Keeping kids connected to the arts

Millstone native Tim Acito returns to demonstrate creative passions can become a career

BY JENNIFER KOHLHEPP Staff Writer

Twenty-three area youths spent their summer on stage with glee. They learned acting, dance and movement, voice ensemble, musicianship and music theory in the Summer Music Arts Camp at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center (MPAC), and put their lessons into practice during the “Glee Club Showcase” for the community on Aug. 12.

Members of the Summer Music Arts Camp practice for the “Glee Club Showcase” at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center on Aug. 9. More photos at gmnews.com. LAUREN CASSELBERRY Members of the Summer Music Arts Camp practice for the “Glee Club Showcase” at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center on Aug. 9. More photos at gmnews.com. LAUREN CASSELBERRY “The participants were immensely creative, energetic and intelligent and exceeded expectations in every imaginable way with their performance aptitude,” camp director Laura Wittman said. “They are an inspiration to me and all the faculty that participated this year.”

Wittman’s Cornerstone Music Studios in Millstone partnered with Millstone Township Community Education to offer the two-week camp, which aimed to provide the MPAC as a place for kids to learn and grow through art and creativity.

Above: Youths from Millstone and the surrounding area take part in the Summer Music Arts Camp at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center on Aug. 9. Right: Tim Acito, a Millstone native turned composer, lyricist and librettist, gave aspiring stars in the Summer Music Arts Camp at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center some advice about performing on stage. Above: Youths from Millstone and the surrounding area take part in the Summer Music Arts Camp at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center on Aug. 9. Right: Tim Acito, a Millstone native turned composer, lyricist and librettist, gave aspiring stars in the Summer Music Arts Camp at the Millstone Township Performing Arts Center some advice about performing on stage. “Cornerstone’s partnership with us enabled us to offer a more enhanced theater camp program by incorporating musical training along with acting and stage skills, as well as welcoming industry professionals as instructors,” said Millstone Township Community Education Director Barbara Schulze.

Camp staff included faculty from the music studio, such as Lindsay Rider, a voice instructor trained at the Manhattan School of Music, and Stephanie O’Dea, a vocal instructor who trained at Westminster Choir College and earned awards for operatic excellence from Syracuse University. The camp also welcomed special guests, such as composer-lyricist-librettist Tim Acito, most known for writing the Tony Award-winning musical “The Women of Brewster Place.”

PHOTOS BY LAUREN CASSELBERRY PHOTOS BY LAUREN CASSELBERRY Acito returned to the town he grew up in to give back to the community that started his rising star. He fondly remembers William Robbins, his language arts teacher in Millstone, as a beacon of inspiration devoted to students and the theater and wanted to give campers a similar experience.

Although arts programming in the schools will suffer this year as a result of budget cuts, and the Millstone Township School District will no longer fund community education programming through the school budget, residents like Wittman have dedicated themselves to keeping the arts flourishing. She said the music studio would continue to work with community education and the MPAC, and has already scheduled the next Summer Music Arts Camp for Aug. 1-11, 2011.

Schulze has agreed to run community education through an enterprise fund. While she canceled many other summer classes due to low enrollment, the art camps in August were successful, with the Children’s Creative Theater Camp and Kathy Wickline’s Casting Film and TV Camp also wrapping up last week, she said.

Schulze said Millstone Township Community Education will schedule fall classes.

“Anyone who would like to suggest a class or teach a class is more than welcome to let me know their ideas,” she said.

To submit ideas to Millstone Township Community Education, contact Barbara Schulze at schullb@millstone.k12.nj.us.