There’s simply no better time in the school year than now. The first day back is small enough in the rearview mirror that schedules, agendas and classes are in full swing, but it’s still early enough for the allure of limitless possibility that is unique to the early part of the fall semester to be in full effect. This sensation holds even more true for Louisville’s Youth Performing Arts School, the training ground for the future of the arts community in Louisville, the state and beyond.
“I was a band director and choir director,” says Bryan Crady, assistant director at YPAS, clearly no stranger to the arts even before his tenure at the school. “It’s great to have that kind of background and help the teachers be the best they can be.” Crady taught for Jefferson County Public Schools at Iroquois and Valley high schools before settling into an administrative role. “I felt like I did a good job teaching, but I also felt like I could make an even bigger difference.”
Starting as a counselor at Manual, Crady’s experience and skill set served him well and quickly elevated him up the ranks into his role as assistant principal, a position that Crady says he couldn’t be happier in: “I get to combine my passion for the arts and all the training I’ve done since I was a little kid throughout high school and college. You train to be involved with the arts. I get to combine both of my loves here.”
Crady goes on further to say that as meaningful as this trajectory has been for him, it’s been all the more rewarding to see the growth of the students. “Of course, it’s such an honor for me to watch brilliant children develop their skills, but it’s also a privilege to see the kids who would struggle in another school thrive because of the environment of passion and encouragement that we immerse them in,” he asserts.
Indeed, YPAS aspires to train the best, and each year, the school molds another crop of students into a group of extremely talented performers whether the discipline be band, orchestra, choir, theatre or dance. In addition to the traditional programs one might expect to find in a school like YPAS, Crady reports that the school has finally developed its classical guitar classes to the point where they can start a magnet in that discipline.
Already, the nascent program has made waves. During the 2015-16 school year, the burgeoning YPAS guitar program had an opportunity to study and perform with four internationally acclaimed guest artists. Among them was the Thai guitarist and 2014 Guitar Foundation of America (GFA) International Concert Artist Competition winner Ekachai Jearakul; Nicholas Goluses, professor of guitar at the Eastman School of Music; Silviu Ciulei, a GFA finalist and flamenco guitar virtuoso; and Phillip de Fremery, a curator of the Segovia legacy and a direct pupil of Andres Segovia.
The new program isn’t the only development that students can expect this year either. With current plans to complete renovations of the school’s impressive auditorium in December, YPAS has been serendipitously ushered into partnerships with some of the other schools in the area.
For example, the fall production of “Hamlet” will be performed at Western Middle School, YPAS’ middle-school arts-magnet counterpart. In the true spirit of partnership and collaboration, both YPAS and Western students will take the stage. Additionally, this year’s dance recital will take place at Pleasure Ridge Park High School, which just transformed their own auditorium into a state-of-the-art facility. PRP will enjoy a quid pro quo relationship with YPAS, as the students and faculty at the arts magnet will help the PRP students learn to use this new facility and its various tech assets to the fullest.
As always, YPAS will have its annual performances for the various vocal and orchestral ensemble groups as well as a timely production of “44 Plays for 44 Presidents” in commemoration of the election year from the theatre department. What Crady and many in the community look forward to the most, however, is the New Works Festival.
“Our New Works Festival is all original work by the students,” explains Crady. This original work consists of plays, musical compositions or new work in any discipline the school offers. “We have some students who may write for a small ensemble of eight or nine students,” reports Crady. “One student last year wrote a piece that had a violin, cello, guitar, saxophone, piano and more. It was a beautiful piece.”
The fact of the matter is that with such stellar resources, whatever program YPAS students are in, they are well prepared not only to succeed at the college level should they choose to continue their arts education but also to make an impact in the professional world. “We’re training tomorrow’s professional artists in conjunction with making available to them the rigorous academics at Manual,” attests Crady proudly. “Some of the stuff I see here I think is better than some of the stuff I see downtown. You go to the performance and you are moved to tears by how good it is and how amazingly impactful it is. Then you remember that these are high school students. When you think it can’t get any better, you go to the next performance, and they do it to you again.” VT
For more information on YPAS, its programs and its show schedule, please visit schools.jefferson.kyschools.us/special/ypas.