TPAC adds Coffee, Cumberland counties to rural expansion of Disney Musicals in Schools program

East End students perform at Student Share

Students from East End Prep perform a song from The Lion King JR at the Disney Musicals in Schools student share celebration.

Four schools in Bedford, Coffee & Cumberland counties to join three Metro Nashville schools in their first year of Disney musical theater program.

Since 2011, TPAC’s Disney Musicals in Schools program has been helping under-resourced public elementary schools create sustainable musical theater programs.

School play

Cane Ridge Elementary students perform Disney’s The Jungle Book at their school.

After seeing its success in the city, TPAC embarked on a rural expansion effort to get this rewarding program developed by Disney Theatrical Group over the Davidson County line.

This year, TPAC sees the effects of its efforts with four elementary schools in Bedford, Coffee and Cumberland counties added to its list of first-year schools.

Cascade Elementary School and East Side Elementary School in Bedford County, North Coffee Elementary School in Coffee County and Glenn Martin Elementary School in Cumberland County will join Ida B. Wells Elementary School, Paragon Mills Elementary School and Donelson Middle Schools, of the Metro Nashville Public Schools system, in hosting 17-week residencies culminating in the production of a Disney KIDS or JR. musical.

For this second year of rural expansion, TPAC awarded a grant to Cumberland County Playhouse in Crossville, which selected Glenn Martin Elementary to participate. The playhouse will work locally with the school and select another school to participate in 2020-2021.

Students from Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School perform at the student share celebration.

“I believe the arts can positively affect the entire school culture, especially student motivation, attitudes, and attendance,” said Weslie Webster, education director at the Cumberland County Playhouse. “It fosters student expression of feelings and emotions. Expressive kids are happier kids, and happier kids find learning more enjoyable.”

At no cost to them. first-year schools receive performance rights for the Disney KIDS or Disney JR. musical of their choice, educational support materials and guidance from TPAC teaching artists.Disney KIDS musicals are 30-minute performances that have been adapted from classic Disney films such as 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, The Aristocats, Frozen, The Jungle Book, The Lion King and Winnie the Pooh.

Last year, more than 1,300 students in 30 under-resourced schools in Davidson and Bedford counties took their favorite Disney stories from the screen to the stage. The program is available to schools where at least 40% of the student population is considered economically disadvantaged.

Through the unique world of musical theater, Disney Musicals in Schools helps foster positive relationships between students, faculty, staff, parents and the community. Over the course of three years, TPAC helps the schools establish theater programs they can maintain. Meanwhile, teachers learn how to produce, direct and choreograph theater, and students develop a variety of skills including critical thinking, problem solving, ensemble building, and interpersonal communication.

Robert Churchwell Museum Magnet Elementary School perform at the student share celebration.

As a capstone, students from first-year schools will perform one number from their show for fellow students, teachers, family and more at the Student Share Celebration in TPAC’s Jackson Hall.

“Programs like Disney Musicals in Schools are imperative to a well-rounded education,” Webster continues. “It gives students a sense of pride when they get to work on something from the ground up. These programs engage the creative side of the brain and promote creative thinking skills which can be applied to whatever profession they choose in the future.”

Disney Musicals in Schools launched in 2010 to help under-resourced public elementary schools not getting equitable access to the arts. After offering the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group piloted the program in Nashville the following year and has since expanded to other cities.

This is the ninth year of the partnership between Disney Theatrical Group, Metro Schools and TPAC since the program launched here in 2011. The CMA Foundation has provided financial support for the local program since 2013.

Since 2011, 47 schools have participated in TPAC’s Disney Musicals in Schools program, involving more than 8,000 students, more than 900 teachers and producing more than 500 performances for schools and communities.

Reach Michael Aldrich on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter @michaelwaldrich.          

DISNEY THEATRICAL GROUP (DTG) operates under the direction of Thomas Schumacher and is among the world’s most successful commercial theater producers, bringing live entertainment events to a global audience of more than 20 million people a year in more than 50 countries. Under the Disney Theatrical Group banner, the group produces and licenses Broadway productions around the world, including “Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King,” Elton John & Tim Rice’s “Aida,” “TARZAN®,” “Mary Poppins,” a co-production with Cameron Mackintosh, “The Little Mermaid,” “Peter and the Starcatcher,” “Newsies,” “Aladdin” and “Frozen.” Other successful stage musical ventures have included the Olivier-nominated London hit “Shakespeare in Love,” stage productions of Disney’s “High School Musical,” “Der Glöckner Von Notre Dame” in Berlin, and “King David” in concert. DTG has collaborated with the nation’s preeminent theaters to develop new stage titles including “The Jungle Book,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Freaky Friday” and “Hercules.” As a part of the recent acquisition of 21st Century Fox, DTG also heads the Buena Vista Theatrical banner which licenses Fox titles for stage adaptations including “Anastasia,” “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “The Devil Wears Prada.”

Disney Theatrical Group also delivers live shows globally through its license to Feld Entertainment, producer of “Disney on Ice” and “Marvel Universe Live!,” bringing beloved Disney stories and characters annually to over 12 million guests in nearly 50 countries worldwide. In addition, DTG licenses musical titles for local, school and community theater productions through Music Theatre International, including “The Lion King Experience,” a unique holistic arts education program wherein accredited elementary and middle schools produce condensed, age-appropriate JR. and KIDS adaptations of “The Lion King.”

Music Theatre International (MTI) is one of the world’s leading theatrical licensing agencies, granting theaters from around the world the rights to perform the greatest selection of musicals from Broadway and beyond. Founded in 1952 by composer Frank Loesser and orchestrator Don Walker, MTI is a driving force in advancing musical theater as a vibrant and engaging art form. MTI works directly with the composers, lyricists and book writers of these musicals to provide official scripts, musical materials, and dynamic theatrical resources to over 70,000 professional, community and school theaters in the US and in over 60 countries worldwide. MTI is particularly dedicated to educational theater and has created special collections to meet the needs of various types of performers and audiences. MTI’s Broadway Junior™ shows are 30- and 60-minute musicals for performance by elementary and middle-school-aged performers, while MTI’s School Editions are musicals annotated for performance by high school students.

To learn more about Disney Musicals in Schools and other TPAC programs, visit TPAC.ORG/Education. Institutional sponsors for TPAC include Nissan North America and Coca-Cola. TPAC is funded in part by support from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Metropolitan Nashville Arts Commission.