natalie Sprouse, leads Hayden Bittinger, Aaliyah Moore and Grace Schreiber onto the Salem Community Theatre stage during dress rehearsal for “(Here Comes) Suzy Snowflake,” the first number of the Performing Arts Program Winter Recital. The recital begins at 7 tonight, with tickets $5 at the door. The SCT program is in its third year, with more than 70 students enrolled in dance and voice classes. (Salem News photo by Mary Ann Greier)
The idea for the Performing Arts Program was born out of a conversation Paolozzi had with fellow board member Carrie Utt and a desire for dance instructor Carrie Mazzucco to find a place to teach.
When Paolozzi lived in Chicago, she recalled a performing arts center which provided "a wonderful outlet for kids who wanted to do something other than sports." She and Utt thought it would be great to have a place like that here in Salem.
"I think all kids need an outlet and something to feel passion for," she said. "If they're exposed to all different activities, it gives them an opportunity to find something that's for them."
Mazzucco and fellow dance instructor Sarah Durham teach a variety of dance moves, including tap, ballet, acrobatic tumbling, hip hop, jazz and classical, besides offering private dance lessons. Voice instructor Neil Meloro also teaches a variety of voice disciplines, from classical music to folk and pop and musical theatre.
"The main purpose is furthering vocal techniques and exploring the dynamic qualities of the human voice," Meloro said.
He said a lot of what he teaches depends on each individual student and what they want to gain from the lessons. Some want to go on to college for music and some just want to feel more confident while singing at church. Meloro is a recent graduate of the Dana School of Music at Youngstown State University, hailing from Jefferson in Ashtabula County.
Mazzucco travels from Poland to teach and Durham recently moved from Canfield to Cleveland.
"I wish the word would spread. We're enjoying our time with the kids," Mazzucco said.
Each teacher meets with their classes at least once a week, with recitals in the winter and the spring. Classes resume in January with new students welcome by calling SCT at 330-332-9688. A new dance floor was added this year and a separate room for voice lessons. Hip hop and tumbling were also new this year.
Mazzucco said they're creating a new generation for theatre in the local area.
The cost of lessons is $45 for a monthly class of dance, with private lessons for $20 for a half hour and $30 for an hour. The voice lessons are $15 for a half hour and $25 for an hour.
"We can organically grow based on what Salem wants to do," Paolozzi said, adding there have been requests for them to add acting and directing classes.
She said Craig Snay has offered to teach directing class for adults in January, with anyone interested asked to call the theatre at 330-332-9688 so they can gauge the amount of interest in that. They would like to have someone to teach acting, but no one has stepped forward at the moment.
Students come from Salem and surrounding areas and Paolozzi said the Performing Arts Program is helping SCT survive by increasing interest in the theatre.
"These classes are preparing kids for doing theatre. Our shows are increasing in quality and our audience is growing, too," she said.
Gary Kekel, the new SCT manager, said they've seen some steady growth in the program and they're looking for more growth with theatrical lessons, noting their search for an acting teacher.
He said he wants to see the theatre grow and become more present in the community as a facility that offers various types of entertainment. His vision is to open the theatre up to more people to have access and for the theatre to have a relationship with the community.
Darla Shar of Leetonia has two children involved with the Performing Arts Program. Her 18-year-old son Jason and 11-year-old daughter Emily both take voice lessons and Jason has been part of SCT for the past seven years.
"I think it's great and a wonderful asset to the community and surrounding communities. I think it offers the children some diversity," she said.
SCT will hold auditions for the next youth production, "Disney's Beauty and the Beast," at 7 p.m. Feb. 15 and 16. The show is set for May 11-20. The next production at SCT is "MASH," to be followed by "Greater Tuna."
Learn more about SCT at the website www.salemcommunitytheatre.org.
Mary Ann Greier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org