by Bonita Iluobe
Young Actors Guild is increasingly becoming known as a local treasure that contributes enormously to the creative arts development of young adults in the Greater Memphis community. YAG was founded by Chrysti Chandler in 1991 to impact, inspire, and engage youth in the arts. She molded her youthful fantasies, played out to the delight (and sometimes chagrin) of her family and friends into a first-rate company for youth from 5 to 17 years of age, offering music, vocals, dance, and musical theatre. To date she has impacted over 16,000 youth in the Mid-South coming from all walks of life but sharing one passion: a love for the arts. YAG proudly celebrates a 98 percent graduation rate from college. YAG enhances, develops and presents the musical and theatrical talents of its students on stages before audiences, including celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and former President Bill Clinton. These experiences have enabled YAG’s students to perform and train with the best from the Apollo Theatre, So You Think You Can Dance, The Voice, BET’s Sundays Best, American Idol and most recently, the winner of The Four Evvie McKinney.
Our partnership with MMI has been a phenomenal experience. The MMI Works component invests in arts interns to assist and build capacity within organizations. During the summer of 2018 YAG received five interns with talents ranging from musicians, vocalists, photographers, and videographers. Interns provided students with weekly violin and piano lessons and assisted in vocal development. MMI interns also participated in YAG’s summer performing arts camp culminating events presented at Buckman Theatre and The Cannon Center. Our themed presentation at Buckman Theatre was called “Disney’s Jungle Book Kids” and the presentation at the Cannon Center was Broadway’s “Fame Jr.” YAG arts and musical theater provides students an outlet to dance away negativity. Exposure to the public increases their confidence and encourages them to continue honing their creative skills. Interns learn to work together and the professionalism they must present to deliver a great performance.
YAG continuously seeks resources to support program development and enhancement. MMI has been instrumental in helping YAG students develop to their highest potential. Through MMI Program Development Institute we have been given an opportunity to explore other agencies, best practices, and effective networking that fosters collaboration. We appreciate contributions of agencies like MMI Summer Beats program because they mirror or reflect the same values we’re trying to develop or pull out of our students. We want our students to be inspired by the tool of arts exposure to navigate their chosen fields of interest. MMI has a diverse approach in acquiring well trained and exposed personnel to share their talents and knowledge with groups such as ours.
YAG also expands beyond the stage by providing arts resources for their students to become well-rounded individuals that will also be college-worthy. We organize arts tours of various colleges throughout the United States every year, and at the same time, we enlighten the fertile minds of our students by exposing them to the arts culture in various areas such as Los Angeles and New York. This exposure is crucial to their development so that they can see there is life beyond their small worlds and the world can be but a pearl in their oyster.
It is our hope to engage more youth and increase student participation within arts programming with your support. Our desire is to develop a legacy of YAG youth to be responsible for the successful outcome of the lives of millions of children in the Greater Memphis area. Memphis has so much to offer and we want to reflect the positive growth of this amazing city known for its musical history.
Bonita Iluobe is the Administrative Assistant for Young Actors Guild.