Thursday, February 25, 2016

NJPAC and The Johnny Mercer Foundation Introduce Over 130 New Jersey Middle School Students to the Magic of Musical Theater


Students Learn the History of American Musical Theater and Create Their Own Musical Production to be Performed at NJPAC on June 8

Celebrating their fourth year of introducing New Jersey middle school students to the magic of musical theater, the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) announced that three new schools and two new teaching artists have joined this year’s program. The Johnny Mercer Foundation/NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program offers students, in grades 6 to 8, an immersive study of the history of the American musical and the essential tools to create their own musical.

The three new schools are Terence C. Reilly School No. 7 in Elizabeth, Union Hill Middle School in Union City, and Abington Avenue School in Newark. These schools will join Harriet Tubman School in Newark and Heywood Avenue School in Orange, which are both participating for the second year. Alexander Ratner and Madeline Calandrillo will join the team of NJPAC teaching artists, including Victor Burks, Daryl Stewart, Janeece Freeman-Clark, to implement this program unique to NJPAC.

Beginning this month, each residency, which is provided free to each school, will meet twice a week for 20 sessions. During these sessions, students learn the diverse history of the American musical, as well as the creation process of a new musical, including lyric writing, rehearsing and performing. They develop their creativity, self-confidence, and ability to tell their own story through the American musical. Each class will create sections of a joint musical, which will culminated in a full, collaborative show on Wednesday, June 8 at 3 pm in NJPAC’s Victoria Theater.

 “Self-expression is such an important topic these days, and
The Johnny Mercer Foundation is incredibly proud to partner with NJPAC to encourage students to express themselves through the writing of words and music,” stated JMF Vice President, Jonathan Brielle (photo).

“We are delighted to host this one-of-a-kind musical theater program,” said Alison Scott-Williams, NJPAC’s Vice President of Arts Education. “To witness first-hand the growth of these middle school students as collaborators to write, rehearse and perform their own musical is thrilling. NJPAC is

grateful to The Johnny Mercer Foundation for funding this extraordinary residency.”

The residencies help schools meet their curricular goals; NJPAC’s education programs are developed in accordance with the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards.

This program is made possible by generous support from The Johnny Mercer Foundation. Additional funding for Arts Education at NJPAC is provided by The Prudential Foundation, the Victoria Foundation, Merck Company Foundation and ADP.


The mission of The Johnny Mercer Foundation (JMF) is to support the discipline of songwriting in the tradition of the Great American Songbook as exemplified by the life and work of Johnny Mercer: lyricist, composer, performer, collaborator and producer. The Foundation continues Johnny’s legacy by partnering with individuals and organizations dedicated to celebrating and nourishing the disciplines he mastered, and the causes he championed.

In addition to the Kaufman Music Center in New York, JMF partners with several institutions including The Johnny Mercer Foundation/NJPAC Musical Theater Residency Program; The Johnny Mercer Songwriters Project with Northwestern University (The American Music Theatre Project) to nurture and encourage young talent in the field of songwriting; and The Johnny Mercer Writers Colony at Goodspeed Musicals for emerging writers to research, develop, and create new musicals.

As well, JMF has a unique relationship with Georgia State University, where The Johnny Mercer Collection, including Johnny’s many works, personal papers, and memorabilia are housed. They also support Georgia State University in a fellowship-type program to facilitate music education through the development of an elementary and middle school curriculum that focuses on and the Florida International University Fellowship Program to create high-quality instructional materials and provide professional development opportunities for music and language arts teachers.

The Foundation is also a major supporter of the Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, the Braille Institute, UCLA’s Art of the Brain Program, and the television station KCET in Los Angeles.



New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is among the largest performing arts centers in the United States and is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey - where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the State's and the world's best artists while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 10 million visitors (including over 1.5 million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents.

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