Cinderella the Musical!

Cinderella the Musical!
Project work at Parker is integral to our model of learning and woven into the fabric of our community. Last week, we examined the hallmarks of successful project work at Parker and how it facilitates our mission of engaging each student in a thoughtful and challenging learning process that inspires curiosity and achievement, nurtures confidence, and cultivates purposeful action. This week, we have the opportunity to dive deeply into a current project as we share the culminating performance of our 8th grade musical.
Our 8th grade musical is a wonderful example of a collaborative project that builds community while engaging our students in meaningful learning with a tangible outcome. It takes a lot of time and effort to stage a musical, and every Parker middle schooler is involved and invested in at least one aspect of this student-led production. As Parker music director Sara Feltes explains, “Part of what makes this experience so important for all students is that it shows students how many different roles that can exist in theater aside from the acting. They have an opportunity to be involved first-hand in learning skills such as sound engineering, lighting, or stage management. There are so many “roles” in addition to acting that can open doors (and their minds) to different career paths. Having students involved in every aspect also allows them to take ownership in the production. It’s not MY moment or Parker’s moment – it’s THEIR moment.”
And what a moment it has been. For the past 10 weeks, our entire middle school has painted scenery, sculpted props, wired the sound board, and curated costumes. Students working stage crew perfected scene changes, facilitated quick costume swaps, and learned their cues for sound and lights. Our 8th graders, meanwhile, have been immersed in every aspect of on-stage production. They have memorized lines, choreography, music and blocking, developed their characters, and even become skilled in applying their own stage make-up. Most importantly, however, they have learned how to support each other. They’ve gone from yelling at each other for missed lines to deftly stepping in and covering up mistakes, cheering each other on each step of the way. They have come together not only as a cast, but as a graduating class, celebrating this momentous achievement of risk-taking and teamwork in their final months together as a community.
As one 8th grader reflected, “My favorite part has been the bonding time. We spent a lot of time together and had to learn to work as a group, empower each other, build up each other’s confidence, and help each other prepare. Just being part of this with my class felt so good.”
Sara, as their teacher, offers a wider view. “I love the growth that I see in my students from the beginning to now. I have had this group of students since they were in Kindergarten (8th grade) and PreK (6th and 7th grades). Knowing where these kids started and seeing where they are now brings me such a joy. When they perform their ballroom dance with grace and ease I see their beatulness flowing from the years of community dance we worked on. When I hear them sing their many songs, I hear the growth they have achieved in their singing. Some students began almost afraid of the idea of being on stage, and now they have become the most accomplished and confident actors and actresses, in touch with the feelings of their characters and themselves. I know this is something to remember.”
Sara adds, “I often think about this cast three years ago, as fourth and fifth graders at home during the pandemic, or two years ago when we weren’t able to sing in class for an entire year. Now they are on stage and performing with each other. I see the wonderful expressions on their beautiful faces and the joy of making music together. I think we all feel an underlying gratitude that we are together again. Making something beautiful is the greatest gift we can give each other. A professor recently said to me ‘If the world’s outlook was more like music [collaborative] and less about competition, think about the world we could live in.’ When I see these kids put on a musical, I know that world exists…and I am so honored to share it with them.”