“Hey, gang…let’s put on a show!” Mickey Rooney uttered words to that effect to Judy Garland in numerous movies over the years. And to this day, kids still want to ‘put on a show’ – and some want to compete while doing it. And if that’s what you’d like to do, there is no better place to learn than ETC Heid’s School of Musical Arts at 1932 Akron-Peninsula Road in Akron. An open house is planned for May 10 from 2 to 4 p.m.
The open house will highlight the school’s two high school groups, “The All Americans” and “Rouge” its new all-girl group. Students who will be in grades nine through 12 for the school year 2014-15 are invited to see the rehearsal hall, costume department, workshops, and the music and dance practice rooms. Students also can audition for both groups on May 18 with tryouts starting at 1:30 p.m.
There are two additional show choirs at ETC. The New Generation is for students in grades 3-5. The Main Street Singers is for students in grades 5-8. These groups do not require auditioning to participate.
ETC was started by Robert Heid and Robert Carlyon to fill a gap. Heid taught in the Stow public school system for 31 years – first elementary school then intermediate the last ten years with 5th and 6th graders. While he was teaching, Heid also did musicals with them such as: Annie; Fiddler on the Roof; Music Man – full blown musicals with 11 and 12 year olds. “Somewhere I was a full time teacher and produced musicals and ran a [music] school,” Heid said.
The concept for starting a music school in 1977 came from doing musicals at the elementary school he was at. “We were working with kids and at that time there really wasn’t much going on in the school system in the upper grades, so I said: ‘Let’s start something on our own,’” Heid explained.
ETC was started outside of the school system because they were limited in what they could do within the schools. “We were working with kids and they moved on to the other schools. So we said we put this time and effort in developing these kids and we wanted to just keep going [with them]. So we started hanging on to them and doing more things with them,” Heid said.
ETC began as an auxiliary music activity for elementary students in Stow with 13 fourth through seventh graders then expanded to encompass students in grades 3 to 12 from five counties. Close to 150 students, all together, in all four groups. Most of these students come from schools that do not have a show choir. “ETC started out as one great big group that split into two groups, the younger ones and the high schoolers. It got to be that we had to do a show that would be rewarding and satisfying for an 11th or 12th grader but [yet] something a 5th or 6th grader could do,” Heid said.
That was limiting as far as what the music choices could be and what the choreography could be. By splitting the group in half, the older students could be challenged more aggressively and the younger ones challenged in a reasonable way. “We had more kids come in and then we created that group in the middle which made it even easier. Now you could really challenge the elementary kids and challenge the junior high kids and still really push the high school kids,” Heid said.
“So we are always doing things…what our elementary kids are doing, you would expect junior high kids to do. What our junior high kids would be doing, you’d be expecting high school kids to be doing. And what our high school kids would do would be comparable to post grad [college work]. That allows us to push everybody a little bit farther than they would normally get,” Heid added.
What’s in a name?
They were looking for a name to call the group when a parent came up with Exceptionally Talented Children. “That’s what ETC originally stood for and it was E.T.C. of N.E. Ohio – that was when we were the big, big group,” Heid said, “that morphed into: Energy – Talent – Commitment. Then the board added Heid’s School of Musical Arts.”
“We’ve expanded, because we have these groups but we also have private teachers who teach piano, voice, and instrumental,” Heid said. “We also have a group called Contact Dance Academy which is a full service dance studio that is under the umbrella of ETC. So it’s all part of the whole school now. We are more than just singing groups, however, it’s more than that,” Heid added.
Musical direction and parent leaders
The musical staff consists of Nick Campagna who is going on his third year as musical director of the All Americans. Brett Dawson is the instrumental director and serves as the assistant director as well. Carolyn Bagley and Kim Medillen are musical directors for the other age groups and Henry Zuchegno is an associate director. The choreographer is Tera Tober.
Campagna said the selection of the musical numbers is a collaborative effort. They all discuss it and try to pick out something that all fits together and has an encouraging theme. “We start with picking songs and try to tie it together – once you pick a few of them, the other ones try to make something fit, that there is some type of transitional material between each song,” Campagna said.
Asked if the parent leaders are the ones who figure out the costumes, Campagna said, “The choreographer and I – we give them ideas for a look that we are trying to get and they go out and they get ideas and pick out some things and bring them to us and show them to us. Then the rest of the parents have to approve it. They have to say that’s okay and they think their kids will look good in that.”
Laura Troyer has been a parent leader for the middle school group for more than three years. She wrangles the group and helps to keep them in order. “We make sure everybody knows where to go and which to be there. We decide what costumes they’re going to wear every year and facilitate all the learning and all the behind the scenes stuff that needs to go on,” Troyer said. “I’m at every rehearsal making sure everything goes smoothly and that the music people have what they need,” she added.
Students receive voice training through coaching and workshops while some also take private lessons and perform with other school groups. Former ETC member Mackenzie Henninter took voice lessons for one year and participated for eight years until she graduated from high school. Many students don’t have outside dance classes because they are involved with other activities. Henninter, for example, played field hockey. Some students play in bands and marching bands and there are a few football players who are members.
Henninter said, “I’m now perusing a career in education but would still like to work with dancing. One of the recent graduates is a student director here. Another girl who graduated now performs all over the Akron area singing.”
Joel Lynch is a member of the All Americans and is a student at Biomed Science Academy. His musical interests include playing the viola and he takes voice and singing lessons. He loves acting and singing, having appeared on stage in the Dynamic Theater’s productions. Lynch started with The Main Street Singers while in the fifth grade and feels being involved with ETC helps him express his talents and creativity and gives him a sense of accomplishment.
“It feels that it is definitely a team sport. It is a really physical workout. The choreographer encourages, especially the men, to do cardio training and weight training. Cardio, so that singing and dancing at that level, you’ll have the ability to do it. Weight training, literally, because they are lifting the females,” Lynch explained.
ETC has a full competition schedule and performs at several venues in the local area during the season as well. For further information call 330-923-2000. To learn more about the group, visit www.etc-schoolofmusicalarts.org online.