NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #18 - Ford Middle School, Seattle

NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #18 - Ford Middle School, Seattle

By Cindy Ripley on March 19, 2012
School #18: Ford Middle School

Tacoma, WA

Reported by: Marty Johnson, Director of Education, iTheatrics

February 9, 2012

Heading back to the West coast to visit my 10th school, I was thinking about each of the schools the iTheatrics’ team has been visiting and how amazing it is to bring musical theater to each of them. I was confident Ford Middle School would be no exception, and then its teachers and students took things a step farther than I ever imagined.

Ford Middle School was one of the first schools to apply for NBC’s ‘SMASH’ MAKE A MUSICAL. Heather Renner, the school’s principal, secured her music teacher, Lisa Sutter, and the school psychologist, Adrian Elmo, to lead the program. I’ve worked with plenty of music teachers, but Mr. Elmo could be the first school psychologist.  I asked him if being a part of this program was a natural fit for his job and he said “not exactly.” I learned that typically the school psychologist does a lot of paperwork and tries to address the needs of individual students, but there is not a lot of interaction between the psychologist and the general student body.  Dr. Elmo had been looking for a way to interact with students, an idea the school administration fully supported.  Now that he is a part of this program, he will have the opportunity to do so.

As we moved onto the second part of the workshop, I asked how the teachers selected the 24 students chosen to participate in the workshop.  I learned the school made an announcement to the entire student body about the upcoming musical and the students who were potentially interested in being a part of it could sign up in the office.  Over 120 students signed up! And from that 120, they narrowed it down to 24 based on a number of factors including schedules, attendance and behavior.  I felt badly that we couldn’t accommodate more, but as the workshops is as much a training tool for the teachers as a learning experience for the students, 24 is really the max.

The student workshop went great. As we were packing things up, Ms. Sutter asked me for an extra copy of one of the hand-outs.  Of course I gave her one, but being as inquisitive as I am, I asked her why she wanted it. She let me know that the 24 students who took the workshop with me would be leading the same workshop with the other 100+ students who are interested in being a part of the musical but were unable to attend.  Those original 24 students, not the teachers, were going to recreate the activities we did and share what they learned with the other students.  As Ms. Sutter explained, “iTheatrics and ‘NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make A Musical’ have given Ford Middle School this gift. We want our students to understand that if they are lucky enough to receive a gift or be a part of something amazing, they should always find a way to ‘pay it forward’ to their friends, family and community.”

It is truly a joy to share the arts with teachers and students, but Tacoma took it further and reminded me how incredibly heartwarming it is when young people share the arts with each other.

“NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make A Musical” program is administered by iTheatrics under the supervision of Timothy Allen McDonald.  For more information, or to apply to become a part of the program, logon to www.MAKEAMUSICAL.ORG.