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Performing Arts

Looking for the Right Acting Classes for Your Child? Read This Before You Act!

Some activities in life are easier if you have a script. That’s why veteran “drama mama” Katherine Teel is sharing her list of 20 questions to ask directors of acting, theatre, and performing arts camps, classes, and programs.

By Katherine Teel

Once you’ve got the answers to these questions, review them with your kids, and ask for their thoughts. If, for instance, your middle schooler doesn’t feel comfortable working with kids who are driving and dating, maybe acting classes in the 12 to 17 age range aren’t the best fit for her. In parenting as in acting, trust your instincts, and make choices that make the most sense for your character!

1. Is the program open to anyone or is prior experience needed? If experience is needed, how much experience and where? Are different levels of experience accommodated — such as beginner and advanced?

2. Is there a targeted age group for the program? Is it designed for young children? Teenagers? Adults? Senior citizens? If different groups are included in one session, how are they divvied up? Are high school kids mixed in with middle schoolers — or elementary school kids with older children or preschoolers?

3. Is the goal to “have fun” or to learn the craft? (Either approach is fine, depending on what you want, but it’s important to enroll in one that best serves your child’s goals.)

4. What is the enrollment process? Do kids have to audition, or are slots filled on a “first-come/first served” basis? How quickly does the program fill up? Or, more accurately, when do I need to think about enrolling if I want a spot? Is there a waiting list for applicants who didn’t register in time?

5. If you’re looking at a camp, is it a day camp or an overnight program? If it’s an overnight camp, where are the accommodations? Are commuters welcomed if your kids aren’t fans of sleepovers?

6. If you’re looking at classes, are they several hours, half-day, or full-day courses? Do they meet every day for a week or two? Or do they meet once a week? Is attendance at all sessions mandatory in order for your child to participate in the end-of-session showcase or performance, if there is one?

7. What is the focus of the curriculum? Does it include, for instance, drama, musical theatre, choral work, movement/dance, and acting theory — or just one or two of these elements? Is each focus taught over several sessions or does each session have a different focus? How long is each session?

8. What are the topics being taught? Are they general topics like commedia dell’arte, Broadway-style auditions, Japanese puppet theatre, and improvisation? Or does the program focus on honing crucial acting skills, like building a character, playing objectives, and expressing interior emotions?

9. Can you sign up for just one session, or as many as you want? (This will depend in part on how long the sessions are, how many kids are vying to get into each session, and how many staffers are available for each session.)

10. What are the credentials of the faculty members and staff?? Are they working professionals in the industry, cush as actors, directors, teaching artists, musicians, dancers, or designers? If so, what kind of experience do they have and for how long have they been in the business? What is their most recent work and where was it done? Do they have additional credentials as educators?

acting-teacher11. What is the teacher-to-student ratio? Do students receive one-on-one instruction? Is that important to you?

12. Who typically attends the program? Are students mostly local, or are they drawn nationally or internationally? Connections can be made at camps and classes — where does your camper want to build connections, socially or professionally?

13. Who is sponsoring the program? Is it a local performing arts group, a university or performing arts school, a church, or a private individual?

14. Does the program — or the faculty — have any famous or locally known alumni? Have they endorsed the program? Do they come back to teach sessions or portions of sessions — or to scout new talent?

15. Is a particular method of acting being taught? Are the purveyors of the method also the people sponsoring the camp? (Different actors and directors subscribe to different types of acting theory and methodology. If you’re not familiar with them, ask your child’s music teacher/director, acting teacher, or director for guidance.)  

16. If your child has disabilities, can they be accommodated?? Inclusive camps are required by the ADA to make reasonable accommodations for people with any disability or need. (Check out 5 Signs a Camp Really ‘Gets’ a Kid with Disabilities for more ideas on what to look for.)

17. Is financial aid offered? Are there scholarships? Does the program accept a payment plan or can they offer classes at a reduced fee, if financial need is established?

18. Will there be a final showcase? Do they work to produce a play, musical, concert, or recital?

19. Are there costume or clothing requirements? If so, are costumes provided? Or will kids create their own costumes or wear, say, all black or a camp T-shirt?Is the showcase a casual or a formal affair? Are family and friends allowed to attend, or is it only for camp participants? Where and when will it be held?

20. What happens after the program is over? Will instructors be willing to continue to have contact with students after the classes end? Are there other continuing education opportunities? Are former participants given priority enrollment for future sessions?

Look for acting, theatre, and performing arts programs in your area!

Performing arts programs help kids of all skill levels to have fun and develop their talents — as well as lifelong skills such as teamwork, resilience, and the ability to communicate clearly. Start your search here — and get ready to expand your child’s acting resume!

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources Super Activities for Super Kids

Choosing Musical Instruments for Kids: How Parents Can Help

musical instruments for kids
Photo by Flickr user tony kearns

The ability to play a musical instrument is a great talent that takes time and dedication. Learning to play music is a lot like learning to read—the earlier it starts, the better.

When your child shows interest in taking up an instrument, try to resist the urge to pick for them or let them pick on their own. Picking the right musical instruments for kids is a commitment that should involve both the child and the parent.

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the right musical instruments for kids.

Physical limitations.

A child with asthma might not have the best luck with a wind instrument, and a child with braces probably wouldn’t have much luck with a brass instrument.

Take into account your child’s physical characteristics—are their arms long enough for a trombone? Are their hands strong enough for a string instrument?

Cost.

Musical Instruments for kids can be extremely expensive, but just because your budget is tight doesn’t mean your child can’t play an instrument.

Do some research about the maintenance of each instrument and see what you can comfortably commit to.

Clarinets and oboes require reed replacements and string instruments need their strings replaced quite often. Brass instruments are costly but relatively low maintenance.

Personality.

Helping Your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user ptcentrum

Does your child like to be the center of attention or prefer to hang back with the crowd?

Some instruments, like trumpet and piccolo, are more prone to have solos or leads while others such as percussion and tuba create more of the backbone of the music. Which fits your child’s personality better?

Instruments like piano require personal rehearsal time while other instruments are better practiced in a group.

Does your child have the dedication to practice alone or would they prefer a group rehearsal?

Availability.

Your community may not have an oboe or accordion teacher to help your child master their skills. Perhaps your town is known for their impressive jazz band.

Your child may be better suited to take up something that provides opportunities in the area.

Look into what sorts of specialists you have locally. However, don’t discourage your child from playing an instrument because of a lack of opportunities in the area. Being the only bassoon playing in the metropolitan area might mean a greater chance of a scholarship in the future!

Introduce new instruments.

Which instruments has your child been exposed to?

Are they interested in the drums because they played them at a friend’s house?

Most kids haven’t been exposed to many instruments so their interest in a certain instrument may be ill-guided.

Take your child to a music instrument store to see and learn about all sorts of instruments. Some stores will even let kids handle and test the instruments to see which best suits them.

Musical preferences.

Helping your Child Choose a Musical Instrument
Photo by Flickr user Crystal.

Does your child have a love for jazz music or rock and roll?

Kids are more prone to be interested in an instrument that fits their musical preferences. Asking your children what sort of music they like listening to and what their favorite part of that music is can help to uncover what the right musical instruments for your kids are.

Your expectations.

How important is learning an instrument for you?

Is it important to you that your child study classical music or will you allow them to choose their own path?

Think about the practice time at home—if there are instruments you can’t stand, you probably won’t be too keen on hearing it for hours in end. Choosing an instrument should be a group decision.

Written by Sarah Antrim

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After-School Activities

Top Reasons For Summer Sports Involvement

Elite sports begin young, and select those few who will be the superstars of the next generation early on. Whether you desire this intense experience for your child, or simply want them to be active, have fun and learn a new skill – summer is a great time to get it done.

Competitive sports can be, well, competitive – even during elementary school. While everyone should try to be a good sport on game days, coveted positions on teams can cause jealously and fierceness to flare up. And then outside of the parents, the kids will feel the pressure too!

In today’s world of young athletes, it can be difficult for school-aged children to try out for a team when they have zero experience in the sport. A summer camp or intensive can help resolve this issue, providing the child with one of two things:

–        For the beginner: a basic, non-competitive environment in which to learn

–        For the seasoned athlete: a chance to enrich skills during freed up hours during summer

No matter which goal your family has in mind, taking advantage of longer days and less commitments over the summer is vital to improving one’s game.

Finding a True Love

Perhaps your child is young or new to sports and aren’t sure which one to plug into. Since every recreational activity that involves being part of a team tends to be both expensive and time-consuming, summer is the best time of year to “try things out” and see what really excites your child. You may have always envisioned her as a soccer star, but then discover that she is a tennis pro. Summer vacation is a wonderful time to just explore and play. Many summer intensives for sports (including dance and gymnastics) invite those new to the arena a chance to sample a handful of different things. An intensive sports camp may include a week of softball, football, tennis, volleyball and soccer – or any other combination of sports. Basic rules are taught, mock games are played, and information about what to do next if you’ve caught the bug for one in particular are usually included. For dance, a smattering of different dance disciplines are taught, and may include ballet, tap, jazz, modern, lyrical, contemporary or hip hop. Gymnastics intensives for new athletes may choose to focus on all events within competitive gymnastics, or instead just work on strength-building, basic tricks and safety protocol.

Encouraging an Elitist

If your child is going to become a sports elitist, taking the summer off is not an option. Elite sports demands a generous amount of commitment from both the athlete and his/her family, and summer is a time spent ramping up training, endurance levels and honing new skills. If the competition season prior ended up being a bit rough in some regard, then those skills which caused the fumbles will often be worked on intensively.

Summer is time for the elitist to spend the hours he/she would normally be in school working with a private coach or taking extra classes. The goal of an advanced athlete is to use summer camps and intensives toward improving significantly in their sport of choice, or at least maintaining the level they are at.  These months are often the only time of year where you can get an “edge” on your fiercest competition, as there are fewer distractions in life.

Finding Your Heart

Parents tend to have big dreams for their youngsters, and kids really do need us to dream big for them. However, every parent must be careful they aren’t dreaming beyond what a child is capable of, or not forcing their own slighted ambitions onto a little one. Explain the importance of summer intensives to your child, but if they don’t want to be an elitist in their sport, or just really need a summer off to avoid burnout, it’s important to honor that whenever possible.

Whatever your activity decision-making may be, the heart of it should always be your child’s dreams and passions. Take a good hard look in your family mirror – is the sacrifice something that is worth it? Does your child’s elite sport make his/her life enhanced? Is this something that is child-driven rather than parent or coach-driven? If so, take advantage of one of the great intensive camps available in your region. You can find out about them through your child’s regular trainer or coach, or simply look online. Discounts and scholarships are often available to ambitious young athletes hoping for high-quality summer enrichment without an overwhelming price tag.

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After-School Activities Parenting Resources

Outfitting Your Child for Summer Performing Arts Camps? Start Here

The San Francisco Bay Area is filled to the brim with artistic activities for kids of all ages. From first steps into a dance studio to summer performing arts camps for mastering a classical concerto, the truth of the matter is young people involved in the arts have special shopping needs that at times can be difficult to accommodate.

Fortunately, many businesses exist throughout the bay area to supply anything under the sun you could possibly need to make your child’s performance dreams come true. From musical instruments to dance attire, the list below will guide you toward the top 10 destinations to prepare for a summer of fun and creativity.

1. Capezio Dance Theatre Shops

(throughout Bay Area) If you are the parent of an aspiring dance star, chances are you’ve heard of Capezio, one of the biggest names in dance supply. From shoes to recital costumes, Capezio has truly cornered the market when it comes to obtaining what you need for summer dance activities.

2. Victoria’s Dance and Costume (San Jose & Santa Cruz)

If you prefer a more intimate shopping experience and a chance to support small business, check out Victoria’s Dance and Costume, located in both San Jose and Mountain View. This shop features plenty of basic dance supplies, as well as a fun costume collection that will make you want to revisit come Halloween season.

3. World of Music (Cupertino)

A small, lively shop in Cupertino, World of Music features a massive collection of sheet music, as well as various instrument rentals. They also sell percussion and wind instruments. If your child is taking music lessons of any type this summer (even harp!), chances are World of Music will be able to find you what you need.

4. The Starving Musician (Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Berkeley)

For parents on a budget, perhaps concerned their child’s rock star dreams are fleeting, the Starving Musician is the place to be. Their business is all about buying and selling used instruments, and they also tout a large supply of other music-related needs. All three locations offer private lessons if your child wishes to continue honing their craft after camp opportunities are through.

5. Fun House Theatrical (Mountain View)

A fun and affordable destination for actors, Fun House Theatrical is the South Bay’s premier location for costumes, makeup and other theatrical supplies you’ll find yourself needing for the summer, but stumped on where to get.

6. East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse (Oakland)

Whatever your child is signed up for this summer – even if it’s nothing at all! – the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse supplies both teachers and parents with art supplies and resources that will help check things off your camp list, while allowing your child to express their creativity in an environmentally friendly way.