I missed the Friday post of my Blog. I was having computer issues with the internet access in my New York City hotel room. Instead of being relieved about leaving the computer keyboard for things “more fun,” I found that I felt both guilty and sad. Guilty because I have promised myself that I would write daily during the work week and sad because I enjoy the writing and the connection with you! So now instead of writing chronologically about my trip I am going to write about an idea that came as a result of a meeting I had today in Baltimore.
My morning started at 4:45 a.m. with my hotel wake up call. I met Robert Pullen, the Producing Director of The Kennedy Center and our Producing Director of our east coast programs, at Penn Station where we boarded our train for Baltimore, MD. We had been invited to talk to the annual meeting of the Tips on Trips advisors. Tips on Trips is a summer camp and specialty programs referral service. They have often referred students to our programs and although some of their representatives have visited one or two of our sites, most of us hadn’t met. It was a good opportunity to explain what makes US Performing Arts unique among summer programs and to point with pride that we are the largest network of performing arts and media summer programs partnered with and recruiting for the colleges and universities we represent. And what better place to talk about theater, film and dance than the city that spawned the creation of Hairspray?
Some of the questions that came up made me realize we never talk about is how we got started. The concept and mission statement, “to represent the best in performing arts and media education” came from an idea I had when I was teaching in a small liberal arts college. As a faculty member who was responsible for interviewing potential incoming freshman, I became acutely aware that many high school students had little knowledge what the college they were interested in actually offered in the way of a major in their field of interest. Most of their information was based on perception and hearsay. They were about to make some big decisions and their parents were going to pay large tuition bills based on this perception of knowledge. On the other side of the coin, college faculty was going to have to make admissions decisions often based on barely two minutes of meeting a student and in some cases viewing their audition. Being familiar with college athletic recruiting I thought that the entire process could be rectified by bringing students to the college to work in intensive summer programs with the actual faculty they would work with if they attended the university in a mirror of the type of classes they would take as a student. They would also have an opportunity to live in the dorms and eat the dining hall food!
As I began to research the program I met with the CEO of an experienced network of sports camps and although recognizing our differences I tried to find the similarities for a learning experience. During this process of fact gathering my son heard about my idea from the sports program CEO at a social event they both attended. He too saw the potential of helping students hone their craft with professionals while concentrating on the process with less emphasis on the product. He challenged me to start the company by becoming my co-founder and sharing his expertise in marketing and his visionary business skills. Our programs grow each year. Our faculty is enormously invested in their teaching and their students. They are among the “who’s who” of the American stage and screen and they share their expertise in what they call their “give back” time. As we add sites and programs we want to continue to share information with students that will help them prepare for their future. We intend to give them choices to explore for both their college choices and their professional choices. We want our students to know why they are making their decisions and we want to help them find the right path for their unique self.