Part 1: Ovation’s Philosophy: Good Humans Make Great Artists Make a Strong Community

You may have heard about the innovative Conservatory Academy turning out top-notch young professional artists in McKinney, TX. Their accolades on paper are astonishing but it is what goes on off stage that makes them so unique. Ovation Academy is a safe and inclusive learning environment for any student with a passion for the performing arts regardless of age, race, religion, socio-economic status or lifestyle. Founder and Executive Director, Angi Burns, is often heard telling potential students that Ovation Academy will accept “passion and potential over talent and an ego. We look for students with a servant heart and a desire to be a role-model not just a star.” This is evident in their motto: Good Humans make great artists make a strong community. By focusing on building relationships they equip students to be good-hearted people as well as hard-working professionals and respectable leaders.

Ovation Academy of Performing Arts is a Conservatory Academy for students in grades 6-12 who are college or career bound actors, singers, dancers, technicians and designers. Students at the Academy attend the school Monday through Friday, as they would a traditional school. However, they are instructed and mentored in their career path in addition to completing their academic requirements. The mission of the 501c3 non-profit academy is to provide a home for artists to pursue their passions through professional training in the performing arts. The vision of Ovation Academy is to offer training which provides the technique, life-skills, experiences and connections necessary to succeed in the industry. They are set up with a solid foundation to navigate the business of being a professional performer. With classes such as Business Management for the Performer, Performer Etiquette, Health and Hygiene for the Performer, Money Management, Guest Artists and Master Instructors teach these ambitious performers about the industry beyond their artistry.

One major component to this ground-breaking program that enables their tremendous success is their commitment to the concept of “community”. If you are expecting an episode of Dance Moms to be played out at Ovation Academy you will be disappointed. Ovation Academy does not allow for the stereotypical “diva and stage mom”. There are strict rules in place for both students and parents about refraining from negativity and criticism. According to Senior Musical Theatre Major Brandon Carty, “For once, I felt safe to be myself and trust those around me full-heartedly. Ovation is a place where artistry is no longer ostracized but celebrated and encouraged.”. The environment is one of positivity, support and inclusion. School rules even state that “students are not allowed to eat alone. No one may ostracize themselves or someone else from the group.” Their progressive approach to behavior management is one that is to be admired. Students are held accountable for their actions and taught conflict resolution and communication skills to resolve problems using critical thinking and empathy. Students are given weekly chores such as doing the dishes, taking out the trash or vacuuming floors to encourage pride in their space and responsibility. Sophomore Acting Major, Adrianna Kellaway, states what makes Ovation Academy different for her is that, “Respect is a two way street, and in order to keep our school in balance, we have to give to receive. That's what I love about my school. I am treated with respect as I treat others with respect. It's a well balanced machine that operates smoothly. Teachers genuinely care for the students, and care for their academic and professional needs. The school is referred to as a family, and students actually look forward to going to school every single day”.

This sense of community is maintained off campus as well. The program teaches that the performing arts are a community not a competition. Although Ovation Academy has a strong reputation for dominating in theatrical, music and dance competitions; they stress the importance of supporting all artists. Students at Ovation Academy are strongly encouraged to participate in classes, competitions and productions outside of school in addition to their work at the Academy. Most of their students can be found on local stages with community groups or supporting their peers in the audiences around the metroplex. Director, Angi Burns, believes that, “students need to learn how to adapt to multiple directors and coaches, various venues and differing rehearsal processes in order to succeed in the arts. Networking is 9/10 of this business so by teaching the students how to go out and adapt and maintain a positive reputation is vital to their careers. We must support one another. If we don’t, then who will?”

Community includes those outside of the arts as well. Humanitarianism is a core value taught at Ovation Academy. They believe that philanthropy is a vital part of creating a stable community. Ovation Academy students are required to participate in projects which utilize their talents and passion to make the world a better place. Through volunteer service students gain empathy and life-lessons which cannot be taught in the classroom. Ovation Academy was recently nominated for the 2019 “Inspire to Serve Award” by Volunteer McKinney. Each year, Ovation Academy partners with 5-7 local non-profit organizations and volunteers an average of 50 hours per student. Students then present a spotlight of their project and the organizations needs at their end of the year Open House.

It is clear that Ovation Academy strives to produce knowledgeable, respectful, empathetic and impactful artists who will contribute to their communities and to the performing arts industry. If you or someone you know is interested in learning more about the Conservatory at Ovation Academy they will be hosting four virtual information sessions beginning in May. Auditions for the 2020-21 academic year will also begin in May. Ovation Academy additionally offers an after school Community Outreach program with classes, camps and productions for ages 3-adult and a Homeschool Program for students in grades Kinder-12. Follow them on Facebook and Instagram @Ovationapa or check out their website for more details, www.ovationapa.org.