NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #8 - Desert Sands Middle School, Phoenix

NBC's 'SMASH' MAKE A MUSICAL, School #8 - Desert Sands Middle School, Phoenix

School #8: Desert Sands Middle School

Phoenix, AZ

Reported by: Marty Johnson, Director of Education, iTheatrics

January 31, 2012

When I arrived at Desert Sands Middle School in Phoenix, I was immediately greeted by Ms. Hill, one of the NBC’s ‘SMASH’ MAKE A MUSICAL lead teachers, and the principal Dr. Randy Mahlerwein. As we were walking toward the main office to grab the materials for the day, we stopped by the teachers lounge so both Ms. Hill and Dr. Mahlerwein could drop off their contributions to "The Salad Club."

“The Salad Club” is a group of about 14 teachers who get together every lunch period and eat salads. Each participant brings a large amount of one or two basic salad items and then everyone creates their own salad from all of the goodies. What a fun idea that surely makes lunch a little more interesting and encourages healthy eating.

What I didn't know then, was that this “Salad Club” is indicative of how the staff of Desert Sands Middle School works all the time. "I will bring my skills to the table. You bring yours. And when we add them together it will be even better than we imagined.” The “NBC’s ‘Smash’: Make A Musical” project is their next salad. There are two amazing lead teachers, Heather Gillen and Morgan Hill, who teach math and reading respectively, but are committed to bringing a musical to their school. The band teacher is planning to have his students provide live pre-show music for the production. The industrial engineering team has built flats for the theater, and has promised, "if they aren't what you need, we can build more.”  And the advisor for the cheerleading squad has graciously offered to move the location of their practices so the students can rehearse onstage from the start of the rehearsal process.  What a great example of each person adding what he or she can to ensure it is the best salad, I mean production, it can be.

Not surprising, the peer-to-peer support and camaraderie amongst the students is just as strong. Before our workshop began, two of the older boys took it upon themselves to welcome all of the students to the space, many of whom they didn't know. Once the workshop started, the students jumped right into the activities like they had been friends forever.  They danced, created a beautiful horse-drawn carriage using just their bodies, and learned they could sing together and sound pretty good doing it. They were no longer kids from separate classes and grades. They were one team from one school.  A team of 25 students who felt honored to attend a special workshop on musical theater. A team that can't wait to begin rehearsals.  A team that ended their day by giving one of their fellow participants a big cheer and good luck wishes as he went off to play in his school's basketball playoff game. A team of students who have clearly learned something from their team of teachers.

Ms. Gillen told me one of the reasons they began “The Salad Club” was that it forced them all to leave their classrooms at least once a day and interact with other adults. From my point of view, “The Salad Club” started because these teachers intrinsically understood all the amazing things they could accomplish by working together. And “The Salad Club” is just one part of the recipe of what makes this school great.

“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.