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Budding US Artists Strive to Shoot for Stars

  • June Soh

At a theater outside Washington, Ari Goldbloom-Helzner is rehearsing the lead role in the stage musical based on the 1980 film Fame.

“I want to make magic. I want to be bigger than I am...“

He is one of 39 teenagers participating in a unique musical theater program, that runs from 8 o’clock in the morning to 11 o’clock at night.

During the day, the students take dancing, acting and singing classes, and in the evening, they apply everything they have learned to the actual production.

Goldbloom-Helzner says, “It's very intensive and I think that is the part that is the most exhausting but also the part that I most love.”

The overnight camp program is run by the Young Artists of America. It offers aspiring teenage artists an opportunity to get a taste of what it takes to make it on Broadway.

Opera singer Rolando Sanz and his brother Kristof, a music teacher, co-founded the organization, which also offers programs during the school year.

“We are entering our sixth year," Sanz says. "What I love about this program and what it's becoming is that we are attracting the kids that really want to excel and to be around other kids like them.”

The participants learn skills, techniques, and all aspects of musical theater production from professional artists and mentors. And they spend every waking moment preparing for the actual show.

“It's a lot of work, I'm really tired but it is so great," says Amanda Yuan who plays the female lead. "I mean I'm not only having a lot of fun but I feel like really improving myself. And I'm really working myself and pushing myself to the limit and I am constantly overcoming challenges and obstacles, which is a great feeling at the end of the day.”

Goldbloom-Helzner has been in the program for four years.

“I really feel like I‘ve improved my craft with Young Artists of America and this camp really has helped me do that as well and continue that journey," he says. "And I hopefully take those skills and continue that journey in college and beyond.”

Sanz says thanks to the generosity of some donors, about 30 percent of the students are on scholorship. "We are already planning to have that increase each year, because we don't want finances to be a hurdle for anyone to be able to come and train," says Sanz.

At the end of the two week-long summer program, the aspiring artists showcase their talent and skills at a local theater.

Sanz says some students will continue to shoot for the stars, but all of them will support and appreciate performing arts throughout their lives.

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