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5 Young Northern Kentucky Theatre Kids are Headed to National Stage

Gotta Sing! Gotta Dance!
Five young – ages 12 to 14 -- Northern Kentuckians are headed for the national Junior Theatre Festival as part of the troupe from the University of Cincinnati's College-Conservatory of Music Preparatory Dept. in Atlanta from Jan. 16-18.
The festival has grown into the largest gathering of young theater performers in the U.S. 
CCM Prep’s Junior Musical Theater Intensive Program will perform an excerpt from Thoroughly Modern Millie (Junior), being presented at CCM in May. 
Young hopefuls Lily Deye, Tanner Gleeson, Janie Nalbandian, Isabelle Salter, and Kotomi Yokokura will have a packed schedule that includes performance workshops and master classes, seeing new work showcases, and maybe even performing in a Broadway Jr. Slam. The students meet Broadway veterans and may even be cast in promo videos for “Junior” shows.
Dee Anne Bryll, director of the CCM Prep program, believes one of the most important things for the young performers is meeting other students from across the U.S. – 4,500 students (and teachers) from 101 schools in 26 states. “They get outside their own community, they meet other kids and professionals and they see how good kids from across the country are.”
They’re all veteran performers. Kotomi and Lily have both appeared with Children’s Theatre of Cincinnati and participated in its STAR program. Tanner performs with Expressions Dance Theatre and they all perform on their school stages. 
They have vastly different inspirations for taking the stage. For Tanner, it was watching Michael Jackson. For Lily is was seeing Sister Act on Broadway. Kotomi has enjoyed arts education programs since kindergarten, and she sought out a bells class and a Japanese Youth Choir.
Janie and Isabella were bitten by the theatre bug early on – Janie liked “being someone else” and Isabella says, “I was always a dramatic kid!”
This will be the second festival for everyone but Lily and one thing they all loved last year – meeting other young performers and watching students and professionals perform: Tanner Gleeson (Villa Hills), is in eighth grade at Beechwood High School. “It was awesome!” He modestly doesn’t mention he was a Festival All-Star in 2014 and performed at the festival awards ceremony.  
Isabella Salter (Fort Thomas) is a sixth grader at Highland Middle School. “I learned so much! I learned how to be a family with people you just met. I learned the importance of respect and discipline."
“The best part of the festival is when we sit down in the room and see all of the groups perform. I love this because it’s the part when you get to relax and not worry about your dance steps or the notes because you know it like the back of your hand.”
Janie Nalbandian (Union), an eighth grade at School for the Creative and Performing Arts, votes for the chance to meet other student performers as her best memory. “We played games and started conversations with kids from different places.”
Kotomi Yokokura (Fort Mitchell) is in seventh grade at Beechwood High School. Last year she loved Pasek and Paul and songs and scenes from James and the Giant Peach
The fun was just as memorable. “It was very loud because the whole place was filled with musical theater people. Everyone was outgoing and I laughed a lot. There were some groups competing with each other to see who can get the most pictures with strangers. It was exciting getting your picture with lots of different people!”
Lily Deye (Villa Hills) is a sixth grader at St. Agnes School and the festival newbie. 
All the kids agree last year’s festival made them even more passionate about a life in the theater. 
Isabella summed it up: “I see all the kids my age going up and doing wonderful performances and then I watch all of these actors go on stage and do outstanding performances and I think about how that’s going to be me some day!”
Thoroughly Modern Millie, Jr will be performed May 7-9, 2015 in the Cohen Family Studio Theatre, CCM Village,  University of Cincinnati.  Tickets are on sale now and are available by contacting The CCM box office 513-556-4183, [email protected].
Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts
Photo: Isabella Salter, Kotomi Yokokura, Lily Deye,Tanner Gleeson, Janie Nalbandian (provided)
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