Paloma Gratereaux Awarded Bertin K. Rowser Scholarship

Dear Friends,

Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts is pleased to announce that Paloma Gratereaux has been selected as the 2010 – 2011 recipient of the Bertin K. Rowser Scholarship for Excellence.  Bertin K. Rowser was active in New York City Theater for more than 20 years and served as the Artistic and Theater Arts Director of the Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts for ten years beginning in 1986.  He passed away on March 5, 1998.

A passionate and tireless advocate for quality performing arts education for young people, Bertin Rowser had a remarkable gift for motivating and inspiring both students and colleagues.  By creating vital theater pieces that addressed issues facing the lives of his inner-city students, to preparing his students for a professional career, to building bridges for his Harbor Conservatory students with the Rye Arts Center and the Juilliard School, to creating a lasting love of the art of learning, Bertin’s presence enriched and inspired people’s lives.

The Scholarship was created in 1998 through the generous contribution of parents, students, friends, and associates with the goal of sustaining the signature of Bertin’s life for future generations of young performers.  It was established with a lead gift from long time friend and former college classmate, Jane Lindberg.  Bertin encouraged students to become “triple threats” performers skilled at acting, dancing and singing. The scholarship acknowledges the financial constraints of studying all three disciplines, and enables recipients to study music, dance and theater at The Conservatory on a full scholarship for one year.

Scholarship recipient Paloma Gratereaux has been training at Harbor Conservatory for six years in the Music, Dance and Theater Programs.  Last year, she auditioned for and joined the Theater Arts Program’s pre-professional musical theater company.  Paloma’s consistent hard work, limitless desire to learn, and steady growth have made her a top student at the Conservatory.  She has exhibited an ever-ready willingness to help her peers in group work, as well as eagerly met all individual challenges during her time here.  We look forward to her continued development as she becomes a leading member of the musical theater company, now called MT Kids.

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs


Dance and Theater Auditions

Dear Friends,

With registration underway, auditions for our Pre-Professional Programs in dance and theater are right around the corner. These programs develop teenage talent with a curriculum including individual lessons, a variety of technique classes and special ensembles, workshops and public performances.  In addition, the Harbor faculty of professional teaching artists provides students with one-on-one counseling, professional management and direction, advice about and preparations for auditions and competitions.

The goal of the Pre-Professional program is to prepare students for entry into specialized performing arts high schools and colleges and ultimately professional careers in the performing arts. Students in the Pre-Professional Program are all on partial scholarship. Program acceptance is based on audition. Auditions are held at our home site located on One East 104th Street and Fifth Avenue.

Audition Schedule

LEAP Dance Training Program: Friday, September, 17, 4:00 pm.  Calling all high school bound students, male and female, preparing for entry into dance programs of specialized high schools! Students ages 11 to 13 with at least three years of consistent dance training are interviewed, and audition to participate in this unique training program. To arrange an audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570, or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

GESTURES Dance Ensemble: Friday, October 1, 4:30 pm.  GESTURES, the pre-professional resident dance company of Harbor Conservatory is a performance workshop for students, ages 13 to 19.  Five years of technical training required in order to audition. Acceptance into the Gestures Dance Ensemble gives a serious dance student the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a professional company. From challenging rehearsals to fully produced performances that are open to the public. This is an intense, accelerated program. Only those with strong commitment and desire to pursue rigorous dance training need apply. To arrange to audition please call Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570 or Naomi Shimashita at extension 553.

Theater Repertory Production: Saturday, September 25, 4:00 pm. Theater Repertory Production class is for students ages 12- 19 who have at least two years of formal theater training. There will be two full-scale end-of-semester Classical, Contemporary, or original productions, in which students will collectively analyze a script, create characters, and perform before a live audience! This class is meant for the serious-minded student who is interested in pursuing a career in the Theater. To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Musical Theater Kids: Friday, September 17, 4:30 pm. This intensive class for students ages 12 – 19 expands on the union of voice, dance, and theater to weave stories with the objective of preparing students for the demands and expectations of the professional world of Musical Theater. Students will be taught numerous dance numbers and vocal arrangements, all while putting scenes on their feet for an audience! To arrange an audition please call Michael Awusie at 212/427-2244 ext. 558.

Nina Gale Olson
Director of External Affairs

Class Registration and New Videos on Youtube

Hello Friends,

The fall is fast approaching as summer nears its end.  Registration for fall classes begins September 7th; for more information call us at 212-427-2244 Ext. 573.  In preparation for the upcoming semester, we’ve been putting together videos highlighting our Music, Dance, Theater, and Little People’s Creative Arts programs here at the Harbor.  We’ve put three of these videos up on youtube, which can be seen here (for all programs), here (for dance) and here (for Little People’s Creative Arts).  Enjoy the videos and we’ll see you all in September!

Class Review Series: GESTURES and LEAP

Dear Friends,

This post marks the beginning of my “Class Review Series”.  I will be attending a variety of our classes here at the Conservatory, and giving you my opinions on them.  As Special Projects Coordinator here at the Harbor, I have no professional arts training, and know little about dance or theater.  I am hoping these reviews give you an “everyman’s” idea of how the classes are run, especially for parents interested in learning about our classes here.  The reviews will occasionally be supplemented with an interview from the teachers, students, or whatever else we believe gives you the most accurate picture of what our classes are like.

Last Friday, I attended a LEAP class and a GESTURES class.  Lets begin with LEAP, a dance program for students 11-14 who are focused on gaining acceptance into specialized dance programs.  The class I attended was taught by Blanca Alonso, and focused on the ballet aspect of dance.  The class started with the students warming up on bars, which I found out from Naomi (Assistant to the Dance Director and another one of our instructors) is a typical ballet warm up.  Blanca quickly went through instructions, then turned on music for the students to do specific movements to, which seemed geared towards strengthening the lower body and developing better technique.  The students showed great focus, particularly for their age, while Blanca is strict but upbeat.  She gets her point across to the students very clearly, and her passion is palpable.  Blanca is fully aware of everything going on in her classroom, making general instructions to the class while correcting specific mistakes by individual students.  Overall, the class seemed like a great building block for these young dance students .

GESTURES, the conservatory’s pre-professional dance company, was completely different.  The skill level of these older, experienced students is breathtaking.  The pure physicality of their motions struck me immediately.  These students are strong physically and very, very talented dancers.  Their movements are fast and the choreography is complex, requiring incredible body control and focus.  I found myself wishing I could have that sort of body control for just one day.  Nina Klyvert Lawson (Artistic and Dance Director) is the teacher for this particular class.  Nina is a vocal leader, and immediately assumes respect from the class.  The students all know what to do, the instructions focus on how to do it.  While Nina is clearly a stickler for perfection, she has the rare ability to keep the mood in the classroom light, but serious.  There are lots of jokes and laughter, but a loss of focus is not tolerated.  I saw the group perform two very different pieces.  The group was able to channel intensity and drama to a classical piece (in the first piece) just as well as fun and energy to a Latin song (the second piece).  After each run through, the students discussed what they could improve amongst themselves before being critiqued by Nina.

I really enjoyed attending these classes because it gave me some insight into the world of dance at the conservatory.  While I knew we had many talented dancers here, it was fascinating to see exactly what goes into nurturing that talent.  The students are driven, and the teachers know how to get the most out of the dancers.

Super Sabado With ¡Retumba!

Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts & Raíces Latin Music Museum
Join El Museo del Barrio
Target Free Third Saturday at El Museo

12:00 NOON

El Barrio/East Harlem – Harbor Conservatory for the Performing Arts, and the Raíces Latin Music Museum, at Boys & Girls Harbor, Inc. are pleased to join El Museo del Barrio for Super Sabado Target Free Saturdays on the third Saturday of every month. The next Super Sabado at El Museo is scheduled for Saturday, February, 20th from 11:00 am until 8:30 pm.  Highlighting the vitality of the Heckscher Building as a resource for Latino Culture and a destination for visitors, Harbor Conservatory and Raíces will be offering the following free programs on Saturday, March 20:

10:00 am – 11:00 am, Latin Dance Class for children 8-10 years of age in our 5th Floor Gym, taught by Jocelyn Duran.  Mambo, Cha Cha, Salsa and Merengue are just some of the dances that will be taught in this class.

11:00 am – 12:00 noon, Afro-Caribbean Dance for children 6-8 years old in studio 623 taught by Alma Cruz.  Accompanied by live drummers youngsters learn the dances of the African Diaspora in the Caribbean exploring the dynamics of movement and style.

12:00 noon – 1:00 pm, ¡Retumba! is a multi-ethnic all-female music and dance ensemble founded in March 1981 in celebration of Women’s History month. Interweaving traditional rhythms, beautiful ancient melodies, with its very own unique interpretation, ¡Retumba! bases its work on the music and dance of Africa, Europe, and its expressions in the Americas and the Caribbean -Puerto Rico, Cuba, and The Dominican Republic. ¡Retumba! brings forth the drama and excitement of world culture and traditions into a feast of folkloric music that can be enjoyed by everyone.

1:00 pm – 6:00 pm, Exhibition: Raices: The Roots of Latin Music in New York City, Raices Latin Music Museum Gallery on the 5th Floor. Explore the history and evolution of Salsa dating back centuries to its contemporary ties to New York.

Nina Gale Olson

Director of External Affairs

Fall Registration Newsletter!

Hello friends,

It is now September and the fall/winter semester at the Harbor Conservatory is almost upon us.  Registration and auditions for classes begin very shortly!  General registration begins September 8th and runs through October 31st.

Registration 2009

Without further ado, here is a rundown of everything coming up this fall at the Conservatory!

Dance Program Auditions


Auditions are being held for our LEAP Dance Program Friday, September 18th at 4:00 PM.  LEAP is designed for dance students ages 11 to 13, who are focused on applying to specialized high school dance programs. Applying students must have at least three years previous dance training. The LEAP Dance Program is a partial scholarship opportunity with a curriculum that includes: 4 hours of weekly dance training in Ballet and Modern, 1 hour of weekly training in Jazz or African Dance, audition preparation through practice auditions, quarterly progress evaluations from instructors, and counseling sessions designed to help students concentrate on specific areas of their individual technical development. LEAP classes are held on Fridays from 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and on Saturday throughout the day.  To register for the audition, please call Naomi Shimashita at 212/427-2244 ext. 553 or Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570.


Auditions for GESTURES will take place Friday, October 2nd at 4:30 PM.
GESTURES, now celebrating its 20 anniversary, is the pre-professional resident dance company of Harbor Conservatory. The ensemble is a performance workshop for students, ages 13 to 19. Five years of technical training is required in order to audition. Acceptance into the Gestures Dance Ensemble gives a serious dance student the opportunity to experience what it is like to be in a professional company. From challenging rehearsals to fully produced public performances. This is an intense, accelerated program. Only those with strong commitment and desire to pursue rigorous dance training need apply. Modeled after a professional company, ensemble members are required to attend: -weekly 3 hour rehearsals, participate in a full performance schedule and training includes: Ballet, Jazz, Pointe Variations, Choreography and working with noted professional choreographers. Gestures has performed at the Papal Youth Rally, Lincoln Center Out of Doors, Central Park SummerStage, Dances at Wave Hill, Aaron Davis Hall, HOSTOS Center for Arts and Culture and The Ailey Citigroup Theater.  To arrange to audition please call Naomi Shimashita at extension 553 or Nina Klyvert-Lawson at 212/427-2244 ext. 570.

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Theater Arts Auditions

Auditions for this fall’s Theater Arts Program at the Harbor Conservatory are Saturday, September 26th. Auditions for the Musical Theater Production are from 10AM-1PM, while auditions for the Theater Repertory Company are from 3-7PM. Please contact Program Coordinator Michael Awusie for more information at 212-427-2244 ext. 558.

theater arts description 2009

Apart from registration, there is some exciting unrelated news at the Conservatory.  Harbor Conservatory is pleased to announce that its Jazz Program is now under the direction of pianist and composer, Gustavo Casenave. Mr. Casenave joined the Conservatory’s faculty in 1997 teaching composition and Latin Jazz piano. Over the course of 20 years as an educator, he has lectured and conducted Master Classes and workshops at such prestigious institutions as The Juilliard School, New York University, Yale University, Berklee School of Music, University of Florida, University of Uruguay, Waldorf Schule in Austria, and Klagenfurt Music Conservatory also in Austria.

Gustavo Casenave Pic

Finally, Classical Music Director Martin Soderberg has been invited by the Tian Jin University in China to perform recitals of Spanish Music and conduct a series of lectures on Spanish Piano Music from October 10th to 17th.  This will be Martin’s first trip to China.  Best of luck to him on his adventures!

music 21

Check back tomorrow for a new “Did You Know” and Friday for an interview with new jazz program Director Gustavo Casenave.

Until then,

Daniel Schwartz                                                                                   Special Projects Coordinator

Michael Awusie Interview!

Hello friends,

This past week, I (“I” being Daniel Schwartz, Special Projects Coordinator at the Conservatory) sat down for the first of hopefully numerous interviews with one of the many dedicated members of our staff.  This week, the subject of the interview was Theater Arts Program Coordinator Michael Awusie.  Michael has been involved with the conservatory in some capacity now for over 15 years, and had much to say about his experiences both here and as a writer, actor, and choreographer in the outside world.  Here is the transcript from our discussion.

(D: Daniel, M: Michael)

D: Michael, how did you first hear about and become involved with the Conservatory?

M: It goes back to the mid 90s; my sister was a student here since she was 4 or 5.  Fast-forward a few years to when I was about ten and a half. I had no direction in my life, so my mom she put me in the drama program, which was run by Bertin K Rowser at that time.  I took classes and went on through the pre-professional theater program, took a dance class, the occasional voice lesson until I graduated high school and went off to college.  The director at the time, Daphne Richards, contacted me once I graduated about coming back and teaching part time.  So when I came back in the fall of 2004 I was an assistant instructor in the drama program, working on a part time basis.  I assisted the teachers, assuming more and more responsibility, and ultimately began teaching with the assistant title stripped.  It sort of coincided with Daphne Richards leaving, and I was still here so they were grooming me for her position in a way.   Then Darrell came on board and he was also in the department, and we’ve been working together ever since then.  So, this is my sixth year working here but my relationship with the harbor goes back a ways.

D: For more than half your life it sounds like.

M: Yeah yeah, wow.  Yeah wow.

D: Have you done/do you do much acting outside of the Harbor?

M: Yeah, yeah I’m currently a member of two companies, one with the graduate writing program at NYU and then a program called Pride Not Prejudice.  The graduate writing program is me and the other actors helping dramatic writers develop new works.  They write a scene, come in; often times we direct questions at them to help them make dramatic sense.  You know, where’s the conflict, things like that.  We perform it, and they get to hear it.  Even if it doesn’t work, they get to hear it doesn’t work.  So it’s really like a workshop for new writers.

Then, the pride and prejudice, we go into high schools around the city and we perform plays based on health choices, health choices you would make when you have a clear sense of who you are, how even in the face of peer pressure you’re able to stick with what you know is best for you.  The idea being that young people are savvy, and they have the information, have the access to the information but often times when you don’t feel good about yourself you make a choice that you think is going to make you feel better and sometimes that sacrifices your better judgment.

And then you know, I also just perform in random plays here and there.

D: Yeah, just kinda whatever comes up?

M: Yeah, auditioning and getting into plays on occasion.

D: What do you consider the most challenging aspect of working with young, aspiring actors?

M: Oh man… I can tell you when I first got here it was speaking in a language that was understandable and relatable to young people, coupled with the fact that because I was assisting I was working with students from all ages, which even now I do.  With the older students you can use language that’s closer to the language you would use in conceptualizing things yourself, but for four and five year olds you need to gear the language in a way that makes sense to them.  Not taking as much capacity in mind as they have for creativity, you have to speak in a language that makes sense.

D: What other challenges do you face teaching young students; such as getting the message across to them, issues with motivation and focus wavering a lot.

M: With any age there’s… being able to read the classroom and everyone in it. Everyone comes in with things they are dealing with outside the classroom; and yes you have your standard and expectations and they’re all high for each and every one of your students but you also need to be able to understand when your student is going through something that is new to him or her, something that he or she has never dealt with before and may not be dealing with so well, and may have carried some of whatever is going on outside inside the classroom, and they just don’t know how else to handle it.  You have to be sensitive enough to your students and to what their needs are and respond accordingly.  Create a classroom that is a comfortable and safe place for them to grow, explore, and deal with things that ideally they’d be dropping once they step into the threshold of the classroom.  But also in a long-term stance actually the class helps them address those things in their lives.  So creating a safe haven for them to be themselves is another challenge

D: It must be a really cool experience to see how they develop both as actors and people.  A lot of what goes into anything you’re passionate about influences who you become outside of that passion.

M: Right, because you take parts of you and put it into your artistry, it’s all connected.  You really have to grow as a person, you have to have experiences as a person, in order to bring something to the table when you’re creating the world of a play with other actors in a performance.

D: Ok my last question is: What do you like to do when you’re not acting and teaching at the Conservatory?

M: I uh… I like to write.  Right now I’m working on a novel.  It’s a fiction piece, loosely based on my own coming of age experiences and that of my friends, but there will be lots of departure points, so the characters will probably be a lot zanier than the real life versions of the people they were inspired by.

What’s been cool here has been working on certain projects with the school that’s required me to go out and write.  We like to use a lot of material that challenges our students and some of that material just isn’t appropriate content, so we all go out and create new dialogue, new lyrics, new something!  We can use the basis of that great piece but make it more relatable as well, and also content wise more appropriate.  That actually started to whet my appetite for writing for the theater, you know monologues and scenes.  Haven’t yet strung those things together to form a larger body of work, but I have been doing a lot of … writing.  You know, of people’s voices and having them talk.  What is there conflict?  How are they going about dealing with the conflict?

D: Always some sort of… artistic endeavor going on?

M: Yeah, but you know of course, beyond that..  just being 26 in New York City

D: That is never bad.

M: No, not at all.  I can’t imagine being any other place, or any other place like this at this age.

D: Absolutely.  So anything else you want to say to our blog readers?

M: I say that… being on the other side, you know I have been a student here and I had my moments where I may not have appreciated or understood how great this place is.  Here you have a place in East Harlem that is competitively priced, has instructors that are working artists who are actually in the field, are still honing their craft and have a lived experience that they can come back in here and use as elements in their curriculum.  This is a place where you have a dynamic amongst the faculty like a family, where everyone really cares about each other, knows what’s going on in each others lives.  It’s cool and everybody is just happy to be here, happy to come here.  I’ve been in work situations where people are just going through the motions, but this is a place where people are actually getting to live out their passion, making it possible for so many of these teachers to continue to do what they do on the outside, chasing their artistry.  And it’s also a way for the types of people who are teaching here to give back. So many people make it as artists in the performing arts world, but just a fraction of them give back and teach.  I’m in an environment where I’m surrounded by people like that, who have done amazing things but still have made a way to fit teaching into there lives, and I get to be around them and learn.

D: Well I guess that about covers it… Thank you Michael!

Michael Awusie Pic


Welcome to the Harbor Conservatory’s Blog!  In the very near future, this blog will become a forum for  up to date information on the Conservatory and will become another way you can interact and remain connected with us.  Stay Tuned!

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