Teaneck Community Charter School Presents New Young Performers' Edition of GUYS AND DOLLS
Dreaming big continues to pay off for the Teaneck Community Charter School in Teaneck, New Jersey which won one of ten grand prizes in the nationwide "NBC's 'Smash': Make a Musical" program. The honor bolstered the school's ambition to stage their own musical Theater Productions and implement a self-sustaining theater program.
Over 1,000 schools across the nation applied for the 'SMASH': Make A Musical Program (Fall 2012) and 30 finalists were selected by iTheatrics' Junior Theater Project. America cast over 250,000 votes for its favorites. The Teaneck Community Charter School rallied over 12,000 votes, an impressive effort for a small community with 320 elementary and middle school students. Upon winning the grant, the Teaneck Community Charter School participated in professional development workshops with teachers and students. These workshops guided educators step-by-step through the process of producing their first-ever musical.
The Teaneck Community Charter School's Performing Arts program has accelerated since its first production into a driving force for creativity and community involvement. The school's inaugural production of "Annie Jr." was a collaboration of hundreds of parent, teacher, and student volunteers to create a performance space within the multi-purpose room for the show. The production stirred interest in dozens of students, both onstage and off. The school instituted a Summer Theatre Camp program and has operated at full capacity, yielding profits that have been re-invested in equipment for the school's program. "In times of educational hardships, when it's time to choose how we spend our money on education, it seems like the arts always takes a backseat. The Teaneck Community Charter School has made a commitment to the arts," says Teaneck councilman Mohammed Hameeduddin.
The school's second production, "The Little Mermaid Jr." was a major triumph for the program. The show featured over 40 students onstage and trained over 50 more in the vital work behind-the-scenes. The program's director and school's music teacher, Mr. Jaime Valente states, "There is simply no substitution for the learning experience derived from preparing, rehearsing, and performing in a live theatrical show. Our program is a magnificent opportunity for students to experience the performance process from all viewpoints - on stage, backstage, and as our audience." Valente has inspired dozens of students to collaborate on the productions. That year, the community nominated him for the new Tony Awards Excellence in Theatre Education Award.
Broadway designer, Edward Pierce, is a parent at the school and has served as the producer for the mainstage productions. Pierce has been instrumental in bringing entertainment industry talent and resources to the school. Production Resource Group, the world's leading supplier of entertainment and event technology, graciously provides the school with theatrical equipment for its productions. Mr. Pierce has established a collaborative relationship with the Bergen County Academy of Visual and Performing Arts. The Teaneck Community Charter School productions are choreographed by a rising student from the Academy.
The third season's production of "Bye Bye Birdie Young Performers' Edition" marked an achievement for the school. iTheatrics had recently adapted the musical for student performers and TCCS's presentation was one of the first productions. Pierce comments, "One of our goals for the musical theatre program is to be positioned to produce the latest musical properties as they are developed for young performers. Our proximity to New York City and our professional contacts contribute to the program's success. It is an incredible opportunity for our community to host the show's composer, Charles Strouse, and share with him the enjoyment and commitment that our students bring to the work."
Broadway composer Charles Strouse, who has written scores for over 30 stage musicals, including 14 for Broadway, and is a three-time Tony Award winner, a two-time Emmy Award winner, and whose cast albums have earned him two Grammy Awards visited the school to see the performance and to lead a "Talk-Back" with students. Strouse praised the production, "It was so infectious and so much energy. I just loved it!" After the performance, Strouse told the children that it was refreshing to watch "Bye Bye Birdie" acted by young children - it showed the composer that his music has endured for generations. "It really brings tears to my eyes," he said.
For 18 years, the Teaneck Community Charter School (TCCS) has operated as one of New Jersey's most successful charter school programs. TCCS is one of the first schools granted a charter in New Jersey and was organized through a grassroots effort by a diverse group of very committed and determined parents and educators who resided in the Township of Teaneck, New Jersey. As a "community school," the success of the program continues to rely on the passion and energy of the parents and educators within the school.
New Jersey State Senator (District 37) Loretta Weinberg notes, "The Teaneck Community Charter School is an exemplary model of charter school education in New Jersey. Their record of solid performance has produced replicable methods of teaching and students who have excelled in high school and beyond - all in the spirit of the original legislation. I applaud the inclusion of an arts-infused curriculum into the regular programming at Teaneck Community Charter School."
The mission of the Teaneck Community Charter School is to provide a nurturing environment in which students realize their full intellectual potential and become self-directed learners, who make both pragmatic and creative use of basic skills and who understand and appreciate the cultural diversity of our society. The faculty, staff, parents, extended family, and other members of a child's support network are committed to creating and operating a student-centered "learning community" which promotes and supports a child's natural curiosity and enthusiasm for acquiring knowledge. This learning community follows a "living curriculum" - experiential, interdisciplinary studies that encompass literacy, critical thinking, and responsible social interaction while empowering each child to demonstrate his/her unique interests and abilities.
The township of Teaneck has long been rich in cultural, ethnic and racial diversity. This spirit of tolerance and unity was demonstrated in the 1960's when Teaneck became the first town in New Jersey to voluntarily begin busing to desegregate its schools. This commitment to progressive ideas made Teaneck an ideal place to implement an innovative educational initiative of a charter school - especially one in the mold of the Teaneck Community Charter School.