, who runs the School of Performing Arts in Sherman, says she
loves seeing "each student feel a sense of accomplishment" when taking classes at her
"It was virtually only dance last year," Mrs. Begelman
said of the programs the school offered last year.But since then, the New Milford resident said, student interest and registration has increased.The school offers "topnotch teaching" through its teachers and guest artists, all of whom Mrs. Begelman
knows personally or through their work.Students of various skill levels attend the school.Regardless of level and how frequently a student takes a class, "you're given attention," Mrs. Begelman
said."Some students are here professionally, others are here for recreation," she
said SOPA's philosophy is to "instill something that will never leave each student" and to see each person have a "sense of accomplishment."She
witnessed all forms of growth in students during her
years in the performing arts field."It's very possible for people who want to do voice, theater and dance to do so" no matter what skills they have or how old they are, she
explained."There will always be students better than you are, but that's the only way you progress," Mrs. Begelman
explained.Sometimes students surprise themselves, however, she
commented.Mrs. Begelman surprised herself in 2000 after she resigned as artistic director of The Connecticut Conservatory of the Performing Arts in New Milford.
"I wasn't intending to do this," she
said, referring to SOPA
.But some of her
students and friends requested she
was born... again.Mrs. Begelman actually started the School of the Performing Arts in the late 1970s as a "training guard" for students who would be entering Connecticut Stage, Inc., a professional theater company in New Milford.
At the time, SOPA
was located on Bank Street."It had bleachers, we made lights and curtains," she
said, reminiscing."Students tell me they still miss it," Mrs. Begelman
smiled.In time, SOPA students began to perform as apprentices at Connecticut Stage, Inc.
It was a perfect fit for the two separate organizations."We were doing well building residencies in the 1980s, but we couldn't keep up with the fund-raising" for SOPA's non-profit status, Mrs. Begelman
said.Unfortunately, in the late 1980s Connecticut Stage, Inc.
"went defunct," Mrs. Begelman
fizzled down quietly but still existed.The arts still stirred in Mrs. Begelman, however, so in the mid-1990s, she formed Stage II, Inc., an arts school for opera and other theater projects.In 1998, Connecticut Conservatory, a performing arts school in New Milford, asked Mrs. Begelman if she would serve as artistic director at the school.
That year, SOPA
combined with the Conservatory to form The Connecticut Conservatory of the Performing Arts
.When the two schools combined, "Stage II, Inc.
fell by the wayside," said Mrs. Begelman
said, who added that it does still exist."It had good attendance," she
said of Stage II
."People who had never been to an opera were inspired then."I hope to go back to it again," she
said.Kristin Bundesen, the executive director at CCPA, said although Mrs. Begelman
is no longer at the school, she
is considered a "valuable teacher and asset to the community."The Conservatory offers a professional training program.The program requires CCPA students to participate in certain classes and receive written permission to study outside the Conservatory."We grant automatic permission to study with Arlene
," Ms. Bundesen related.
Some of the students have studied with Mrs. Begelman
since they were young children.Mary Read, 16, of Bridgewater is one of those students.She's
worked with Mrs. Begelman
was 7."I believe she's
one of the most amazing teachers ever," Mary said.Mrs. Begelman
"has an eye for giving correction in a way that anything she
says makes sense and helps you," she
explained.Although Mrs. Begelman's direction can be "tough," she
is "helpful and cares about each person," Mary summed up.Ms. Bundesen recognizes Mrs. Begelman's skills, noting, "We still ask Arlene
to teach master classes at the Conservatory."
...Mrs. Begelman, who majored in history, obtained a B.A. from Brooklyn College.
"I always loved the theater," she
said, "but I didn't realize that could exist for a female."Mrs. Begelman
did a lot of "trial and error" over the years when it came to work and projects.Since then, SOPA
has taken up a lot of her
time.She works at SOPA three times a week, teaches privately at Kent School and coaches in theater, dance and musical theater.
interested in some day starting up Stage II, Inc.
, again, as well as a youth theater, for which she
has already conducted auditions."I love working with original material," Mrs. Begelman
said, noting that she's
trying to incorporate the program into the school systems."It's an important aspect of education," she
stated."All aspects of the performing arts can open up a whole world for someone."Getting professionals into the school systems wouldn't be a problem, according to Mrs. Begelman
."They are here and available.""Many of us are ready to give back to the community," she
said, observing that performing artists are ready and willing to conduct workshops for teachers in the schools.
The spring semester The School of Performing Arts will begin Feb. 2. Jazz, drama, ballet and a special events singers workshop will take place Jan. 14-17.For more information about SOPA
, call Mrs. Begelman
at (860) 354-8564.