Founded in 1989, Valley Youth Theatre is a professional-quality theatre company dedicated to helping young people achieve their full potential through meaningful engagement, education, and excellence in the performing arts.
“If life were perfect, we would all paint, we would all play an instrument, we would all dance. But because we know that life isn’t always perfect, we have to have dance, we have to have music, to remind us how good life can be.”
With these words, Suzanne Farrell, one of the greatest ballerinas, captures the essential importance of the arts in defining our humanity and fueling our happiness.
Let me suggest, however, that her statement may be regarded as a reminder of our own obligation as parents and as citizens to ensure that our children experience the benefits of artistic experience.
We all know that the making of a good and meaningful life, the cultivation of character and self-esteem, derive not only from academic excellence and economic opportunity but also from inspiration and immersion in the arts and humanities.
For all of us who want our children to thrive in an imperfect world, our gift is to nourish their minds, their hearts, and their souls through exposure to the music and the dance and the stage and the oils and watercolors of life.
We have good reason to believe that arts are vital to a well-rounded education. For example, just look at the research regarding the impact of coursework and performance in theatre.
According to the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, drama students outscore non-arts students on the SAT by an average of 65 points in the verbal and 34 points in the math sections.
Drama activities improve reading comprehension and verbal and non-verbal communication skills. It improves students’ self-esteem and their confidence in their academic abilities. It improves skills and academic performance in children with learning disabilities. And, finally, involvement in theatre improves school attendance and reduces high school dropout rates.
With all that must be sandwiched into the school day, the opportunity to broaden and deepen the arts experience is available in after-school programs.
As the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence points out, “Young minds keep learning even after the school day ends.” And that’s why programs like those of Valley Youth Theatre are valuable and essential complements to the daily education of our children.
For example, Valley Youth Theatre’s Summer Camp Schedule for 2014 includes children’s theatre activities that train young people in all aspects of the theatre arts. However, in the course of workshops on acting technique, musical theatre, improvisation, story-telling and play building, these students are also learning lessons of life, self-expression, teamwork, and personal confidence.
Indeed, in the words of Valley Youth Theatre’s staff, building character on stage today builds character for tomorrow.