Partnering for Performance

Savannah WaszczukAccess Launch

The Springfield Little Theatre Academy partners with Launch to offer pre-professional track performing arts students academic courses.

As the Education Director at Springfield Little Theatre (SLT), Lorianne Dunn had a dream. “I wanted a flexible academic option that would support our full-time, pre-professional track students,” she says. These are students who attend the theatre for a multitude of arts training including ballet, jazz, voice and acting classes. “They were already getting conservatory style arts training through Springfield Little Theatre,” Lorianne says.

In early 2019, Lorianne met with Dr. Nichole Lemmon, Launch’s Director of Digital Learning, to discuss the idea of using Launch for academic coursework. Lorianne left the meeting impressed with Launch’s offerings, and SLT decided to offer Launch courses to pre-professional track students. These students were given the opportunity to partake in SLT Academy, which is a program that combines the theatre’s classes and Launch’s academic options. “We went into it as an experiment,” Lorianne says. “It’s very small right now, but it is proving to work well for our motivated students. We have nine students enrolled right now.”

One of these students is Johanna Thornsberry, a 13-year-old 8th grader who previously attended school in Ozark. “I always wanted to try online school,” Johanna says. After learning about Launch and the partnership with SLT, her parents allowed her to give it a try. “She reached the age where I thought she was responsible enough,” says Holli Thornsberry, Johanna’s mother.

Johanna is now in her second semester of a full-time academic schedule with Launch. “I really like it so far, and I feel like I’m actually learning more,” Johanna says. “If I don’t understand something, I can go back and review the material until I learn it.”

Holli has also been impressed with the program. “I like that Launch keeps parents up to date,” Holli says. “Teachers always call at the beginning of the semester to introduce themselves and answer questions. Also, parents have accounts and are able to get in and see all that is going on, which I like.”

Johanna is the perfect example of a student who benefits from the flexibility that Launch provides. On top of a full-time academic schedule and the academy’s performing arts classes she attends five days a week, she is also often auditioning or rehearsing for shows. “I recently played the teenage Laura Ingalls Wilder in the theatre’s Little House On The Prairie musical,” Johanna says. “Right now I’m rehearsing for Matilda. I’d say rehearsals and auditions usually take up 20 to 24 hours a week.” And while she’s busy, Johanna is quick to say she wouldn’t change a thing. “I hope to be on Broadway one day and live in New York,” she says. “I love New York so, so much!”