Person of the Week
Sean Jeffery: Shining a Spotlight on Tabor Arts
Sean Jeffery first became involved in Tabor’s art programming outreach thanks to his daughter, Emilia, pictured here, who’s been with Tabor’s youth musicals for seven years, including the upcoming production of Peter Pan, Jr.. (Photo by Pam Johnson/The Sound | Buy This Photo)
Sean Jeffery shines a spotlight on Tabor Arts in Branford. )
Offering shoreline kids and adults options to participate in skillfully-led productions, creative camps, and crowd-pleasing cabarets—those are just a few of the many reasons Sean Jeffery is proud to shine a spotlight on the energized programming of Tabor Arts in Branford.
Formerly Tabor Community Arts Center, Tabor Arts is the next evolution of more than 30 years of community artistic outreach under the umbrella of Tabor Lutheran Church in Branford.
As part of the evolution, the not-for-profit outreach organization recently revitalized its arts programming website (www.taborartsbranford.com) and branded it with a colorful, punchy “Tabor Arts” logo.
“The pastor here, Brian ‘Bud’ Myers, is a very strong supporter of the arts,” says Sean. “Over 30 years ago, he was the one who initially had the concept of using what we have for our physical space to create outreach into the community for arts programming. Back then, there was nothing. This was one of the first programs to offer community theater for children.”
In 2016, after Tabor Community Arts Center’s Executive Director stepped down due to health reasons, Sean took on chairing Tabor Art’s Steering Committee and helped to usher in an organizational renaissance.
“It was an opportunity for us to rethink what we had, still underneath the umbrella of the church, but reformed as Tabor Arts Branford,” says Sean.
In addition to taking on a new, dynamic name, Tabor Arts welcomed new Executive Director/Music Director Jamie Petrone and new Artistic Director/Director Colin Sheehan and swung some of its focus toward building up adult programming.
In less than a year, Tabor Arts has greatly ramped up its overall community arts programming, and is poised to debut even more in the coming weeks and months. These exciting efforts all help Tabor Arts fulfill its mission of “empowering the community through creativity,” says Sean.
“That’s the overarching goal,” says Sean. “We started with children, and that’s what we’ve been known for. But Colin and Jamie both bring an additional set of skills, so we can now morph into a true community arts theatre where we can be able to offer more programming for adults, too.”
Colin has already revitalized Tabor Art’s adult choir into a performing group that’s rapidly becoming a community favorite, “Joyful Sounds,” assisted with musical direction of former Branford High School (BHS) choral director Cathyann Roding.
“Colin has really helped us to take our name, and connect with Cathyann and her following, and find a very spirited group of individuals that are willing to go out and perform in the community at large,” says Sean. “It helps to showcase what Tabor does have to offer; and we’re optimistic that might invite some families in to see what we’re all about. Colin has really spearheaded that.”
Tabor Arts also offers music lessons, which were reintroduced in 2016 (the outreach had a strong strings program in the past). Currently, three talented professionals offer private instruction in piano, guitar, and voice (including vocal music therapy for those on the autism spectrum). Tabor Arts is actively seeking teachers of strings, woodwinds, and percussion to add to program offerings.
With new arts programming geared to adults as well as children, Tabor’s name is really beginning to ripple out across the shoreline, and more opportunities lie ahead, says Sean.
“We already have Joyful Sounds going out into the community and singing, but we could also do more productions, and we could do more cabarets,” says Sean. “I’d love to be able to offer a jam session to allow kids who want the experience of playing in a band, or playing together, to be able to use the space. Our guitar teacher would love to offer something like that; and we’ve got the space to do that.”
Speaking of spaces, in addition to Tabor’s full stage and seating space (seats 200), the church’s beautiful sanctuary offers an acoustic opportunity for performances and rehearsals for Joyful Sounds and other arts programs as they are developed, says Sean.
“We feel like we’ve got the physical space which gets heavily used on Sunday, but what can we do to use it on other days—how can we use it in different ways that really can marry the performing arts and music?”
When it comes to the performing arts, Tabor Arts’ tradition of youth musicals is evolving with new leadership in its co-directors, Colin and Jamie. Right now, they’re working with a cast of 17 talented youngsters from across the shoreline to present Peter Pan, Jr. at Tabor in April.
“We’re getting rave reviews about Colin and Jamie from parents and the cast,” says Sean. “The cast is getting exposed to more skills than ever, and they are bonding so well. They’re thrilled to be a part of this.”
The community is invited to attend a family-friendly performance on Friday, April 27 at 7 p.m., Saturday, April 28 at 7 p.m., and Sunday, April 29 at 3 p.m. at the Tabor stage facility located at 45 Tabor Drive. Tickets and more information are available at www.taborartsbranford.com.
Even as the cast prepares to take the stage, Tabor Arts is already working on an exciting new offering many community members will not want to miss. Hint: If you’re looking forward to attending the BHS spring musical Shrek (on stage Wednesday through Sunday, March 21 to 25 at BHS, also co-directed by Colin) or Walsh Intermediate School’s (WIS) spring musical The Little Mermaid (on stage Friday and Saturday, April 6 to 7 at WIS), you’ll want to be at one of two very special Tabor cabaret performances coming in early June.
“We’re going to be doing a cabaret for the high school students that will have just finished up Shrek; and a cabaret for middle school students finishing Little Mermaid, plus all of the cast of Peter Pan,” says Sean. “Some of the kids have spent a lot of time practicing for a particular number and this gives them a chance to do it again, maybe as a solo or ensemble number.”
Tabor Arts’ new “On Broadway Cabaret—High School Cabaret” will be auditioning performers on Monday, April 16 and Wednesday, April 18 from 5 to 8 p.m., with weekly Tuesday rehearsals beginning May 1 and a community cabaret performance on June 1 at 7 p.m. at Tabor. In addition, Tabor Arts offers a new “Disney Magic Cabaret” for grades 2 through 8; auditions are Friday, May 4 from 5 to 8 p.m., with weekly Friday rehearsals beginning May 4 and a performance on Friday, June 8 at 7 p.m. at Tabor.
Another new offering coming this summer for ages 6 to 21 is “Mastering the Audition,” taking place July 23 to Aug. 3 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Workshop participants will also be taking a trip to see a Broadway show (transportation included) and complete the workshop with a performance.
Among the parents sure to be seeking out exciting Tabor Arts offerings for their children will be Sean and his wife, Teresa Seo (who also serves on the Steering Committee). The couple moved to Branford in 2002, when they joined the church. Their daughter, Emilia, now 9, is already a veteran Tabor youth musical performer of seven years. Emilia will play John Darling in Peter Pan, Jr.
In fact, Emilia’s love of performing is the reason Sean, a past church council member, became involved with Tabor’s arts programming. In his professional life, Sean is a clinical professor at UConn’s School of Pharmacy, and director of Clinical Pharmacy Services (Integrated Care Partners, Hartford Healthcare Group). He’s also past president (2012 to 2013) of the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists.
“I have zero artistic ability. I didn’t go to my first Broadway musical until Emilia was born,” says Sean, laughing. “What I bring to [Tabor Arts] is a pharmacist’s mind-set of process, structure, attention to detail, and the ability to rally people to the cause. We have people far more creative than I am making the artistic decisions, so it’s a happy marriage.”
In addition to Sean and Teresa, Tabor Arts’ small-yet-mighty Steering Committee is made up of volunteers Jess Howe, Jamie Peterson, and Pastor Myers. The committee brings all ideas to the church council for a final okay. Sean says the council’s support has been overwhelming.
“They see that this is one of the three pillars that helps to support the whole Tabor community,” says Sean. “We have the church itself, and the members of the church; we have the Tabor Christian Community pre-school, which has been a pillar of the community for so many years; and now we have the arts programming. Each of those allows Tabor at large to be known across the shoreline for various different things. This really is a community of different programs.”
For more information on programs and offerings at Tabor Arts, visit www.taborartsbranford.com.