Barb Green, choral director for staged productions, and Kacie Watson, voice teacher, sharea vision for coaching and teaching those who sing in Mexico.
Green has long been associated as a volunteer and church musician with the Presser Performing Arts Center. She not only is called on to direct singers and choral ensembles in musical productions on stage each season, she uses her skills as a trained Kodaly method instructor to teach young children how to enjoy music and to sing, using a variety of songs and rhythm instruments. Children as young infants and toddlers are introduced to music through Kodaly.
Watson, with a degree in music education and experience as a voice teacher, currently has 20 students, 10 of whom are in Mexico, the others in Columbia where she resides, who come to Presser Hall for individual lessons.
"I currently have voice students whose ages range from 8 to 40 years old," Watson said. "Some students are preparing for a particular performance, others want to strengthen their voice as a member of their church choir, and some just simply like to sing. Everyone can sing, so I usually ask my students at the first lesson to sing a hymn, a favorite song,or anything that they know.
"A big part of teaching voice is helping a singer gain more confidence in their ability to sing. Working together, we can address the techniques of singing, and correct those things that allow for better singing. Enjoying singing is the first step; learning to be confident as a singer comes with practice."
Watson is one among the eight private teachers who teach voice, piano, film, and theatre at Presser. In addition to voice, PPAC is a second campus for the Columbia-based Missouri Contemporary Ballet, and with their help offers lessons in ballet, pointe, creative ballet, and a new program for those with special needs, DanceAbility. Caitlin Younker, a member of the ballet company, is the instructor.
To expand programs such as these, the board of directors has started a capital campaign. A goal of the campaign is to expand the teaching faculty to 20.
Lois Brace, Executive and Artistic Director for PPAC, wants the public to know that the 18-member Presser board wants the arts, whether acting, voice, or piano, or the visual arts such as painting and sculpture, to be offered to everyone. "We want this to be an Arts center for 'everyman,'" Brace said. "Many of our students have families who are below the median household income of $32,587; in fact, a number of our scholarship students come from households earning below the $20,000 level with three or more children and adults in the home.
Brace is proud of the success rate for students taking classes in the performing arts at PPAC. She collaborates and works closely with Zachary Templeton, assistant superintendent of the Mexico school district, to meet the needs of the students.
"One hundred percent of our students who participated in one of our arts programs in 2013 returned in 2014. One hundred percent of those taking classes in the arts here in 2014 finished them, and 100 percent of the seniors graduated. Each January we host a professional development day for all the area fine arts teachers in our district and those around us. We know how limited their time to teach and plan is during the school year. We see ourselves as a partner in the arts, helping the seeds that they plant as teachers and instructors grow. "
The PPAC board and Brace want the number of programs to grow so that more students can participate.
"We have more students not only from our District 59, but from surrounding school districts who want to participate. Currently, we are in conversation with another voice teacher to add to our faculty. In December we plan on adding a Suzuki method piano teacher for younger children. We have waiting lists for our programs. By adding to our endowment, and having more revenue by adding more paid performances, we can offer more scholarships," Brace said.
"Our teachers are private contractors, so they are part of a faculty of professionals and volunteers who make our programs happen. We are a not-for profit organization, and other than grants that we can secure and ticket sales, our endowment will help us sustain our growth," Brace said.
Among the instructors at PPAC, are Deborah and Tim Baldwin, who direct and teach for the summer drama camp each year, and Sam Dalton, who directs and teaches for the summer film camp.
One of the proudest achievements of the film students at PPAC is the acceptance of their short film, "Chad," which will debut at the Kansas City Film Festival April 24 at the CineMark Palace in Kansas City. Their film, produced in film camp, was one of only eight of 180 films selected to debut beginning at 4 p.m. that day, and the only short film produced by youth and featuring them as actors. (A trailer for the film can be found on the PPAC website, www.presserpac.com, or www.facebook.com/PresserPAC.)
Liz Washer and Don Decker, co-chairs of the capital campaign, and their team of more than 40 volunteers, are pleased that an additional $250,000 has been raised, for a total of $1.5 million in pledges and gifts, since the campaign was publicized April 7.
More information about the capital campaign can be found at www.presserpac.com or by calling the PPH office at (573) 581-5592.