About the Academy
Lyric’s arts education branch was established in 2001 to teach children the art of musical theatre and performing arts. Renamed the Thelma Gaylord Academy in 2006 in honor of a founding leader of Lyric, the program has grown to serve almost 400 annual enrollments. The Thelma Gaylord Academy has become a significant training ground for the youth of Oklahoma City.
Professional working actors within the community teach students the skills and techniques they will need in order to work in the entertainment industry. Even students not pursuing a post high school arts education gain valuable knowledge (such as confident public speaking skills) that they can utilize in a variety of job fields. Classes are held in 14-week semesters that correlate with the Oklahoma City Public School calendar, and include a variety of subjects such as: Musical Theatre Production, Introduction to Musical Theatre, Theatre Magic, Acting/ Character Study, Introduction to Music Theory, Ballet, Tap, Theatre Dance, Dance Magic, Private Voice and Private Acting coaching sessions. Semester classes are tailored to meet the needs of the 4-7 year old, 8-10 year old, 11-13 year old, and 14-18 year old age groups. The arts experience differs according to each class; however most classes culminate in a public performance.
The majority of classes are held at Lyric's Production Center. This facility houses two dance studios, a music studio, offices, restrooms, and storage for sets, props, costumes, lights, sound, and a fully functional costume shop. Since January 2008, the Academy’s vocal students have attended lessons at the Plaza Theatre which contains three fully-equipped, sound-proof voice studios. In addition, the Plaza Theatre has become the official performance venue for all Academy productions and showcases.
Lyric’s summer shows afford a unique position as a professional performing arts agency to offer master classes and workshops for its students which are taught by the national/regional performers hired for our shows. In addition, Lyric’s Summer Camp Program gives students a two-week acting, singing, and dancing intensive which culminates in a public performance.
Additionally, Lyric has an Apprentice Program that provides Oklahoma teens with an extraordinary opportunity to learn directly from local and national musical theatre professionals. In both paid and non-paid positions, Lyric Apprentices learn on-the-job skills, have exceptional networking opportunities, and gain valuable experience in many aspects of musical theatre. This is the only professional training program in the state that allows teens to learn more about careers in musical theatre.
Most Academy teachers are adult professional artists who have had regional or Broadway tour credits; or are performing arts graduate students at local universities. Stephen Hilton, Lyric’s Education Director is a teacher, author, lyricist, composer, singer, songwriter, director and actor. He also currently teaches acting at the University of Central Oklahoma.
The Thelma Gaylord Academy employees CLEET certified security officers to ensure the safety of all children participating in its after school arts programming. The lead officer facilitates student drop-off and pick-up during all classes and performances and checks all students through a parent sign-in/sign-out system.
The Thelma Gaylord Academy teaching staff is given background checks to ensure that there is not a threat to the children that they work with. The academy staff also participates in a seminar at the beginning of each semester detailing safety protocol and procedures given by Lyric Theatre’s Business Manager. Additionally, all actors and technicians involved in Lyric shows that cast students go through OSBI background checks.
The Thelma Gaylord Academy strives to create an environment where each student feels "safe" - free from the ridicule, boundaries and inhibitions which too often accompany a student's regular school day. Rather than have to live up to or live down peer perceptions which define them elsewhere, we create an environment where they can be anything they imagine. While they may feel (and be) misunderstood at school, they come to the Academy and develop close friendships with people like themselves – who share ideas and ideals which are strengthened through the common bonds of class, rehearsal and performance. Our goal is for them to look forward to class each week and to leave each time exhilarated and excited about theatre and about life.