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It starts with a dream

For so many kids, the name Disney means magic

Most kids will never have the chance to perform in a Disney musical. But in mid-Michigan, that dream has become a reality.

Wharton Center is one of only 13 arts organizations in the nation—and the only in Michigan—to partner with Disney to bring musicals to Michigan elementary schools.

The Disney Musicals in Schools program is designed to build sustainable theater programs in under-resourced schools. Schools receive free performance rights, scripts and music for a 30-minute version of a Disney musical, written for elementary school performers.

It’s exciting and challenging to have this experience with a group of kids and teachers who may not have done anything like this before.

Hollie Auten, Disney Musicals in Schools teaching artist

Benefits of Disney Musicals in Schools

Disney Musicals in Schools was launched in response to Disney Theatrical Group’s concern that students in urban, public schools were not afforded equitable access to the arts. After successfully offering the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group began partnering with organizations in other communities around the United States.

Elementary students and their teachers work in teams to develop a production throughout a 17-week residency, with Wharton Center’s trained teaching artists at the helm. To date, Wharton Center has partnered with six schools in Lansing and Flint.

Musical theater combines all the art forms and provides an engaging opportunity for young people to work onstage or behind the scenes. But beyond the joys of storytelling onstage, musical theater moves the body and feeds the soul. The program fosters creativity, collaboration, problem-solving, self-confidence and discipline in the students.

Each year, the program culminates with a revue featuring each school performing one number from its production on the Wharton Center Cobb Great Hall stage. Family and friends are invited to watch their new stars step into the spotlight.

Disney Musicals in Schools is made possible in part by Frank and Sharon Bustamante; Tracy Johnson; and Jim and Joyce Putnam.