From the Desk of Lori K. Gardner, Director
We don’t teach kids to make great dancers, we teach dance to make great kids.
— Misty Lown
My performing arts school teaches students of all levels and abilities in several disciplines: music, dance and theatre. And while I want them to achieve all that is possible in their discipline, I want MORE for them than that.
Few of my students will grow up to be concert pianists or prima ballerinas (although some have gone on to professional careers in the arts!) . My desire, however, is that they learn how to work hard to meet a goal, even when other commitments make it difficult to do so. I want them to understand their commitment to SELF deserves to be honored.
I want them to learn to deal with disappointments when they don’t get the part they wanted–in spite of their hard work. I want them to learn how to reframe a situation mentally so they can move forward, instead of blaming people or situations.
I want them to learn that hard work pays off.
I want them to know that kindness makes a difference, and that supporting each other matters more than winning.
This philosophy of teaching has been with me from the very beginning. As a 16-year-old giving piano lessons, I knew that my little 7-year-old student could not succeed in piano by continuing to tell me “But I can’t do that!” I made a flashcard to hold up in lessons that said “Not YET!” It was a great visual reminder to us both that being overwhelmed is part of the learning process.
I had the opportunity to take downhill ski lessons as an adult. (See how I phrased that? I didn’t tell you that I found myself on a ski hill with no skills whatsoever because my husband wanted our family to learn to ski and I needed lessons desperately!)
My instructor was amazing. His name was Jerry Sweden–which is a great name for a ski instructor. Jerry Sweden told me this at the end of our lesson: “Now you know everything there is to know about skiing. You just need to get out there and do it over and over. And make sure you find more challenging hills to ski. Remember that if you aren’t falling down, you aren’t learning anything.”
In our performing arts schools, we want to make sure that we give kids a safe space that will allow them to ski down the hill successfully, the courage to choose a more difficult path, the knowledge that it’s okay to fall down, and the strength to get back up.
If we can teach them all of that, and they have the tenacity to do it again–in every class, in every performance and audition–that’s a WIN. That knowledge and experience will inform every new challenge in life as they move forward in life with confidence and strength.