The Performing Arts for Community Empowerment

CC: Taylor Fournier
Taylor Fournier portraying the role of “Ti Moune” at the age of 15 in Exit 7 Players’ production of Once On This Island.

Growing up, the performing arts was always an important part of my life. I sang in many choirs, performed in community and professional theater companies, and even went to a performing arts high school. All of these experiences have shaped me into the person that I am today, and I know that the performing arts is something that I want to pursue. Coming into Plymouth State University, I was a Musical Theatre major. I enjoyed the classes and worked hard at perfecting my skills, but I started to realize that something was missing. I was learning a lot to make myself a better performer, but what difference was I making around me? Music, Theatre, and Dance has always been such an important piece of my life, and I knew that I wanted to be spreading that piece with others. I did not know if it would be possible to study how to help others through the performing arts, as I had been helped from them throughout my life. And then I found the Interdisciplinary Studies Department.

CC: Taylor Fournier

Taylor Fournier portraying “Logainne Shwartzandgrubenerre” in Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. 

The title of my degree is The Performing Arts for Community Empowerment. This degree allows me to study the positive effects that Music, Theatre, and Dance have in terms of community outreach, education, and empowerment- on both micro and macro-levels. At the micro-level, the performing arts can help individuals in many different ways including providing an outlet for self-expression, help build personal self-esteem, and even provide a style of learning that could best suit a particular child. An example of this would be if you are working one-on-one with an adolescent in your community, you could provide opportunities of music, theatre, and dance to encourage self-expression and empowerment. On a macro-level, the performing arts can also have a positive benefit on a community. Music, theatre, and dance all have many beneficial qualities that affect communities such as bringing people together, helping people remember things, and getting across feelings or emotions. Because of these attributes, the performing arts can have a positive impact on community outreach efforts, education, etc. In many communities as well, the performing arts can be a tool to advocate for Social Justice. A perfect example of this in today’s society is the new Broadway production of Spring Awakening. In addition to the musical being performed as written, the entire production is also performed completely in American Sign Language. This not only educates the public of deaf culture and theatre, but it promotes public acceptance, sheds light on a topic not usually addressed, and empowers other deaf community members to participate and become a comfortable member of society. On both the macro and micro-level, it’s clear that communities can be aided by the performing arts.

In order to get the best understanding of this concept, I have combined classes from the Music, Theatre, and Dance Department along with courses focused on social situations from departments including Social Work, Social Justice, and Education. This program will allow me to begin to understand how to help people through the performing arts.

Although this school has a wonderful Music, Theatre, and Dance department and Social Work/Social Justice department, I am certain that my studies fit into the Interdisciplinary Studies title. Music, Theatre, and Dance majors mostly center fully around performance skills, with little regards of how to make an impact through them. And although the socially based majors would help gain my knowledge on social situations, none of them would allow me to study the impact that Music, Theatre, and Dance have in regards to them. My program is like no other program at Plymouth State University.

The first department that I have incorporated into my major is the Music, Theatre, and Dance department. Because I wish to work with people through the arts, it is important that I continue to improve my skills and information on the subjects. I have tried to equally incorporate courses from the Music, the Theatre, and the Dance departments, to make sure that I am studying them all. From the Music department, I will be taking MU 3170 Musical Theatre Singing Techniques as well as many other courses that will be considered electives, such as Piano 1, Introduction to Reading Music, University Chorale, and more. These courses will allow me to further my skills on reading music, performing in ensembles, performing solo, overall performance skills, etc. From the Theatre department, I will be taking TH 2230 American Musical Theatre (WRCO), TH 2500 Stagecraft Fundamentals (QRCO), and TH 2600 Fundamentals of Costume Construction. These courses will allow me to study the history of musical theatre performances in America (and their socially based causes), learn necessary theatre skills, including stagecraft and costuming, and continue my knowledge of working on a production. The courses that I will be taking from the Dance department are DN 3010 Contemporary Dance Ensemble, DN 3050 World Dance, and DN 3100 Movement for Dance Education. These courses will allow me to further my dancing skills, as well as teach me knew perspectives on dance education, dance culture around the world, and dance in regards to musical theatre performance. Because music, theatre, and dance are skills that you have to keep learning and improving on, having the Music, Theatre, and Dance department courses in my major is very important.

CC: Jaime Mancuso
Taylor (farthest left) in Plymouth State University’s production of The Threepenny Opera

In order to study the social aspects of performing arts, I have combined courses from different socially-based majors, including Social Work, Interdisciplinary Studies (taken from Peace and Social Justice Studies’ minor requirements), Childhood Studies, and Education. The courses that I will be taking from the Social Work department are SW 2200 Introduction to Social Work, SW 3130 Child Welfare, SW 3150 Child Maltreatment, and SW 3250 Families, Schools, Communities. These courses will allow me to begin to study the Social Work profession, develop an understanding of social norms/problems, and better understand the social implications in regards to education and working with children and families. For the Social Justice education in my major, I took courses from the Peace and Social Justice Studies minor offered. Although the two courses that would best fit my major are not in the Social Justice department, they are geared towards educating me on matters of Social Justice. Those two courses are PO 1030 World Politics and IS 4360 Cultural Diversity in American Society. I will also be adding CD 1000 Introduction to Childhood Studies (TECO), CD 3400 Integrated Arts, and ED 2550 Mentoring Adolescents into my major. I feel as though these three courses will help further my experience and education in working in social situations, and help apply that knowledge to the performing arts.

Completing this program will allow me to do a lot of different things with my education. I would love to work for a nonprofit organization that focuses on bringing empowerment to youth through the arts- such as The Boys and Girls Club of America or Arts In Reach (AIR) in Dover, NH. I would also love to use my interdisciplinary perspective skills to create performing arts pieces that make a difference, educate, or speak on a Social Justice matter, similar to the previously mentioned new production of Spring Awakening. Or I would love to even work with communities on performing arts based projects in order to bring a community together. By completing this degree, the possibilities for my career are endless.

My program is interdisciplinary because it uses lots of different perspectives and outlooks in order to get the best understanding of how to help me achieve my goal- helping others through the performing arts. By combining multiple courses from multiple disciplines, I will have an overall better understanding of the different impacts that music, theatre, and dance can have on social situations. Throughout my life, the performing arts have helped me in various ways. My educational goal for my life is to give that back to as many people as I possibly can. In order to do that, I start with pursuing a Bachelor of the Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies: The Performing Arts for Community Empowerment.

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5 thoughts on “The Performing Arts for Community Empowerment

  1. This sounds like a great major! There are so many different learning styles and I think introducing music, theatre, and dance to an adolescent could really help them express themselves and build self esteem. Music, theatre, and dance will definitely bring a community closer as well. It is all around us and helps us communicate and create bonds with one another. I look forward to seeing what you do with this major!

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  2. Pingback: Helping Handed

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