By Dr. Ginger Beazley
Ars Nova School of the Arts
Twenty-five years doesn’t seem very long particularly if you’re waiting for the fulfillment of a dream you’ve have for longer than that. Friends had often heard me say that I would like to begin a school teaching music, theater and instrumental performance. However, Bob Baker finally grew weary of hearing me, so in an aggressiveness that was not characteristic of Bob, he decided that we would go together to create the school and a small theater for performances.
I smiled and ignored him as he continued to call and ask me to come and look at a location he’d found until one day we walked into the community center associated with a mill of Meridian Street. He asked, “Is this ceiling high enough for good acoustics?” With my resounding “Yes,” he began the process of purchasing the space with an agreement that his antique business would be housed on the bottom floor, and we would share the theater and studio space on the second floor. My greatest assets were several young teachers, Trent England, Karen Young, Michelle Bauer and Bethany Parlier, who were ready to begin teaching in the school as well as helping renovate and publicize the beginning of the journey.
Beginnings are always exciting and much harder than one thought they would be, but looking back we were a good team with the energy and creativity that only those in their twenties have. (This refers to the teachers, not the founder). The desire we shared was to see a quality of knowledge and instruction that one finds in conservatories while not limiting the ages of those who usually attend these prestigious institutions. As I had already been teaching twenty plus years, I knew the curriculum would include private instruction in a performance craft, at least a weekly or monthly theory and oral training classes, an opportunity to perform in a casual, supportive environment, at least monthly, and eventually present the product of their training to the community.
So, what have we accomplished? With the addition of many teachers we have heard and seen preschool children learn to love the rhythm and tune of music and some individuals in their nineties continue to make the music that brings them joy and passion. Ars Nova has produced plays, musicals and operas for and with ALL ages and transported many of these to elderly facilities, preschools and middle schools, high schools and churches.
I want to share two of our experiences that we treasure and remember with love and grace in our hearts. We wanted to present Disney’s Beauty and the Beast and watched eagerly to see the rights offered to amateur groups. After a performance, actors traditionally greet their audience in the lobby and one of our actors singing Belle, Christie Weber, encountered a young boy with an enthusiasm so spontaneous and overflowing that Christie asked the mother why he was so excited. Her response was one of those magic moments that only God can create. This young man had just received a cochlear transplant and Belle was his introduction to sound.
One of our members saw a movie of a musical Brundibar, written by Tony Kushner with illustrations by Maurice Sendak. Written by a German Jewish composers, Hans Krasa and Adolf Hoffmeister, interred in a prison camp during World War II, they organized the children to perform the story of a bully and of a champion named Brundibar who defeated him. This was a necessity for Ars Nova to present and it was our delight to stage and share this with Huntsville and a special guest, Ela Weissberger, a Holocaust survivors who came to spend the week with us and the community.
The evening was closed with a musical arrangement of “I never saw another butterfly,” a compilation of poems written by the children in the camp.
It is this quality of experience we create for our students and the community. It requires many staff and volunteer hours and a continuing commitment of our faculty to nurture the art of excellence and to prepare musicians and performers.