Music spills into the hallways of the Metropolitan Multi-Service Center on West Gray, filling the space with holiday cheer. Children and adults with disabilities are rehearsing for their end-of-the-week performance, Audition Boot Camp Summer 2019 Showcase, set to music from the classic Christmas comedy, Elf.
Each summer, The River Performing and Visual Arts Center, part of Theatre Under the Stars (TUTS), opens its doors to students with disabilities ages 4 and older who want to participate in a musical theater day camp. Siblings are welcome, too. Six one-week camps are offered over the course of the summer.
The River, which merged with TUTS in 2010, was founded by Cathy Binstock in 1996 to give her youngest daughter, Samantha, a chance to take ballet lessons. Samantha has mild cerebral palsy.
“Samantha wanted to take dance classes just like her sisters,” said Eileen Edmonds, assistant director of education at The River. “Every dance school turned her away, so her mother decided that every child deserves the richness of an arts education and she started The River.”
Edmonds brought her own son to The River 12 years ago. Francisco, now 18, was born with 16q deletion syndrome, a rare genetic disorder.
“He was naturally drawn to music as an infant,” Edmonds said. “I brought him to the summer camp and it helped to bring him out of himself because he loves to sing and dance.”
The program that started with one dance class and seven ballerinas has grown into a fine arts mecca offering music, movement, acting and visual art classes. More than 35,000 students have participated.
“The camp provides our students an opportunity to shine on stage,” Edmonds said. “Students come in here and they may not verbalize or be able to expressively respond to you, but oftentimes, where they don’t have that difficulty is with singing. What happens when you combine music with movements that cross the midline of your body—like dance—it helps create new neuropathways between the two hemispheres of your brain.”
Beyond taking part in the summer programming and classes offered throughout the year, River participants also have auditioned and appeared in several TUTS performances, including Beauty and the Beast, Oklahoma, The Addams Family and Seussical.
“Because of the merger with TUTS, we have been able to expand our programming to include adults and that has been so meaningful to us because we felt horrible when our students aged out of the program,” Edmonds said, adding that some of the adult students have gone on to become camp counselors and assistant directors.
Today, Francisco, Samantha and their siblings still participate in The River programs. Each end-of-the-week performance, Edmonds said, allows the participants to shine.
“Our students are so confident and brave by the end of camp,” she said.
RT @BCMHouston_News: .@bcmhouston @BCM_Surgery experts have some advice they are hoping will save a life. Watch Dr. Millard Andrew Davis de…
"Women have steeper blood pressure increases than men," potentially leading to a greater risk for later-life cardiovascular diseases, according to new research https://t.co/mVBU0klCiE via @UPIhealthnews
@autoaylie @UHC Thank you. We are making every effort to come to an agreement on behalf of our patients. To learn more, please visit: https://t.co/CtXAj5ypIH. If you have any specific questions regarding your coverage, we are here to help. Just give us a call at 877.493.3228.
This year, @RiseHoustonTX is celebrating 20 years of inclusive early education. @HoustonChron shares how #TexasChildrens has supported the school throughout the years: https://t.co/IihWC5HNiG
Harris Health System@harrishealth
Deena Rae Schoenfeldt knew something was wrong when she bled for six weeks straight. Diagnosed with cervical cancer, she shares advice, “Ladies, get your Pap tests. When you catch it early, it’s better,” she says. #CervicalCancerAwarenessMonth https://t.co/Q0El7KiaDG
RT @UHoustonLib: University of Houston Libraries now has a display of books authored by University faculty, located on the first floor of M…
RT @UHadmissions: It's the first #CougarRedFriday of the semester! #GoCoogs https://t.co/luSOwUhfnE
RT @DrEricaJordan: CV1’s little one said the future’s so bright out here for these Coogs she needs her shades in the rain 🌧 1st #CougarRedF…
@astros @JoseAltuve27 @myles_straw @dusgar13 @OrbitAstros Thanks for sharing these great pics.
RT @astros: Today’s hospital visits continued at @MethodistHosp! https://t.co/W3p3GO3KQD
Designed to raise awareness of the challenges people with food allergies face, the @TexasChildrens Food Allergy Program's 5th annual Cooking Up A Cure is taking place on January 30. Learn more via @culturemap: https://t.co/OSoXbVXxH7
We'll be at the @HoustonMarathon EXPO until 6 p.m. today. Stop by our booth, pose for a photo and say hello! #texaschildrens https://t.co/FTOKYxxHbF
Racing thoughts. Trouble sleeping. Emotional ups and downs. If you are a Veteran with bipolar disorder, you’re not alone. Explore resources at VA to help get you the treatment you deserve: https://t.co/MFjvgKwTiA https://t.co/IijlUGT4XZ
It's shown up earlier in the season than usual, but what does a predominantly influenza B season mean? Dr. Pedro Piedra explains. https://t.co/Iv1So22H9j #flu
RT @BCMHouston_News: Did you know today is known as #Resolutionditchday where people traditionally give up on their New Year's goals? Click…