Shea's initiative to help low-income schools create musical theater programs

Feb 26, 2014

Shea’s Performing Arts announced Wednesday that they will help bring musical theater programs to underperforming elementary schools across the Buffalo-Niagara region.

Students from Academy of the Theater Arts kick off Shea's Junior Theater Celebration.
Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News

The Shea’s Junior Theatre Celebration initiative allows schools with existing musical programs to help schools without theater programs develop their own. Shea’s will collaborate with the educational musical theater consulting firm iTheatrics to educate teachers in low income districts on how to put on musicals through various workshops.

The initiative will also honor schools with successful musical theater programs. President of Shea’s Anthony Conte says musical theater is crucial as it teaches kids important life lessons.

“I feel and I think it’s being proven throughout the country that the arts are an important part of our education. I think that we’re finding that even though a lot of time with funding cuts the first thing people want to cut is the arts and then they find out that all of a sudden test scores go down and student interest starts waning. The arts tend to bring students together and make them excited about something,” said Conte.

Students from the Academy of the Theatre Arts.
Credit Ashley Hirtzel / WBFO News

Conte says the initiative is free to schools that would like to participate. The Academy of Theatre Arts in Williamsville was the first school to commit to the program. They kicked off the initiative by performing a number from the musical “Godspell” Wednesday.

CEO and Founder of iTheatrics Tim McDonald says he believes musicals are the “super food” of arts education.

“It combines music, dance, and acting with the visual arts, through sets and costumes, and even digital art with lights and sound. So everything that you want kids to learn and experience. It’s fun and kids don’t even know that they’re learning. It’s also in a very unique way preparing kids for the 21st century by learning to collaborate, to listen, and to respond in real time,” said McDonald.

The Junior Theater Celebration program will hold a closing ceremony on June 7th at 710 Main Street Theatre. The participating schools will perform a variety of musical numbers to celebrate the end of the program.

Watch students from Academy of the Theatre Arts in Williamsville perform: