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  • MSA Academy Graduation


    The Academy at Metropolitan School of the Arts honored its third graduating class in a celebration at Old Town Hall in Fairfax. The celebration marked the end of the Academy's fifth year and featured performances by the graduates and students who attend the grades 6-12 school. For more photos, go to my Facebook page here.

  • MSA Senior Portraits

    The Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy, which opened in 2013 with 15 high school freshmen and sophomores, graduates its second class this June. With the first class, I did a series of portraits at the Lorton Workhouse, incorporating the students’ chosen art form into the aesthetic of the former prison.

    This set took a new, though somewhat familiar, path. In all but one instance, the students wanted to use the Workhouse, where the soon-to-be graduates spent three of their four high school years. The familiar setting, however, lent new opportunities for creativity.

    The result is “Multiple Exposures.” I’m interested in hearing what you think.

    To see the photos of all the MSA graduates, go to http://glenncook.virb.com/msa-grads.

  • MSA Academy Holds 1st Graduation

    Ten graduates from the first class at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy participated in commencement ceremonies Friday at the Workhouse Arts Center.

    Having taken pictures when the school first opened in September 2013, it was a pleasure to do so again as parents and family members celebrated the accomplishments of the class.

    There were plenty of laughs, a few tears, and — befitting the performance nature of the school — a number of opportunities for the students to show off their music and acting skills. Congratulations to all!

    To see more photos from the event, go to my Facebook photo album here.

  • MYT, MSA Promotional Photos

    This past weekend, I was tasked with taking promotional photos for the Metropolitan Youth Theatre Company’s upcoming production of “Rent,” which runs July 31 to August 2.

    Jonathan Larson’s rock opera, which ran for 12 years on Broadway and won both the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize, is an ambitious undertaking for the student-run company, which was founded in 2014 by two Northern Virginia high school students. Its mission is to educate young actors and technicians about the challenges they will soon face in the professional world of theatre. Students, most of them in high school, run all aspects of the company’s productions.

    Hayfield student Chad Vann is the artistic director and Lee student Sam Cornbrooks is the company’s producer. James Woods, who attends Metropolitan School of the Arts, is the musical director.

    MYT is supported by Metropolitan School of the Arts and DC Metro Theater Arts. “Rent” will be the second show produced by the group, which presented “The Last Five Years” in a sold-out run in late January.

    Tickets are available at www.metroyoutharts.com. You also can follow the company on Twitter (@MetroArtsYouth).

    Another set of promotional photos I shot recently are helping to promote this Sunday’s showcase by Academy students from Metropolitan School of the Arts.

    The special Mother’s Day performance of dance, music, and theatre pieces will reflect the progress the students have made in their arts studies at the Academy, which is concluding its second year.

    The performance will be held at 5 p.m. in the theatre at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial. Tickets are $20. To purchase, visit www.metropolitanarts.org/tickets.

  • 'I Never Saw Another Butterfly'

    The MSA Academy performed its award-winning version of the Holocaust drama "I Never Saw Another Butterfly" for parents and supporters Sunday at the Alexandria studio. The story of children relocated to Terezin, a Jewish ghetto established by the Nazi party, the show received five awards at the Virginia Theatre Association's annual conference last weekend. Congratulations to Matt Bassett (Academy theatre department chair) and the cast and crew for their excellent work.

    For more photos, go to my Facebook album here.

  • Year One: A Video Photo Essay

    I was there on the first day of school, and I dropped off a child on the last.

    In between, I had an opportunity to follow the students at the Metropolitan School of the Arts Academy with my camera, chronicling the first year of an exciting new venture that has impacted all of our lives.

    The result is this video, titled “Year One.”

    Our kids have taken classes at MSA (formerly the Metropolitan Fine Arts Center) since they were in kindergarten. The studio has been and remains a huge part of our children’s lives; Ben and Emma continue to dance there and Kate works in their after-school childcare program. The instruction and life skills they all have received at MFAC/MSA is second to none.

    Last year, MSA founder Melissa Dobbs decided to open a private performing arts high school at the Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton. Despite its fine public schools, Northern Virginia is sadly lacking when it comes to instruction that has a performing arts focus, and I believe Dobbs is a true visionary.

    In part because I was between jobs, and partly because Ben and Emma are satisfied with the mix of academics they receive in school and at MSA, we did not enroll them in the academy. However, I have been working with MSA for much of this year as a freelance photographer, taking promotional pictures at the studio, in various performances, and at the Academy. You can see many of those photos on my Facebook photo page.

    As a journalist, I’ve always wanted to follow a particular group of people for an extended period and chronicle some aspect of their lives. What I realized several weeks ago was that I had done just that with the MSA students, a group of high school freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who come from all walks of life.

    From that first day in September, when I asked them to line up for the standard class picture and was rewarded with a batch of nervous, sleepy smiles, to the final showcase performance last weekend, I saw a group of teenagers grow tremendously in the areas of acting, singing, and dance. They come from a variety of backgrounds and places, some with great talent in one area and no training in another. What they have in common is a desire to grow.

    One of those students, in fact, is growing up with us in our home now. 

    ••••••

    Earlier this year, we took in Jeremiah Porter, one of Ben’s friends from New York, who started attending the Academy during the second semester. Jeremiah was a student at New York’s Professional Performing Arts School, but he has not had the training at the level that MSA offers.

    Bringing a fourth teenager into our home is not something any of us thought we’d do, but we’ve navigated the transition successfully. In some respects, we’re paying it forward because so many people helped us when Ben was in New York and on the road.

    What’s interesting, at least to me, is that New York — especially Manahattan — offers so many chances for performers, but it can be very daunting to find a focused environment if you don’t know where to get the necessary training. Places like Broadway Dance Center, while providing terrific instruction, are more a la carte, whereas MSA offers a continuous curriculum that starts in September and ends in June. And because a number of MSA kids want to eventually move into a career that will take them to places like New York, they are more likely to be focused here than if they were already in the city.

    Jeremiah, who came into performing somewhat late, recognized that MSA offered him that opportunity for focus, although he did not understand at the beginning how difficult it would be to immerse himself as fully as the school and studio require. Our goal was to give him the chance; it was up to him to take advantage of it.

    And fortunately, he has. After those initial transitional bumps, he’s become part of the extended reality show that is our life, and we’re happy that he’ll be returning to the academy and our home again in the fall.

    MSA has gone through a few transitions of its own during the first year, something you also might expect given that it’s a start up that was just a dream about 18 months ago. But it has been fascinating to watch and follow that evolution, to see the various kids grow with the school. I feel fortunate to have been a small part of it.

    Enjoy the photos and the video…