Disney Musicals in Schools program aims to create sustainable theater programs in elementary schools
On May 2, more than 115 elementary students from Tempe and Phoenix had the opportunity to sing and dance on the ASU Gammage stage through the Disney Musicals in Schools program.
The grant from Disney enables ASU Gammage to offer the program to four schools. Disney Musicals in Schools is designed to create sustainable theater programs in elementary schools. Through the program, participating schools produced a musical in their school community and joined in a culminating performance on the ASU Gammage stage.
This year's participating schools were Desert Spirit Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School, Eisenhower Center for Innovation and Palm Lane Elementary School.
“Exposing students to the arts, the earlier you're able to do that the more likely it will grow into a lifelong love of the arts, and every year that goes by we're planting more theater programs around the valley so the number of schools affected, and students affected, will only grow,” said Desiree Ong, the program's manager.
The selected schools participated in a 17-week musical theater residency, led by a team of teaching artists trained by ASU Gammage and Disney Theatrical Group, at no cost. Each school received performance rights, educational support materials and guidance from the teaching artists.
The program featured a professional development focus, through which participating school teachers partnered with ASU Gammage teaching artists to learn how to produce, direct, choreograph and music direct, culminating in their first 30-minute musical at their school.
The Student Share Celebration at ASU Gammage on May 2 was the culmination of this year’s program.
ASU Gammage was filled with the elementary students, teachers and their families. The young performers presented their performances from “Jungle Book Jr.,” “Aladdin Jr.” and “The Lion King Jr.," each school presenting one number.
The evening concluded with a heartwarming finale that included all student participants on the stage together singing “It Starts with a Dream,” an original Alan Menken number that was composed for Disney Musicals in Schools.
“I've seen some students who I think were looking for an outlet like this, and this has been really positive for them," Emerson Elementary School Principal Nicholas Lodato said. "It's helped them to exercise an interest and a desire that they've had — they've just not had a music production to put on and express it. It’s like they’ve finally found their place right there."
Eisenhower Center for Innovation students gather before their performance of "Lion King Jr." on the ASU Gammage stage.Photo by Tim Trumble
Program manager Desiree Ong (center) and the Disney teaching artists greet students from all four schools on the ASU Gammage stage.Photo by Tim Trumble
Elementary students perform "Jungle Book Jr." on the ASU Gammage stage.Photo by Tim Trumble
Students from Emerson Elementary School perform "Aladdin Jr." on the ASU Gammage stage.Photo by Tim Trumble
An Eisenhower Center for Innovation student performs a scene from "Lion King Jr." on the ASU Gammage stage.Photo by Tim Trumble
Participating elementary students gather on the ASU Gammage stage during the Student Share Celebration.Photo by Tim Trumble
Students from all participating schools end the event gathered on the ASU Gammage stage for one final musical number.Photo by Tim Trumble
Disney teaching artist Breona Conrad hugs one of her students from Palm Lane Elementary School at the May 2 Student Share Celebration at ASU Gammage.Photo by Tim Trumble
An Emerson Elementary School student at the May 2 Student Share Celebration at ASU Gammage.Photo by Tim Trumble