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Breeding young stars

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'This programme aims to make us as professional as possible within a period of 10 days," said Supanuch Jariyaboon, 18, who has just completed high school at the Satit Bilingual School of Rangsit University and a participant at the "Youth Excellence on Stage Academy Thailand 2010" event (YES Academy), which was concluded earlier this month. 

Gene Aitken, PhD, conducts a percussion masterclass for young jazz players at the ‘Youth Excellence on Stage Academy Thailand 2010’ event recently held at Rangsit University. PURICH TRIVITAYAKHUN

This free-of-charge 10-day performing arts workshop was a collaborative effort by American Voices, the Embassy of the United States of America in Bangkok (US Embassy) and Rangsit University's (RSU) Conservatory of Music.


"The YES Academy provides professional training in genres of American performing arts, such as music, theatre and dance. So, in this programme we focus on art forms like jazz, hip hop, Broadway musicals, children's theatre and classical music," said John Ferguson, pianist and artistic director at American Voices.

"The aim of the embassy is to create experiences for young Thai people that they will remember throughout life - not just American culture, but also the wonderful faculties and people they get to meet during this programme," said John Paul Schutte, cultural attache' at the US Embassy.

The event was held at the Conservatory of Music at RSU in Phathum Thani province. The programme culminated with two concerts by the young participants conducted at RSU at the beginning of this month.

The YES Academy targets youngsters aged six to 24 years. Participants were selected via auditions, for which more than 300 people signed up. Nearly 240 youngsters were selected. Many participants were from Thailand. Some came from as far as Yala province in the south of Thailand, and Nepal and Pakistan. Each participant had to master one out of the five genres on the list mentioned earlier.

According to Mr Ferguson, the number of participants was double that at last year's event at Silpakorn University, which was the first time that the workshop was held in Thailand. Similar programmes had previously been run in Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Taiwan, according to the artistic director.

Musical experiences

Supanuch, who joined the Broadway musical theatre programme, explained that she learned singing in the morning and dancing and staging in the afternoon in preparation for starring in excerpts from Les Mise'rables and Smokey Joe's Cafe, which had been scheduled for the final concert.

"Most actors and actresses dream of performing in a Broadway musical as they consider that achievement to be one of the highest points in their careers. Being able to do so makes us very proud," said Supanuch, explaining why Broadway musicals are an attraction for her. She added that during the programme, she learned to bring out her utmost potential to be in the front line.

"We have to do our best; otherwise, other people will push us back. This is how we can survive," she added.

Another participant, Netchanok Klangsin, 10, a student from Cholapratan Wittaya School who attended the children's theatre programme, said that she was very impressed with her teacher and the fun ways of teaching as well as the opportunity to meet new friends.

Meet with experts

Apart from learning from Denny Eu-prasert, PhD, dean of RSU's Conservatory of Music, who led his faculty members to coach the young participants, attendees had the opportunity to learn from an American expert in each genre of the performing arts. Among the instructors were Gene Aitken, PhD; Michael Parks Masterson; Rick Camargo; Marc Thayer; and Carole McCann.

"It is amazing that the level of proficiency of Thai students is so high. I've worked in China and the Middle East, and students in Thailand have exceptional talents," said Mr Aitken, recipient of Downbeat magazine's "Jazz Educator of the Year" award for 2007, who was in charge of the jazz workshop at the programme.

"As we are doing this, we also learn a great deal from Thais. We have experts coming in to share their knowledge and students share what they are learning with their teachers, so it is a mutual collaboration and a meaningful exchange," Mr Aitken commented.

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