The Stanislaus County Office of Education (SCOE) and the Gallo Center for the Arts have entered into a 10-year agreement that will see the performing arts venue assume management responsibilities and artistic direction for YES Company following the upcoming retirement of its longtime leader, Melanee Wyatt.
The new venture, which becomes effective at the end of July, will be led by Cortney Hurst Betschart, recently announced director of arts education for the Gallo Center.
Founded by SCOE in 1992, YES (Youth Entertainment Stage) Company offers a variety of programs that now will be managed by the Gallo Center as part of an expanding, year-round arts education initiative of the performing arts venue. YES Company’s signature offering is a nine-week summer program that immerses young people grades 7-12 in a pre-professional theater experience. Open auditions lead to an intense rehearsal period and culminate with seven performances of a Broadway-type production over the span of two weekends at the Gallo Center. This year’s production is “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast,” which runs July 20 – 29.
The Gallo Center will operate YES Company with partial funding by the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County, which has traditionally furnished support for the organization’s staffing, production and equipment needs, and tuition grants for deserving students.
Wyatt, YES Company’s founding artistic director and choreographer, will retire following “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.” She has headed the organization for 27 years, and leaves behind a legacy that has touched the lives of thousands of young people and their parents in a number of Central Valley communities.
“We are looking forward to the future of YES Company and our growing partnership with Gallo Center for the Arts,” said Scott Kuykendall, SCOE assistant superintendent. “How wonderful for Melanee to know that as she retires, the company she envisioned nearly three decades ago will continue well into the future to support arts education, especially for children, in our community. We also want to show our appreciation to the boards of both the Gallo Center for the Arts and the Education Foundation of Stanislaus County for their continued support.”
Approval of the agreement by the Gallo Center’s board of directors was unanimous, noted board chair Robert Fores.
“This is a pivotal moment in the history of arts education in our community,” Fores said. “The board and staff of the Center enthusiastically look forward to a productive partnership that benefits local youth for many years to come.”
YES Company effectively is being absorbed into the Gallo Center’s fast growing arts education program, Pathways to Creativity. That program now oversees the Center’s annual student matinee series, which brings approximately 40,000 children to the Center for educational performances each season; a behavior prevention touring show that performs for students at more than 65 regional school sites and community facilities each year; Creation Station, the Center’s annual music and theater summer camp for youth in grades 1 – 6; Partners in Education, a program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in which Modesto City Schools, Stanislaus County Office of Education and the Gallo Center team up to create professional development workshops for teachers; Prime Shine Car Wash Driving the Arts Transportation Grants, a program that helps alleviate the high cost of bus transportation to bring children to and from the Gallo Center for student matinee performances; and, Broadway Dreams, a recently added program that provides professional training by Broadway performers and creative leaders for students interested in musical theater careers.
“There is no filling the shoes of Melanee Wyatt,” said Lynn Dickerson, Gallo Center chief executive officer. “She is a force of nature who will be sorely missed in the local arts community. Our goal in taking on this great responsibility is to sustain Melanee’s vision of helping instill in young people the core personal values of responsibility, communication, teamwork, and positive self-esteem, while enhancing YES Company’s management and operational opportunities in future years.”