You GLOW Girls (and Boys)

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Jacque Foster | Visions – The Magazine of Junior League of Greenville

When Maddie*, a lovely, outgoing, four-year-old girl signed up for summer camp, she was barely speaking in complete sentences. Her mom “warned” the teaching staff of her difficulty communicating…

Sweet 16-year-old Margaret* wasn’t fitting in at school. She wasn’t popular, athletic and was struggling academically. Her parents knew she needed something, and though it would burden them to pay for classes at GLOW, they signed her up…

In 2009, when husband and wife Christian Elser and Jenna Tamisiea moved to Greenville, they did not have plans to start Greenville’s first (and, currently, only) vocal arts theatre, Greenville Light Opera Works (GLOW). It wasn’t long after they got off the ground with their theatre that this talented pair realized the need, and opportunity, for an opera school.

We’re not talking about kids belting out the theme to Les Mis overnight. Instead, GLOW offers private instruction, group classes and summer camps, with instructors who seek to instill an appreciation and knowledge of the arts through professional-level teaching of drama, dance and music.

Why? Says Elser, “It’s important for society to be cultured, to have arts… it makes for better citizens. The kids coming through GLOW will have an appreciation for the arts, then hopefully will grow up to live and work here. It will make Greenville a better place to live.”

“Having a creative outlet also makes people more successful in other areas of life. Whether you’re a lawyer or a doctor…creativity will pay off,” explains Elser.

Though the school isn’t a moneymaker for GLOW, “We do it because it’s important to do,” Elser states. “However,” Tamisiea interjects unprompted, “Without the JLG there would be no GLOW school. Thanks to the grant received from JLG we were able to start the school. We now have an updated facility, materials to teach kids and were able to hire teachers. It has changed our organization and children’s lives for the better. We are so appreciative.”

Not only did the JLG dollars go to start the school and update their facility, it also funds scholarships for area children, ages three to 18. Although tuition is much less than most other related programs in the area, it still helps their cause that they can offer assistance where it’s needed.

Tamisiea says her favorite ages to teach are the three- to five-year-olds. “Kids at this age are developing the basics, like motor skills, ability to form sentences…I love it.”

In this summer’s camps, the six- to nine-year-olds were combined with the younger students. “It was so great to see little leaders pop up among the seven to nine-year-olds because so often this age doesn’t get the opportunity to take the lead,” mused Tamisiea. “I was thinking, ‘What else can they learn from theatre?’”

For the middle and high school-age students, says Tamisiea, “They come in and are a part of a group from the start.” She explains, “It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing before you get into costume, who you’re friends with at home or whether you’re an academic. You can shine here. Our teachers don’t know your reputation, nor do they want to know. It can be transformative.”

Maddie didn’t experience any speech problems when she took on the role of a character in her camp this summer. Actually she thrived, and her mom saw major improvement in her speech at home. In fact, her mom said she spoke “clear as a bell.”

High schooler Margaret, who felt out-of-sorts at school, found herself a part of something she loved and respected. “She ended up bringing a lot to the class and really fitting in here,” says Tamisiea.

These are only two of the fascinating success stories from GLOW. From children who develop writing skills to those who overcome effects of being bullied, GLOW is doing more than teaching culture and love of the arts… it’s bringing like-minded children and adults together and helping them all find those things inside them that really do glow.

For tickets, schedules, sponsorship, volunteering or auditioning info: www.greenvilleopera.org.

*Children’s names changed for privacy.

View the complete Fall 2012 edition of Vision magazine.

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