After-school arts program presents first musical open to public


News 12 at 11 o'clock / Thursday, April 18, 2013

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- The Jessye Norman School of the Arts is opening its doors, offering you a golden ticket to its first large-scale musical.

"It is a free after-school program for students who may be at an economic disadvantage in the CSRA," said Michael Ray, executive director of the Jessye Norman School.

A program that goes above and beyond for its students, located right in the middle of downtown Augusta.

And it's changing lives.

"You don't get judged," said 17-year-old Jessye Norman student Tashara Thompkins. "You're not stereotyped by anything. You come and you're you."

"Not only do they teach us stuff, but you can tell them your problems if you have stuff on your mind," said 15-year-old student Logan Salva.

These kids are sharing the stage and sharing their talents.

"Before we would just ask parents and stuff to come. But, now, we have the public," Salva said.

Bringing a world of imagination to the public with Willy Wonka Junior.

"We've got a fizzy lifting room," said Gary Dennis, director of Willy Wonka Junior. "There will be a bubble machine, fog machine [and] we're going to have dry ice."

"It feels like we've taken a step ahead from what we used to do," Salva said.

All proceeds from ticket sales go right to the school.

"This is a free program available to every child in the CSRA," Dennis explained. "But it takes money to run."

"This could actually help the school put in like an elevator and get new set pieces and clothes!" Salva said.

And while the children in the chocolate factory struggle to get along, there's one thing everyone here can agree on.

"It's more than just being a part of it," said Baruti Tucker, a teacher at the Jessye Norman School. "I feel like I'm one with the children as the children are one with me. It's ... a family element."

"It's very positive," Thompkins said. "It's more of a family-friendly environment."

"It's like a family here," Salva said. "Just warm people to come to."


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