Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Growing Up at NMS

For many, NMS But it quickly becomes a second home of sorts for so many students who enter its doors, a place they return to again and again.

Take NMS alums Rebecca (Becca) Weinzimer and Miguel Benitez, who just finished six weeks in their leadership roles at Audubon Arts, the dramatics-focused summer program wrapping up a very successful fifteenth year.  

For both, working in the Audubon Arts program – Miguel as Upper Art Director and Becca as a counselor – has been a chance to inspire young minds.
In fact, these are kids who are a lot like they used to be: Becca and Miguel are former NMS students and Audubon Arts participants.

“It was such a big deal every summer to see each other for those six weeks,” says Becca, remembering her own Audubon Arts days. 

“It was almost like a special bond,” adds Miguel.

Both have extensive histories at NMS. Becca took piano lessons for ten years before switching to oboe, and was also enrolled in the dance program, eventually becoming NMS Dance Chair Tracey Albert’s teaching assistant. She started Audubon Arts as a six-year-old in the Indigo Group and became a counselor for the Blue Group – for ages 6-7 – this year.

Miguel started music lessons with faculty member Julia Blue Raspe as a child, an experience he credits with developing his love of singing at a young age. He was an Audubon Arts participant at five-years-old, and again as a teenager, before being hired as Lower Art Director – working with Audubon’s younger kids – a job he held for three years. He’s been Upper Art Director, working with older participants, for the past two.

NMS is such an important place for both Becca and Miguel, where their childhood passion for the arts morphed into what Miguel calls “a really good summer gig.”

Their experience here did more than provide them space to exercise their artistic muscles, though; it helped shape their creative philosophies. Plus, through their leadership roles in Audubon Arts, they had the chance to explore artistic possibilities with kids just as excited about creative endeavors as they once were – and still are.

Not to mention that their experiences have been so much fun, according to both Becca and Miguel. This summer they’ve watched Audubon Arts campers gain confidence right before their eyes, throwing themselves into dance numbers, songs and dramatic performances. They also observed younger students making what could be lifelong friendships; much like the friendships they once made. “It’s like a big family,” Becca says of the program.
“I had this special place to do visual arts and theater that didn’t happen the rest of the year,” says Miguel of Audubon Arts. Now a graduate of Southern Connecticut University, he’s making a go of it as a ceramicist, and hopes to get his MFA someday. “Working at Audubon Arts helped me develop the leadership to be a self-directed artist,” he says.

Becca, who received the 2015 Presidents Award at NMS for involvement and volunteering, will be studying psychology as a freshman at Wesleyan this fall, and hopes to keep up with dancing as a hobby. She says NMS helped her develop a stress-free relationship with the arts, and sees that in the participants and young dancers she works with, too. “It’s such an accepting environment,” she says. “The environment is so creativity-based, not perfection-based.”

Becca and Miguel’s positive feedback cap off another summer year at Audubon Arts, with a whopping 212 campers aged 4-18, 53 staff (including 15 who were prior participants!), 34 performances by participants and seven by staff.  

“Becca and Miguel are perfect examples of how Audubon Arts supports kids and encourages them to be creative within a unique arts-filled community,” says Audubon Arts Director Anne Tubis. “The magic of Audubon Arts is that each group collaborates to create an original musical from the ground up, within just three weeks! Every person here shares a special passion and sense of fun, and as you walk in the building, the energy is palpable. Participants start in our youngest group at 4 years old, and by the time they are 11 or 12, they are already planning on being counselors!”