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LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts Opens Revamped Performing Arts Academy with Outreach Day Event

As the familiar sounds of music returned to the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts on Jan. 18, that sound was amplified as hundreds of school-aged children in the Baton Rouge metro area visited the campus to delve into a world of musical and theatrical opportunity.


As the university opened its doors for the beginning of the spring 2011 semester, the LSU Performing Arts Academy – an exciting new outlet for the public to learn musical and dramatic arts skills and train with the most highly educated professionals in the area – officially raised the curtain for the spring semester with an Outreach Day event.

Throughout the day, hundreds of students from area elementary, middle and high schools filled the Music & Dramatic Arts Building to get a first-hand look at what the academy can offer. The students had the chance to participate in various educational activities, as well as learn about programs the academy plans to offer in 2011.

The LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts created the Performing Arts Academy as part of its continued effort to provide quality music and theatre educational opportunities for students in Baton Rouge and the surrounding communities. Formerly the Music Academy, the Performing Arts Academy is an expansion of the program that unites music and theatre to bring the best arts instruction in the state.

“We’re expanding our academy in a big way,” said Robert DiLutis, director of the Performing Arts Academy. “We’re opening it up to give students a chance to learn about all aspects of the musical and theatric arts, so they can take that experience back to their parents and tell them that they want to learn more. We want to get kids excited about the arts and excited about playing, acting or performing.”

DiLutis, a native of Baltimore who came to LSU two years ago and serves as a professor of clarinet, said his former school, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y., offered a similar academy to the one LSU is offering.

Events taking place during the Outreach Day included an “instrument petting zoo,” where students were able to hold and examine numerous instruments as faculty and students helped the students to learn proper playing technique. Visitors were also treated to instrumental performances by LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts faculty and students, aerial silks demonstrations and lessons on the process of stage makeup design and application. Mark Vandermark, instrument repair technician for the college, also held demonstrations on how to repair instruments. Meanwhile, representatives also gave guided tours of the Music & Dramatic Arts Building, including a backstage look at the recently renovated Claude L. Shaver Theater.


Katherine Kemler, Charles and Mary Barre Alumni Professor of Flute at LSU, speaks to students during the Performing Arts Academy's Outreach Day on Jan. 18. Kemler was one of numerous College of Music & Dramatic Arts professors, instructors and students to give demonstrations for visiting students during the day-long event. (Photo courtesy LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts.)

Karen Bush, a drama teacher at Belaire High School in Baton Rouge, said she brought her students to the event not only to demonstrate application of what they are learning, but so the  students could have an opportunity to see if they would like to pursue degree courses in music or theatre upon graduation.

“This is a great chance for the students to come out and actually see some of the things we teach them really do exist,” Bush said. “Often, students think we don’t know what we’re talking about as teachers. So, for them to see these things in person is a big help. For our seniors who may be coming to LSU, to see some of the classes they could be taking and the school they may be attending is a great advantage for them to have in choosing a college.”

The Performing Arts Academy is currently enrolling for its spring 2011 courses. Through the academy, area students have the opportunity to audition for and receive lessons from LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts faculty. Other classes will be taught by LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts instructors and graduate students, as well as area professionals. Students wishing to take part in music or dramatic arts courses – such as an “Acting for the Camera” course that teaches how to perform for movie and television productions – can do so without auditioning.

“In order to receive lessons from a faculty member, students must set up a time to audition with that faculty member,” said Kellie Crowder, administrative coordinator for the academy. “The student must prepare a piece for the audition and bring an extra copy of the sheet music for the faculty member. The student will play the piece and be rated. The faculty member will later notify the student as to if they have become a member of the studio or not. If the student has not made it into the studio, they will be taught by one of the top graduate students or paraprofessionals in the studio.”

Crowder said that the Performing Arts Academy is also expanding its summer program offering, beginning in the summer of 2011.

“These new summer programs create new opportunities to enrich parents, children and families as they share and create together,” Crowder said.

Courses taught at the academy range from private and group lessons to ensemble classes such as choirs, Crowder said. In addition to musical and theatrical performance, students in the academy can also learn about musical theory, technology and history.

In addition to courses taught on campus, DiLutis said, the academy will offer some satellite courses in area schools. He added that the university also is partnering with the Baton Rouge Symphony Orchestra to provide additional community outreach opportunities and concert events.


Students from area schools, including the University Laboratory School, toured LSU's Music & Dramatic Arts Building as part of the Performing Arts Academy Outreach Day. The academy offers classes on music and theatrical study for people of any age or musical ability level. For varying fees, students can also take lessons from the college's faculty, instructors, graduate students or local professionals. (Photo courtesy LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts.)

DiLutis said he feels the academy can offer the community not only an entrance into the arts, but an opportunity to build upon or even renew musical and theatrical appreciation.

“It’s been shown that students who are active in music and dramatic arts do better in their other courses as well,” he said. “It helps their focus and concentration. Being involved in the arts is a great way for children to not only gain culture and appreciation for the arts, but to better themselves in all aspects of life.”

While there are many classes geared toward students, DiLutis said, there are also classes for adults wanting to return to music or simply wishing to improve upon their current skills.

“If, for example, there’s an adult that played clarinet and wants to pick it back up and play again, we offer a course for that,” he said. “We offer courses for people of all ages on all instruments and all musical skill levels.”

Costs for academy courses vary depending on the course instructor, DiLutis said. The academy also offers scholarship opportunities, based on financial status and ability.

“With the assistance programs we offer, finances should not be a worry,” he said. “We try to make it as accessible as possible for the students to come here and learn about the arts.”

“The LSU Performing Arts Academy presents the Baton Rouge community and all of southern Louisiana with an opportunity for creativity, growth and personal expression – all in a supportive environment,” said Laurence Kaptain, dean of the LSU College of Music & Dramatic Arts. “There are classes and lessons for people of all ages in music, theatre, dance and technology. We invite the public to come and join others who share a similar interest in arts participation at a national flagship institution.”

The Performing Arts Academy office is located in Room 120 of the Music & Dramatic Arts building. Office hours are from 3 p.m. - 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For more information on the Performing Arts Academy, including a list of instructors, cost for classes, a full catalog of offerings and how to register for upcoming courses, call 225-578-3230, visit www.cmda.lsu.edu/paa or e-mail performingarts@lsu.edu.