Gateway School for the Performing Arts keeps students engaged online classes


A few weeks ago, the Gateway School for the Performing Arts began hosting biweekly Facebook Live and Instagram events with the hopes of eventually launching some online classes.

Students have also been prompted to record thank-you notes to first responders, create warmup activities, or sing musical theatre songs. But, most notably, the school has started a “Tomorrow” challenge, where students were asked to sing “Tomorrow” from the musical “Annie.”

Submissions came in from about 50 students, including a former student now in college and someone all the way from California. Madison Beehner, a Gateway student and junior at Our Lady of Mercy Academy in Syosset, edited and compiled the submissions, with help, and the results were just amazing. Two versions of the video can be found on the Gateway’s Facebook page.

“Editing the ‘Tomorrow Challenge’ was a touching experience. I had to watch every single video in order to place each student in a place where they fit best. During this time, a lot of us have gone from seeing our Gateway family two to three times a week to practically no interaction, and the ability to work together in a class setting is practically impossible,” said Beehner. “Being able to watch all of these members of the acting school—new and old—belt their hearts out in unison to a song that we all have known for most of our lives really gave it a new meaning. Tomorrow really is only a day away, and we just have to keep our heads up and push through together.”

“We really wanted to keep the students engaged and stay relevant,” said acting school director Michael Baker, hoping to get back on the ground easily upon reopening. “Also, we needed to keep our kids training who have college and summer auditions.”

At first going live on social media drew in about 50 to 60 viewers; now they bring in well over 100, with the community engaging with the students. Students were also prompted with warmup challenges and to do live tongue twisters or create their own.

“Everyone is welcome to get involved,” he said, also noting that the children made a special thank-you video to health care professionals. Stony Brook University Hospital was among the local hospitals who received the video and responded, Baker said. “Our kids are struggling and want to perform, and they want to keep presentational.”

The acting school currently has about 250 students, grades K-12, with some adult and special-needs classes as well. Prior to the need to take classes online via social media, the Gateway provided no version of online classes. However, Gateway wanted to be ready in case they needed to offer the currently enrolled students online courses due to the coronavirus climate in order to make up classes from the session. Earlier this month, true online trial classes officially began.

Last week, Baker said, currently enrolled students were able to try improv and theatre acting classes online. He hopes with the establishment of these classes the session can be completely redirected and completed. Also, he said, he believes the unfortunate circumstances might just have opened up new doors for the Gateway to offer online classes in the future.

“It’s a silver lining, the ability to test online classes and develop online curricu- lum for really anyone in the world to use,” he added. “The trials have been really fun.”

The Gateway can be found on Instagram at the Gateway Acting School and Face- book at the Gateway School for Performing Arts.

“We hope more people will chime in from all over the island and we can grow this,” he added. “It’s a great thing for the community to watch and feel good, all while the students have a great time.”


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