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And some additional thoughts and comments that I didn't have time for in the stories that ran on-air...An additional way Springfield Ballet School helps make their classes more affordable, in addition to grants, is payment plans for parents, says Business Manager Katie Kornwell:KATIE: We have two different ways that they can do it. They can prepay for the entire semester, and there is a slight price break for them to be able to do that. Or we can offer a payment plan with a $10 charge to set that up, and then it’s divided into four equal payments throughout the semester.RANDY: Is the Education Program self-supporting, or would the entire Ballet company take a hit if there were to be a reduction in the number of people taking classes?KATIE: The school is self-supporting. It’s basically break-even on that. It does, however, help us--if our enrollment is good, but we have a down year with productions or something along those lines, because we do offer outreach programming and things like that where it’s an out-of-pocket expense to the Ballet. As a non-profit, you know we have those outreach programs for at-risk youth in the community. But it, of course, is not income-generating for us. Where I expect to see the hit is more with our performances and our productions. And if the school is doing well, then we won’t feel that hit as much as maybe some of the other arts groups that are really dependent on ticket sales and sponsorship to stay afloat.RANDY: Talk again about what you think may be driving the continued interest in the ballet classes and even the increase in the number of students signing up.KATIE: People might be scaling back, depending on individuals’ circumstances. And for some it might mean not taking big, fancy vacations. As far as the school goes--and I could be naïve to think this!--but I think as people, you know, maybe they’re not taking a vacation this summer, things that they’re looking to do closer to home that they might not do otherwise. This would be an option, to still have their kids in something enriching, but it’s not, like, thousands of dollars flying somewhere or something.We are--and I’m sure we’re not alone--as a non-profit arts organization we are vulnerable to times like this, because we kind of do get by sometimes on a month-to-month basis. And this fiscal year has actually been a strong one for the Ballet, and I really foresee next year being the “difficult” year. And more so with our performances, our productions, fundraisers, sponsorship, things like that, is where I think we’re going to take a bigger hit than with the school, because when it’s something that your child loves and it’s something that you love, it’s almost like cable--you don’t want to give it up! You want it to be one of the last things that you give up.RANDY: What kind of state or Federal support does the ballet school receive, or is it all tuition-based?KATIE: The School does not receive state or Federal funding; the organization does receive state funding through the Missouri Arts Council, and that is for our performances, outreach initiatives, that sort of thing. But as I mentioned before, the school’s pretty much self-sustaining. Well, and I think we are probably somewhat different as a non-profit because we do have the school to kind of help us, at least cushion us, through this time. I mean, I know that this is not the norm, or when you’re dependent on sponsorship and ticket sales I think it’s probably--those organizations will feel it a little bit more.I asked Ballet School Director Ashley Page Williams about their faculty.RANDY: Now, about instructors with the school: how many are there, and how are they paid?ASHLEY: We currently have seven instructors on staff. And other than myself--I’m on salary--the other instructors are paid hourly.RANDY: And again, that is from the income from the student tuitions?ASHLEY: From the tuition, yes. Our staff is very committed to the semester, and they all enjoy teaching. And a lot of them, it’s a supplement for their income. We have college students that need a little extra money around, and then we have instructors that have other part-time or full-time jobs. So it’s just supplementing their income.
Both the Ballet and Springfield Little Theatre are seeing more parents these days volunteering their time--particularly those who are having to take advantage of the scholarships offered by those organizations to allow their children to continue with classes. Lorianne Dunn, Little Theatre's Education Director, says that's actually a GOOD thing. LORIANNE: For many non-profit organizations, that help--those volunteer hours--are every bit as valuable as the cash! Now, our Managing Director might get onto me and disagree with me a little bit(!), but there are many different ways to “give back.” The gift of time is such an extraordinary one.RANDY: Unlike the Ballet, where the School is largely self-supporting and self-contained, the Education program at Springfield Little Theatre provides a significant portion of the Theatre's annual budget, says Lorianne Dunn.RANDY: Are the education activities really a big part of the budget, and if you started having people dropping out all over the place would you really be taking a big financial hit here at the Landers?LORIANNE: We would be taking a hit. We do rely heavily on our Education program and our “Family Series” presentations are a significant source of income for the theatre. So if there were some major effects, then it would definitely affect the bottom line.
Several moms I talked to both at the Landers and at the Ballet's offices in the Creamery said the recession simply isn't a factor in their decision to keep their kids in those organizations' education programs. Tina Rejda currently has one child in classes at Little Theatre, and one more who will enroll in the Summer Institute.TINA: I haven’t even thought about it. It hasn’t even affected us in that manner, because this is a great organization for our community is how I feel, and I would rather have my children here than other places. And it’s great that we have this--it’s a blessing for our family.RANDY: You said that you came from someplace where there wasn’t anything like this, so that makes it seem even more important.TINA: Yeah, it really does. It really does. They have theatres in that area, this type of thing, but--I came from Flint, Michigan, so that says a lot! (laughs)RANDY: A whole different economic climate.TINA: It’s a whole different economic climate, crime rate, everything. The theaters there in Flint, you know, you didn’t just go drop your kids off there and (Randy laughs)--you know, you just didn’t do that! And so it’s just a real blessing for me. I guess I appreciate it more because of that.RANDY: EUNYONG DUCHSCHERER's little girl is in the 6 to 8-year-old Springfield Ballet class, and she too has had no qualms about keeping her there.I think the arts are important, and she enjoys it. So we would try whatever we could to keep her in it.RANDY: You’re not seeing any problems now, though.EUNYONG: Not right now. But--I don’t see it as our family, but I don’t know if the Ballet will cut the classes they would offer. That’s what our worries would be.RANDY: Well, it’s like they’ve said: if they have reductions in students, they certainly would just not offer certain classes.EUNYONG: Right, that’s what my worry would be, that she wouldn’t have the opportunity to continue what she’s doing now. RANDY: How many students are in her class?EUNYONG: Right now they ten, it’s full. So… we’re happy! (chuckles)