Fun and laughter in musical theater at Jefferson

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Fun and laughter in musical theater at Jefferson
Choir teacher Steve Danielson performs improv theater with a student.

At 9:30 a.m. on weekday mornings, the hallways are usually quiet at Jefferson Middle School. All the locker doors are closed and the students are in their classrooms. A lone person’s footsteps can be heard echoing off the walls.


But in one hallway, the sounds of gleeful shouting and uncontrollable laughter can be heard through a classroom door. That’s Steve Danielson’s musical theater class.


Musical theater is a new course offered at Jefferson this year that combines elements of choir, theater and dance. So far it’s just a couple of weeks in, and the students love it.


“I just really like the environment,” said seventh grader Corin Gamble Webster. “It’s always fun. Everyone is super nice, and everyone has a sense of humor.”


In the first couple weeks of class, students learned vocabulary words and practiced improvisation during fast-paced games on the theater stage.


Improvisation skills are useful in theater games and in regular life, Gamble Webster said. “It’s useful if I’m speaking in front of other people and I forget what I’m supposed to say,” she said. “There’s a lot of conversations like that. This conversation now, I didn’t prepare for this. I’m improvising right now.”


In addition to quick-thinking, musical theater students also practice creative skills and storytelling. These skills are useful beyond the theater classroom. “It will help them across the curriculum,” Danielson said, “They’re making connections to culture and activity. It will help them in English and math. It will help them in social studies. It’s a very cross-curricular activity.”


The musical theater course is designed to help students explore all aspects of theater from acting to directing, and from creating to producing. By the end of the course, the students will write, design, direct, produce and act in their own brand-new musical to be performed.


Learning about and, more importantly, experiencing musical theater helps in many aspects of a student's academic and social lives. Some of those areas include:


  • Self-Confidence: Taking risks in class and performing for an audience teaches students to trust their ideas and abilities.
  • Empathy and Tolerance: Acting roles from different situations, time periods and cultures promotes compassion and tolerance for others.
  • Concentration: Playing, practicing and performing develop a sustained focus of mind, body and voice which helps with other areas of life, including school.
  • Communications Skills: Drama enhances verbal and nonverbal expression of ideas. It improves voice projection, articulation, fluency of language and persuasive speech.
  • Problem Solving: Students learn to communicate the who, what, where, when and why to the audience. Improvisation fosters quick-thinking solutions, which leads to greater adaptability in life.


Musical theater is the first course offering of its kind at Jefferson. In years past, students in the Reading Enrichment and Arts Cohort for High-Achievers (REACH) program have incorporated theater into their studies. A collaboration between the two programs for future performances is in the works.