SCT Director, Chris Guptil acknowledges YACM Director, Wanda Cook to assume management of Solano Youth Theatre. Also pictured with Vacaville Cast of Wizard of Oz, Robin Stanton (outgoing SYT Program Director) …photo by Cornelison Photography
It’s a done deal.
With the blessings of their respective Boards of Directors, Solano Youth Theater which faced elimination due to budget cuts, was officially taken over by the Young Artists Conservatory of Music (YACM) in Vacaville on June 1st.
“In the past, many people have come to the conservatory and said that we should do musical theater,” YACM artistic director Wanda Cook said.” I would tell them that that was SYT’s niche and the community had a lot of other ones already and the arts community didn’t really need another one.”
The Young Artists Conservatory of Music is a nonprofit public arts education organization that provides full service instruction in musical arts. Since 2001, Solano Youth Theatre has been a division of Solano College Theater and put on productions as diverse as “Guys and Dolls,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and numerous Shakespeare offerings including “Romeo and Juliet” all featuring young Solano County residents.
Cook heard worries from parents and former actors who raved about the quality of the SYT productions and the amazing props and costumes they used and put any fear of there being a drop off to rest.
“You hear all these wonderful stories about kids who have come out of their shell and gained confidence as being part of the legacy of what SYT,” Cook said. “Providing kids with skills they can take on with them in life is what SYT and the conservatory is all about. Not only can we uphold that quality, we can also add training. Rehearsing is taking the skills that you have and using them to play or sing. Training is providing you with more skills than you brought to the table and helps augment your assets to make you the best you can be.”
One of the biggest changes will be that now productions will feature live orchestration instead of recorded music. The immediacy and without-a-net quality will add a new dimension to the entire performance and serve the dual purpose of benefitting both the audience members and performers.
“Researchers in arts education have found that there is no other activity that lights up a child’s neurons more than playing music or performing in some art,” Cook said. “The highest levels are when they are performing with a group—more so than when they are doing calculus or playing football. Having to manage time and space and skill and training and leading and following all at the same time is huge. It affects your heart, your mind, and your soul.”
To help make the transition smoother, award-winning director/actress/dancer Holli Hornlien, who had been with the SYT since 2006, was brought aboard to run the program in its new phase.
“I’m bringing the institutional knowledge and a great deal of passion for the program to continue,” Hornlien said. “The Conservatory, the College and I really want this program to last for as long as the county wants it. I can’t be happier that Wanda threw open her doors and said ‘Let’s do this!’”
“Public funding for the arts and arts education has been under such pressure and the fact that this program doesn’t have those particular constraints is kind of a relief,” Hornlien said. The youth theatre is very much a part of the community and will have the relationships that it has had for years. It feels like a time to grow.”
The first order of business for the remodeled youth performing arts company will be their summer camps and workshops which ruin for a week starting July 25th. Young artists are given instruction in acting and music and at the end of the camp put on a performance highlighting what they have learned.
Solano Youth Theatre’s upcoming season that will feature their new mixture of live acting and singing accompanied by live orchestration includes productions of “Aladdin” and “Alice in Wonderland” for 1st through 6th graders and “Hairspray” and “The Sound of Music” for 7th through 12th graders.
SYT are restaffing their vocal department over the summer to help with the anticipated increase of applicants and are offering reduced rate tuitions for those seeking voice training. They will also offer an audition class to give them pointers on how to audition properly for an adult show or more musical theater.
While the conservatory recently changed their motto from one centered just on music to “Inspiring Young Artists for Lifelong Passion,” Wanda Cook’s unofficial personal motto is “Always pleased, never satisfied.”
“As artists, that embodies who we are. We are always pursuing more training, seeking out more information from masters with more experience, and always want to be achieving and learning and growing,” Cook said. “We’re always pleased—so there’s the work ethic, but never satisfied—there’s your inspiration.”
Reach Fairfield freelance writer Tony Wade at email@example.com
Young Artists Conservatory of Music
500 Davis St. Vacaville, Ca. 95688
(707) 451-7200 Fax (707) 451-7879