“…And point me toward tomorrow…”

May 06, 2014

Gail Jordan, mother of NCTC alum, recounts her experience at the Conservatory.

Guest blog by: Gail Jordan

This lyric from the iconic Broadway musical “A Chorus Line,” is, when you think about it, what every child is asking us to help them do. As parents, teachers, coaches and mentors, it is our job to find the best way to point each individual child in our lives to their tomorrow.  A little more than 10 years ago, when North Carolina Theatre announced they were planning to open a Conservatory for the Performing Arts, I realized this was the opportunity to do just that for my then nearly 12 year old daughter, who ate, drank and slept theatre. Little did we know at that time, what a magical place it would come to be.

Even in those early days when the paint was still drying and much of the furniture was from De Ann Jones’ attic, it was clear that the North Carolina Theatre Conservatory was not only a place for kids to learn theatre from Broadway veterans – professionals who had lived this life, but it was also a haven for kids who may not have always felt included because they loved something most kids knew nothing about.  It’s okay to be a little different here; in fact it’s applauded - literally. The teachers understand the kids because all of them were those kids once.  They know what it’s like to need a creative outlet.

My daughter had found bliss.  She was challenged by the classes whether it was Live on Stage with Ray, Jazz with Tito, acting, an audition class or one of the many master classes by visiting teachers – she learned the craft as well as how to conduct herself professionally.  What became very clear very quickly is that this place is not just some random dance studio – this is much more and much better. As she grew there and became part of the Live on Stage, Dance and Acting Companies, the curriculum continued to evolve and continued to challenge her. 

Carly, as a student, performs at a LIVE ON STAGE Showcase

Conservatory students have the opportunity to audition for many of North Carolina Theatre’s main stage productions.  This is unique and special as it gives them the possibility of working with professional New York/Broadway performers.  Directors who cast these shows have commented many times how well and professionally prepared Conservatory students are at auditions.  And over time, many of these kids have been fortunate to be cast and to extend their education by being a part of professional theatre. My daughter treasures the time she was fortunate enough to spend on the main stage, and was eager to learn all she could from the experiences.
Until my daughter became a licensed driver, I spent…let’s see six years, times how many classes…carry the five…let’s just say hours in the lobby and I saw a lot.  I saw kids who literally danced through the front door - so excited to get to class it was pouring out of them.  I saw kids sitting in the green room doing homework, and catching up with their “Conservatory family” while they waited for their next class.  I saw kids of all sizes, shapes, ages and colors who all had one thing in common – they loved being there.  I also saw the common thread of knowing how to behave and be polite.  The arts instill discipline and self-awareness.   Don’t get me wrong, these students are still kids and make a mess and are loud, but I can never remember a time, when one of them wouldn’t take a moment to greet me or any other parent who came into the studio.

To watch the faces of these students when they perform in one of the incredible end-of-semester showcases, Summer Theatre Arts School productions or singing in the lobby at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium is really something.  To see the light go on in a kid’s head that they are creating art for the audience as well as for themselves is something I wish for everyone to see. 

As I think about the Conservatory getting ready to celebrate its 10th anniversary, I am grateful to North Carolina Theatre for having the artistic vision to create such a place for kids.  As I see it, you’re not really a theatre unless you’re passing it on to the next generation.
When my daughter performed in her final Conservatory showcase at the end of her senior year in high school she told us that she felt that was her graduation more than the ceremony at school where she wore the cap and gown.  She is now 22 and moved to New York last summer with her freshly framed degree in Theatre and her eye on her tomorrow.  She took with her and continues to carry with her all that she learned from this very special place and these tremendous people.  Who knows what will happen, but I am confident in her theatre foundation.

Will all of the kids who come to the Conservatory have a career in performing? No.  In fact, statistically not many will. But what they learn here will enhance whatever path they take.  The confidence they gain in these classrooms and stages with make them better in any field they pursue.  Anytime they speak in front of a group of people, they will hear Mr. Ray in their ear.  And these are skills they will have forever, regardless of what their tomorrow holds.

Carly, today, making her way in NYC!