"The benefits we receive must be rendered again, line for line, deed for deed, cent for cent."
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson
If you aren't familiar with the Broadway Dreams Foundation and how they "pay it forward," you need to be.
What is Broadway Dreams?
BDF is a non-profit organization with a mission to give back to the theatrical community. BDF teaches aspiring artists how to shape their performing career through unique, 3-day and week-long intensives taught by Broadway's brightest stars and savvy industry insiders. These intensives take place throughout the school year, and in the summer in various cities nationwide. Students receive first-rate training in acting, dance and vocal performance culminating in a one-night concert event performing alongside their Broadway idols.
What makes BDF different from other programs?
BDF is committed to making this enrichment available to all students everywhere, regardless of their financial means. BDF embarks on tireless fundraising efforts each year to provide full and partial scholarships to over 42% of the students who take the program. They have also cultivated an impressive faculty of Broadway professionals who connect with their students and provide ongoing mentoring long after the program.
When I saw my first BDF show at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia, I was knocked-out by the professional level of production and raw talent. Student performers represented a variety of socio-economic backgrounds, skin colors and age range (15 years to 60!). All participants had the remarkable opportunity to work throughout the week with famed composer Jason Robert Brown and a dozen other Broadway veterans to put on their spectacular musical show to a sold out crowd. And this is a typical week-long BDF intensive. Whew!
The College Interns
In addition to the varied and mega-talented student participants, what I find especially beneficial is the BDF's well-organized, audition-based intern program. College aged talent from some of the most prestigious training programs earned the opportunity to assist and participate. This summer in Philly they included musical theatre majors from: Carnegie Mellon, Cincinnati Conservatory, Florida State, Baldwin-Wallace, NYU, Pace, Penn State, Oklahoma City, Shenandoah, Alabama, Belmont, University of the Arts, Elon and the University of Michigan. And many audience members are VIPs. Attendees regularly include top New York casting directors and agents. Each and every student has the opportunity to audition for these industry professionals at the end of the week, making the built-in networking opportunities unmatched.
I am proud to be on guest faculty with BDF and consider it one of the most rewarding and significant things I do as a volunteer. What makes this organization so unique and so different from other summer performing arts offerings is that BDF grants significant scholarships to hundreds of students each year. This ensures that all qualified students are able to realize their Broadway dreams regardless of their financial status. Scholarships are primarily awarded based on a combination of financial need and vocal and/or dance talent. Merit scholarships may be awarded to those individuals who demonstrate exceptional performance in voice and/or dance. This year over 42% of participants were on scholarship!
The Personal Stories
And the gift just keeps on giving. BDF has personally touched the lives of so many, due in large part to it's founder, Annette Tanner, who has a heart as big as Texas (even though she resides in Atlanta, GA!). Her mantra is a generous one, and brings new meaning to the phrase, "pay it forward."
Here are just two of the remarkable stories of how BDF has changed the lives of its young performers.
Ariana Groover, playing Vanessa in the Off-Broadway revival of Bare, The Musical.
"I've had a difficult life with a lot of challenges, pretty tragic stuff. BDF gave me a full scholarship and it turned my life around. In a week I start rehearsals for BARE! I will arrive in NYC with the support and love of many of the kindest people I know, people who have given me another chance at life, my dreams. It's all due to Broadway Dreams, a community of love!"
Ryann Redmond, playing Bridget in Broadway's Bring It On
"I attended a weekend BDF workshop and ended up with a scholarship. It was an incredible experience. Two years ago I was asked to perform at their NYC benefit and Broadway casting director, Bernie Telsey, was in the audience and asked me to read for Bring it On. The rest is history. I don't know that I would have made my Broadway debut so soon without the guidance, support and opportunity BDF afforded me. I am BDF's biggest cheerleader, and they're mine."
Mary Anna Dennard has been a college audition coach since 2000. She is the author of the book, I GOT IN! The Ultimate College Audition Guide For Acting And Musical Theatre and was special contributor to the New York Times Theatre section. She is also guest faculty for the Broadway Dreams Foundation, and a member of the National Association Of College Admission Counseling. For more information, visit Collegeauditioncoach.com.