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Those fortunate enough to attend the Young American's 50th Anniversary show in May 2012 were present at the premiere of the group's most impressive technical investment to date. A 100 panel LED wall unit was unveiled, in the form of four screens, providing stunning backdrops and ambience for the evening's performances. Now comprised of over 146 twenty inch squares and pieced together like LEGO's, the newly designed 45-foot rolling screen took center stage at The Magic of Christmas, breathing exciting new life into this holiday classic.
Replacing the artfully designed backdrops of the past dozen years - the bakery, toy shop, bookstore, and baby boutique, not to mention three sections of beautifully painted stained glass cathedral windows - the LED screens were mastered to convey a sense of warmth and intimacy yet on a grander, more technically modern day scale. Don Strom, Director of Operations and technical consultant, says of the exciting new set-up, "We were able to take the traditional aspect of the holiday show and mix it with a more contemporary feel, but (the great thing is) it won't distract from the relationship the audience develops with the performers." In fact, the goal is to strengthen the relationship between The Young Americans and the greater Los Angeles area, enthralling spectators, proving that the group is on the cutting edge of technical development and encouraging theater goers to continue to seek out the organization as an indispensable part of the Southern California arts scene. The Young Americans' media manager, TJ Stoltz, digitally created over two hours of video which drew the audience into the story of Christmas as told by Bill and Robyn Brawley, Milton Anderson and today's crazy talented performers. Stoltz devoted countless hours, 20 hours on the Polar Express scene alone, to developing a poignant storyboard crafted of over 2,500 images. Depicting previously photographed pictures of buildings in real-life Harbor Springs, Michigan, the locale for the story, Stoltz created an entire city to captivate onlookers as the show progressed. For example, Kilwin's, the local chocolate company in Northern Michigan, was the inspiration for the Christmas bakery building. Harbor Springs church was the basis for the sacred choral section of the show. Perhaps most special, however, was the toy shop window scene created piece by piece from an original water color. "Personally," says Stoltz, "in addition to enhancing the warmth of the show, I hope that the magic of the background made the audience feel like a kid again."
The LED screens were purchased, not only as a creative technical upgrade, but also as an investment. Since their acquisition in early 2012, Strom has rented them at numerous venues including events for Billabong, Toyota and Facebook as a method for The Young Americans to create revenue. To date, the LED screens have generated enough returns to have them paid off in another twelve months. At that time, the screens will provide continued monetary assistance for the group.
It is smart business and creative decisions like these which will continue to propel The Young Americans into the forefront of the international music landscape in the coming years. But for now, onlookers were able to sit back and enjoy as this innovation carried them into the holidays with fresh and inspiring style. We hope you were able to join The Young Americans as they transported audience members into the wonder…the joy…the majesty…the magic…of the Christmas season.
TOUR NOTES TRANSPOSED
A glance at the fall touring statistics alone is impressive:
This didn't include the local outreach happening at home with the 42 resident cast members who have served Southern California youth this fall in Los Alamitos, Cerritos and young people considered "at social risk" at the Rio Contiguo High School.
There is no denying that the group is changing lives. On the outside, it may appear that the workshops are no more than a terrific lesson in team building, enthusiasm for the arts and education through the learning of notes and steps. However, there is something much deeper happening in the lives of the participants and the Young American performers. Brooke Thompson, Company Manager for the fall European tour, said it beautifully in a recent email to the Young American staff. "Our cast was given the incredible opportunity to do a workshop in Estonia (which) makes us the pioneer tour cast to reach this country. We embarked on a journey through a country in which JOY is not as apparent as it is through our hearts in the U.S. A place in which people carry the weight of the world in their core and bury it deep within their souls. A remarkable experience. Everything that we needed and that Tallinn Estonia needed as well. Pure perfection."
To date, the international music outreach tours have touched over 500,000 lives in nearly all 50 states in addition to Australia, New Zealand, Canada, England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Republic of Ireland, Germany, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Ukraine, Gibraltar, Spain, Poland, Sweden, Lativa, Lithuania, Japan, China, Hong Kong and now Estonia. Students are growing. Students are changing. Students are inspired. Students are contributing. That's a mission worth continuing.
Old Kids serenaded, belted, rapped and emoted their way into the hearts of all listening. While Adam Brown, veteran Old Kid just home from the Boyne Highlands Dinner Theater, crooned standards, choreographer Robyn Brawley pulled dancers up one by one to jete', arabesque, and pirouette to the rhythm of his ballad. The beat boxing followed. Dancers were flipping, popping, and breaking in freestyle dance as the audience of over 200 cheered. Robyn Brawley ended the segment with a surprise pull from the crowd, spotting good friend and past director, Eric "Spider" Paul in the corner of the room. As he danced closer and closer to stage from the audience, he finished with a 10 foot slide on his head across the room. The audience jumped to their feet!
Next Bill gathered choral singers who had completed summer performances in Japan, Germany, Boyne Highlands and Summer Camp World Tour. Beginning the conducting then handing it off to each director who traveled with a group during the summer, five directors conducted over the course of a four minute segment, illustrating the collaborative philosophy that Bill Brawley has made his hallmark.
After a 15 minute break, the New Kids got their chance to shine. All 109 singers and dancers performed samples of their best work to the audience. It was clear that the talent will be strong moving into the future. Meet & Greet was an incredible way to connect generations of Young Americans as the group continues to grow and change.
The Freshman Class began their college coursework the following week. It's a heavy load for them in their Fall semester but worth it as they navigate through rehearsals, classes, finals, and acclimating to life as a Young American. Most exciting for the New Kids at the current juncture will be the completion of the show learned from their fall weekend rehearsals. The New Kids Show was performed the night before Thanksgiving, Wednesday, November 21st, at the La Mirada Theater for the Performing Arts.
MUSIC EDUCATION IS KEY
"Music is a more potent instrument than any other for education, because rhythm and harmony find their way into the inward places of the soul." - Plato
Clinical research shows that music programs achieve the following:
HELLO FROM THE YA OFFICES:
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