Today 51 of my students and I got on our feet! We laughed, cried, sang, danced, learned, loved and thoroughly enjoyed “On Your Feet,” the Broadway musical about Gloria Estefan’s life and career. We were fortunate enough to be part of the Theatre Development Fund’s (TDF) Stage Door program, which gave us the opportunity to see the show this afternoon with an audience of 1,600 students from across the tri-state area. It was an incredible experience that moved me in many ways. I’ve never been to a Broadway show with my students before and for almost all of them, it was their first Broadway experience. What a blessing to be part of their special day!
Seeing the show was a phenomenal experience but what made it even more powerful was that TDF connected us with an artist-in-residence – the gifted singer and actor Rachel Kara Perez! – who visited our classroom for three sessions to prepare us for the show. She created a space for us to explore the rhythms, lyrics, and themes of Gloria Estefan’s music. She facilitated opportunities for my students to reflect on their dreams and the dreams their parents have for them. She taught us the history of Afro-Cuban music. Just as important, she connected with my kids, shared her story, and blessed us with her beautiful voice.
Our experience with Rachel made today’s experience that much greater. My students were genuinely excited and sang along as the show opened with “Conga.” One of them leaned over and asked me when the bus accident was coming. One of my students who had seen the show before through a summer program said that today’s show was “so much better” than the first time he saw it. I asked him why and he couldn’t place his finger on it. I would wager that our work with Rachel Kara helped him make more meaning of the show and a deeper connection to its music and message.
All students need to be exposed to, immersed in, and creating their own art. What a gift to have programs like TDF and Stage Door to bring the Bronx to Broadway. Shout out to all of the artists who blessed the stage this afternoon and all of the artists who enjoyed the magic from the audience. Shout out to Ginger and the entire Stage Door crew for hearing Gloria’s call to get up and take some action! You created an unforgettable experience for all of us and we are forever grateful.