Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater

The New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and The Johnny Mercer Foundation announced today a partnership on a unique new program, the only of its kind in the country, for 100 Newark and East Orange middle school students. In The Johnny Mercer Foundation /NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program, students from four schools - Maple Avenue School (Newark), LINK Community School (Newark), Marion P. Thomas Charter School (Newark), and Cicely Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts (East Orange) - will study the history of the American Musical and the creative, rehearsal and performance process. Each class will then individually create sections of a joint musical, coming together at the finale to perform the full, collaborative musical on May 21, 2014 at NJPAC.

The residency program will introduce a new generation of students to the music of Johnny Mercer. A prolific lyricist, composer and performer, many of Mercer''s timeless songs such as "Days of Wine and Roses," "My Shining Hour," "That Old Black Magic," and "Too Marvelous For Words" have become staples of the American Songbook. Mercer was the recipient of four Academy Awards for "Best Original Song," including an Oscar for "Moon River" sung by Andy Williams in the film Breakfast at Tiffany''s. After studying Mercer''s songs, students will have the opportunity to create their own works that speak to their own experiences.

Curriculum for the program comes from Georgia State University, supported by The Johnny Mercer Foundation, and was launched as a pilot program at NJPAC in the Spring of 2013. The residency program was developed in accordance with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.

"The program is a first of its kind. Using the JMF curriculum in this unique way was the result of a true collaboration with the fabulous folks of NJPAC. Hearing the students'' feelings expressed in words and music would have made Johnny proud" said JMF Vice President, Jonathan Brielle.

"The Mercer project has permitted NJPAC to create an Arts Education program that enables students to utilize and strengthen the skills they learn in the classroom and apply them in the musical theater context," said Laurie Carter, NJPAC''s Vice President of Arts Education. "The sense of accomplishment and ownership that the students will develop during this project give them new team building and problem solving abilities that will benefit their lives. NJPAC is grateful to the Mercer Foundation for funding this important project."

The program is an immersive experience that allows the students to learn the history of the American Musical, the creation process including lyric writing, and the rehearsal and performance process. They will also develop their creativity, self-confidence, and the ability to express themselves in a positive way. A team of three NJPAC Teaching Artists will implement the program in the schools involved. Students will see the other portions for the musical for the first time at the culminating performance.

This residency has been made possible by the generous support of The Johnny Mercer Foundation. Programming has been made possible in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts/Department of State, a Partner Agency of the National Endowment for the Arts, by funds from the National Endowment for the Arts, and by Discover Jersey Arts.

About The Johnny Mercer Foundation

The mission of The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) is to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook as exemplified by the life and work of Johnny Mercer: the prolific lyricist, composer, performer, collaborator and producer. The Foundation continues Johnny's legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations dedicated to celebrating and nourishing the disciplines he mastered, and the causes he championed.

In addition to The Johnny Mercer Musical Theater Program at New Jersey Center for the Performing Arts; JMF partners with several institutions including: The Kaufman Music Center in new York for the Accentuate the Positive Program ; The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University (The American Music Theatre Project) to nurture and encourage young talent in the field of songwriting; and The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals, the first of its kind in the country dedicated solely to the creation of new musicals.

As well, JMF has a unique relationship with Georgia State University, where The Johnny Mercer Collection, including Johnny's many works and memorabilia are housed. They also support Georgia State University in a fellowship-type program to facilitate music education through the development of an elementary, middle and high school curriculum that focuses on, but is not limited to, songwriting and the Great American Songbook. The Foundation is also a major supporter of Children''s Hospital Los Angeles (Mark Taper and Johnny Mercer Artists Program), Braille Institute''s Johnny Mercer Children and Adult Choirs, UCLA''s Art of the Brain Program, and the television station KCET in Los Angeles.

About NJPAC

New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is among the largest performing arts centers in the United States. It is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey -- where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. As New Jersey''s Town Square, NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the State''s and the world''s best artists, while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted over seven million visitors (including more than one million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents. Visit www.njpac.org or call 1-888-GO-NJPAC for more information.

Photos by Paul Wusow

Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater
Students perform an original musical they created as part of Johnny Mercer Foundation - NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program

Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater
Students perform an original musical they created as part of Johnny Mercer Foundation - NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program

Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater
Students perform an original musical they created as part of Johnny Mercer Foundation - NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program

Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater
NJPAC CEO John Schreiber, NJPAC VP Arts Education Laurie A. Carter & Johnny Mercer Foundation VP Jonathan Brielle (1)

Photo Flash: NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce 100 Newark and East Orange Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater
Victor Burks, NJPAC and Jonathan Brielle, VP Johnny Mercer Foundation

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