The Department of Speech-Language Pathology might not be the first place you’d think to find an idea for a Summer Performing Arts Training Academy blooming, but that’s exactly what happened at Misericorida University and, honestly, it seems there couldn’t be a group of people more qualified to pull it off.
“I was so excited to find there was an area concerning voice when I got into speech-language pathology, because my love of voice has gone on for a long time, being in the performing arts in high school and in the choir at Penn State Main Campus,” said Cari Tellis, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., an associate professor of speech-language pathology at Misericordia and founder of the academy. “I teach classes based on how you actually use your voice, make your voice, and treat people and diagnose them when they have problems. To put this and the performing arts together, it’s something I wanted to do for a while.”
Tellis is a trained vocalist that specializes in voice, laryngeal physiology, laryngeal muscle anatomy and biochemistry, as well as voice and speech science. She has more than 15 years of experience working with professional speakers and singers.
The Academy, which takes place from July 28 through Aug. 9, invites those in the age range of 7 to 17 who are interested or already trained in singing, acting, and dancing. Academy trainees will be privy to instructors who are highly trained in voice, dance, public presentation, and musicianship and will receive vocal training, dance instruction, acting and drama coaching, among other skill sets, all culminating in performances on Aug. 8 and 9.
“It is a performing arts camp, but we’re going to have a focus on health,” Tellis said. “I’m really interested in teaching young singers and speakers how to use voice effectively without hurting themselves, potentially lowering the risk of injury when they get older. The premise behind a lot of what all the coaches are doing is teaching the foundation, so they have a solid one.”
Not only do these skills help in the art world, Tellis said they also carry on through everyday life.
“I believe performing arts is a life skill. Even if you’re not trying to get on Broadway, there are skills you’ll take with you everywhere you go. If you want to be a teacher, you have to get up and present. When you’re going for an interview, you need to present your best self. Everything you would learn in a camp like ours you can take with you for life skills, especially in terms of communicating with other people.”
A strong foundation is something that Lauren Timek, the academy’s dance coach – who has been dancing since the age of 3 and has appeared on Broadway in “The Nutcracker” and “Cinderella,” danced with the Reading Phillies and New York Jets sports teams, and is trained in the mechanics of dance, including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, character, hip-hop, and music theater – also believes in.
“This camp is meant to be, overall, fun, but also to challenge the students and teach them new things, while still reigning in on proper technique, strength, terminology, and all of the basics,” she said. “In all my years of dancers, I’ve learned that while there are a million different ways things can be taught, it’s imperative that students learn the correct ones.”
Also coaching at the Academy are Orlando R. Barone, M.A., an executive leadership coach at the University of Pennsylvania with more than 25 years of experience as a director, coach, trainer, consultant, author, and presenter specializing in interpersonal effectiveness; Jennifer Hunter, M.A., a classically trained pianist and a music educator; and Luke Steinhauer, a student in the Music Theater Department at the University of Michigan and a certified master teacher candidate in Estill Voice Training.
Tellis said the Academy is meant for those of all skill levels, and you don’t have to be totally enamored with every single aspect of the art to join – those who love one area over the other will push themselves farther there, but all will at least get a taste of what singing, dancing, and theater have to offer.