The Power of Service: Inspiring Winston-Salem One Song at a Time
A group of young performers from around the world are using their musical talents to help some people in the Triad who are facing major life challenges.
The Performing Arts Project is a non-profit formed by a group of educators and entertainment industry professionals to help prepare the next generation of performers for careers on Broadway. The New York-based organization provides instruction in acting, dancing and singing to students ages 16 to 24.
Students from 21 states as well as Canada, New Zealand and Mexico auditioned to be part of this year’s program. Many of them are on campus at Wake Forest University for the next three weeks. They are receiving intensive training sessions this summer to develop new skills and find out who they are as artists. However, they are also learning how they can serve the community through their talents. Dakota Mackey-McGee is a recent graduate of Webster University. She has been a member of the group for three years and enjoys every second of it.
“One of our missions is to reach out to the community and give back in the only way that we can at the moment, which is through the gifts that we’ve been given,” says Mackey-McGee. She says this was her chance to touch a different kind of community service and is excited to keep traveling to different non-profits.
Students in The Performing Arts Project recently visited five non-profits in Winston-Salem: Brenner Children’s Hospital, Ronald McDonald House, ABC of NC, The Williams Center and the Bethesda Center downtown.
The Bethesda Center is a shelter for people who have an emergency housing issue. The center provides support services that help their clients become more independent. Peggy Galloway is the executive director of the organization. Galloway says the Performing Arts Project gives people a chance to see how art can inspire other-- even during the toughest times.
“It does add some diversity to their day", explains Galloway. "We have people in the audience that can sing and they were singing along. One of our guest members led a song with them, and so I think having people coming from outside of the homeless community is really helpful to people.” Galloway says this this also a form of awareness for the people coming in the the community who are not familiar with homelessness and the issues that come with it. She notes that if you don’t know the face of a homeless person then the Bethesda Center is the place where they can come and see what homelessness really means and the impact it has.
Jordan Puhala is a junior at Texas State University and a native from Chicago. She has been a member in the group for two years. She says the experience is teaching her that it is not just how well you perform, but how you reach your audience. “The Arts Project teaches people how to reach out, how to connect with people and how to connect with each other and to find a greater purpose in art," explains Puhala.
"A lot of the time we can become focused on the art we’re doing and make it about the quality of our work rather than what we can do with it.” Puhala says what they try to accomplish is to make people feel comfortable, while inspiring them to be the best people they can be. She says if you do that, it allows the performers to take that into the work that they do and try to change the world through art.
Meanwhile, organizers hope the Performing Arts Project will inspire other community members to volunteer and share their talents with local nonprofits.
* Anissa Morgan is an intern at WFDD and a freshman at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.