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Acting teacher Lisa Lilas works with students at the New Haven Academy of Performing Arts. The school recently won Best Place to Learn an Instrument and Best Theater Class for Aspiring Actors from MommyPoppins.com. (Photo by Matthew DaCorte/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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It feels good to win awards, but doing so as an underdog makes it even better.
The New Haven Academy of Performing Arts, located at 597 Main Street in East Haven, won an award for Best Place to Learn an Instrument as well as Best Theater Class for Aspiring Actors. The awards came under the Best Enrichment Programs category for MommyPoppins.com’s Connecticut Bestie Guide.
The website highlights places and activities for children to do with their parents, with performing arts being one of their focuses. The winners had to be nominated by and voted on by readers of the website.
Billy DiCrosta, artistic director and vocal master coach for the academy, said this was a huge achievement, especially since the academy was up against much larger and well known performing arts schools such as Neighborhood Music School and The Warner Theater.
“It was cool because we’re a small, family run business,” DiCrosta said, “There were so many huge companies that we were up against, I thought there was no way we were going to win.”
DiCrosta said that the winners were announced on March 11 via a Facebook livestream. He said that students who watched the livestream went “berserk” when the academy was announced as the winner of the awards.
Lisa Lilas, television and film acting teacher, said the difference between learning at the academy and taking a drama class at a regular school is that she finds students who attend the academy show more interest and enthusiasm in the craft they are learning. She said that most students attend classes more than once per week.
“It’s after school; this is something they sign up for,” she said
Rather than being a school that focuses on competitions, DiCrosta said that the academy’s focus is giving their students real performance opportunities. He said that the academy produces six shows per year, so students are always working toward something and never get bored, and parents like it because they constantly get to see their child progressing.
Neil Fuentes, vocal and acting coach at the academy, said that part of the reason the academy has become successful is the unique approach he and other teachers take with their students. He and DiCrosta agreed that it’s not about making a student look or sound a certain way, but putting the focus on making the students the best version of themselves that they can be.
Even the students agree. Ava Loughlin, a nine-year-old student who takes singing, acting, and piano lessons at the academy, said it’s a fun environment and all the teachers a very nice.
“They want to push us to be our best,” she said.
All vocal instructors at the academy must be certified by the International Voice Teachers of Mix, and Fuentes is the only instructor in the area certified by that organization who teaches in Spanish. The academy has another instructor that teaches guitar, saxophone, and clarinet who speaks Spanish as well.
One of the goals DiCrosta has for the school is to bring awareness of the arts to East Haven. He said that he has lived in the town for most of his life, but it has never been known for the arts.
“I’m trying to find ways to let people in East Haven know you don’t have to go downtown” to New haven, he said, “There’s a full performing arts experience that you can bring your children to that’s more affordable and right here.”
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