Young at Art: investment in youth |

Young at Art: investment in youth

Cristine Kelly
Special to Prospector

“The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”

-William Bennett, Former US Secretary of Education

Nevada County has a long tradition of supporting the literary, visual and performing arts, and Nevada County Arts (NCArts) member organizations are insuring that the arts continue to flourish by engaging in innovative programs for youth. These organizations employ leadership, innovation, broad partnerships, and a passionate belief that the arts are central to what we want students to learn. Here’s a sampling of how they are investing in community youth.

Community theater groups offer young people the chance to be on stage, and to get behind the scenes! Synthetic Unlimited offers a rigorous audition process and live performance internship to high school and college age performers. With many shows throughout the year, they cast, staff and produce their events almost exclusively with current students and recent graduates. Students gain real world performance and technical experience and learn what performing in a troupe is all about. To get involved, submit an audition or volunteer request at

Sierra Stages constantly looks for opportunities to include young people in community theatre. Their popular hit “The Music Man” just wrapped up at the Nevada Theater and stars several area youth. Directors, designers, technical staff and many of the adult actors have experience in professional and university settings, as well as in other community theatres. Young people in their shows have a unique opportunity to work with and learn from these experienced adults. For more information, visit

CATS (Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra) is proud of its latest cultural enrichment program – the Xiao Mao Culture Club, which offers Asian-themed arts and culture activities, Mandarin language classes, acting and cooking classes, music, and other workshops. Xiao Mao, (Little CATS) is open to youth of all ethnic backgrounds, ages 6 to 12. They developed a program during the spring and just concluded a week- long Summer Camp in July, and more programs are being planned. For more information, visit

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In the world of music, InConcert Sierra offers free tickets to youth under 18 at their chamber concerts. They also perform two springtime free concerts with bus option for third-grade students countywide. They also offer many scholarship opportunities throughout the year: two for instrumentalists grades four through eight, one Spring Teen instrumentalist (grades nine through 12) and two high-school senior music scholarships (instrument or vocal) through NUJHSD. In October, the Sierra Master Chorale presents the Laura June Breen youth vocal competition for ages 12-21. They also offer pre-concert forums prior to each concert, and master-classes with world-class artists as available. More information can be found under education at

At Music in the Mountains’ (MIM) unique flagship Young Composers Project, students have the opportunity to study composition for the academic year. The springtime Young Musicians Competition provides the opportunity for Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Yuba County music students, grades three- through-12, to study, memorize and perform classical repertoire for professional teacher/judges. Each year during SummerFest, MIM presents a free Family Music Faire with an orchestra concert, free lunch and outdoor faire aimed at bringing the joy of classical music deep into the community. They also present both out-of-school concerts and in-class music experiences through a strong partnership with the Nevada County Superintendent of Schools. More information at

The Center for the Arts’ Youth Education Series offers arts enrichment programs for the next generation in the visual, literary, and performing arts. Programs include popular favorites from the Summer Camp series such as Circus Camp, Paint Like the Masters and the Teen Writing Workshop. The Center also supports the Nevada County Performing Arts Guild (PAG) by focusing on full-scale theatrical productions with all-child casts as well as NCNEO and their drug-free, All Ages Rock concerts. The Center offers scholarships in an effort to increase access and opportunity for under-served youth in our community who might otherwise be unable to enroll in programs. For more information, visit

The Artists’ Studio in the Foothills (ASiF) offers ongoing weekly classes for kids and teens taught by their resident artist-instructors. Students ages 7 – 17 experience in-depth media based programs in painting, printmaking, mosaics, jewelry, sculpture, paper making, mixed media and ceramics surrounded by “real” working artists in their own private studios – and all students have the opportunity to participate in the Annual Student & Teachers Show in the ASiF fine art gallery. For more information, visit

NCArts is a member-supported organization facilitating collaborative efforts that promote and sustain the visual, literary and performing arts of Nevada County in order to advance the cultural, social, and economic life of our community.

Cristine Kelly is the Executive Director of Music in the Mountains, as well as a Board member of NCArts.

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