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ARTS EDUCATION IN THE RECESSION pt.1

RANDY: For the KSMU Sense of Community series I’m Randy Stewart. This week we’re looking at the local impact of the current recession. The arts, of course, are my beat. But rather than look at ticket sales or fundraising--to be brutally honest, when are those things NOT an issue for the arts?--we’re concentrating today on EDUCATION and the arts. Several local arts organizations have extensive education programs as part of their mission--are they hurting in the current economy? And what about all the private music teachers in the area? Are they seeing fewer students in this recession? Those are the questions we’ll explore this morning and again at 4:30 this afternoon. The narrow hallways at the Creamery Arts Center are rapidly filling up with small girls and their parents, gathering for another afternoon of Springfield Ballet School classes. This is the six-to-eight-year-old group. Ballet School Director Ashley Page Williams:ASHLEY: We have eight different levels of ballet training. We also offer classes in jazz, tap, Pilates and modern. We offer approximately 50 hours of instruction per week.RANDY: Their ideal class size is about six to ten students, especially in the lower-level classes like this one. They serve 110 to 120 students, typically, in the 16-week fall and spring semesters, and around 50 to 60 in the summer. And each class has to have at least three students enrolled or else they don’t hold it. Costs range from $160 to $750 per semester, with a price break for pre-payment in full… dance instruction is NOT inexpensive! Still, the Ballet’s Business Affairs Manager Katie Cornwell says they’re going strong this year--maybe stronger than usual. KATIE: We haven’t seen class size diminish, and we’ve actually, here recently, had some calls, a little bit of demand. This semester we actually added a class for a level, because there was a demand for it.RANDY: One big reason the Ballet School hasn’t seen a drop-off in enrollment is that they offer financial assistance in the form of scholarships, says School Director Ashley Page Williams.ASHLEY: We offer scholarships for our fall and spring semesters to any dancer, ages seven and up, who shows potential for talent. Part of the scholarship determination is financial need. So we can give assistance to people that desire to dance and might not have all the financial capabilities.RANDY: Kim Shelby, whose daughter is in the 6-to-8-year-old class, is definitely grateful for the help.KIM: My husband actually has lost his job. But we are able to continue this because of what they offer. If there wasn’t a scholarship we would’ve had to--because of the layoff and stuff, we would probably have had to step out of it. You know, we can do things to volunteer, to help out here, to help them out. And in turn, they help us out, keep our kids in dance.RANDY: Ballet Business Manager Katie Cornwell:KATIE: You know, we do have to operate as a business of course. But if people have come on hard times--as long as they keep an open level of communication with us--we’re usually pretty accommodating to work with whatever their personal circumstance may be.RANDY: I heard a similar story from Lorianne Dunn, Springfield Little Theatre’s Education Director.LORIANNE: In our six-week session classes in acting, musical theatre, dance and voice, we have about 20 different offerings per week.RANDY: In addition there are workshops, and the training troupes like the Y.E.S. Troupe, that young actors audition for; those also charge tuition. The going rate at Little Theatre is $50 for a six-week session, with price reductions for taking multiple courses. Like the Ballet, Little Theatre has not seen any reductions in class enrollment yet, due to the recession. But, again like the Ballet, that’s due in part to scholarships and financial assistance.LORIANNE: We haven’t experienced, really, any decrease. Parents talk about it, they talk about how times are a little tough. We do what we can to make it affordable for people. But I think that, when it comes to their children, they’re going to make their children a priority. And they really value their arts education. We do have several parents out of work now. And we do have a couple of parents that have in volunteering more than normal.RANDY: But they’re not taking their kids out of the classes.LORIANNE: Right, no.RANDY: You have the scholarships; have you had to make more of those available than usual?LORIANNE: I would say a handful--we’ve made a handful more available than normal. I had a family sign their child up for a class, and then they called back and said her husband just lost his job, and they weren’t going to be able to have her participate in that session. And I said, “No, please participate. We do have scholarship programs in place. Come… do this. When things are better, you know, maybe you’ll help another kid out.RANDY: Lorianne Dunn, Springfield Little Theatre Education Director. So… good news so far for the Ballet and Little Theatre. This afternoon at 4:30 we’ll visit Springfield Regional Arts Council, and with several local private music teachers to see how they’re doing in the recession.