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Life and Arts

Summertime and the livin’ is ... on stage?

When asked what he learned during the four-week John Burroughs High School Summer Performance Workshop, Matt Coffey had a ready response.

“How to dance, because I could not,” said the 14-year-old, who traveled from Ohio to participate.

On Friday night, he had the opportunity to put his newfound moves on display, performing in the culminating show with five dozen other participants.

Now a decade old, the summer workshop is sponsored by Burroughs’ celebrated show choir and affords students the opportunity to improve their singing and dancing skills under the tutelage of teachers and alumni, many of them professional performers.


It is also a stepping stone for those interested in joining the ranks of the high school’s extensive performing arts corps.

Robin Mazer, 13, enrolled in the workshop for the second consecutive summer. She has already been accepted into Burroughs’ senior women’s choir, Sound Sensations.

“It is completely fantastic,” Robin said of the summer program. “I love music and choir and everything related to that. So to be able to do that during the summer with your friends…is really fun.”

During the workshop, which costs $210, participants have access to singing and dance instruction, and to workshops for improvisational comedy and theater. For the final performance, they are divided into small groups and tasked with producing their own five-minute show choir set pieces.


“They find out as soon as they get here how much work it is to put together your own thing from scratch. It is a test not only of musicianship and dancing, it is work ethic and leadership,” co-director and 2002 Burroughs graduate Sam Saletta said.

A band composed largely of Burroughs alumni provided accompaniment, playing contemporary pop songs selected by the students.

“It is just a really great way to stay active during the summer,” said Sophie Chamberlain, 14. “You are doing something every day.”

Arts programs have been among the first victims of the public education budget crisis, said co-director Jon King. But offerings like the summer workshop are critical to the long-term success of arts education.

“The kids that are in this program will be the kids in both the Burroughs and Burbank choirs that are making headlines for being two of the top choirs in the country,” King said.