It encouraged me to do something no one had ever told me I could do.
-2015-2016 High School Student
In 2015-2016, the Foundation’s PATHWAY Program piloted the first in-school musicals theatre writing classes in two Los Angeles high schools – LAUSD’s Verdugo Hills High School and the charter school ILEAD in Van Nuys – and an after-school program at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts under the umbrella of GRoW.
Numerous studies show the strong positive correlation between students’ academic achievement, reading and math skills, attendance and higher SAT scores and their involvement in music or drama activities. Musicals offer both, plus arguably the most expressive art form – words.
Bringing musical show writing classes to primarily minority high schools was a key goal of FNAM’s commitment to help underserved youth tell their stories to the rest of the world, to create, and to collaborate. A testament to its success, the following year the moving force behind the Pathway at Verdugo Hills, Principal Ed Trimis, took it to his new school VAPA, Legacy Southgate (98% minority students). In 2016-2017 FNAM became an LAUSD Community Arts Partner.
Pathway in 2017-18 reaches three times as many high school students as last year’s program. 2017 also saw the implementation of a groundbreaking new initiative – the first-of-its-kind musical theater curriculum coordinated across schools and education levels.
The Foundation brought together some of the most innovative educators in the area to carve out a collaboration that offers students a full, progressive route from high school to community college to university and beyond.
Partnering in this landmark program are: the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), which has entered into a multi-year contract with FNAM to provide the first show writing curriculum ever offered in U.S. high schools; Santa Monica College, which joins The Pathway in 2018 with the first community college program in the nation; and the USC School of Dramatic Arts, which has announced a new undergraduate BFA degree in Contemporary Musical Theatre, the first university to offer show writing courses as part of the regular theater curriculum.
In addition to a powerful learning experience for all the students, the outcome will also be a group of talented new storytellers – composers, lyricists and librettists – ready to contribute to creating the future heart and soul of the musical.