Students build their performance skills—and self-confidence—at The Performing Arts Conservatory

by | Aug 2, 2023

An after-school program focused on the performing arts is opening for another season, and it’s not too late for students who want to grow their skills in dance, drama, music or choral to enroll.

The Performing Arts Conservatory, at 7160 Shadeland Station Way behind Castleton United Methodist Church, works with youth in grades 6 through 12—no experience necessary.

“We come together as a team,” Executive Director Bridget Townsend said. “Our instrumentalists, singers, dancers, our theater folks: They all work together and create a wonderful program.”

TPAC Students Take Ownership Over Performances

The weekly practices lead to a showcase each year, which the students not only perform, but own, in the sense that they’ve written and designed the show themselves to highlight issues they care about.

“We invite the youth to be part of this: How are we going to perform this topic, how are we going to put it to music and theatre—how will we tell your story,” said Townsend, whose husband, Dr. Robert T. Townsend, founded the group and serves as artistic director.

“We really want to hear what these kids are saying, what’s happening with their lives, and how we can make their lives better.”

The group’s most recent showcase this summer, “Generations: Mend the Gap,” focused on communication.

“What they wanted to say was, ‘Our parents are not listening. We’re trying to tell them something, but they just shut us off.’”

The production dealt with bridging the generation gap. The students wrote the music themselves and produced the showcase with the adults helping—not dictating.

“This is healthy and positive: They had a message for their parents, but they weren’t trying to be negative. It’s about how to talk with each other.”

One year, the students tackled the issue of mental health and depression. Out of that came “1 IN 5,” a show they wrote, including all the music and staging.

The title refers to a startling statistic from the Indiana Youth Institute, which found 20 percent of Hoosier 10th graders, 1 in 5, had considered suicide.

The students used their art to show how high school students deal with life problems, peer pressure, depression, and other issues.

“That’s what we do every year—we get the kids involved,” Townsend said. “It’s not just an adult speaking to youth, they are speaking to each other.”

At TPAC, Students Are Seen for Who They Are

This is a non-judgmental environment, which gives the members confidence in growing their creative skills.

“One of the things that our parents and the youth say all the time is that they feel like they’re in a safe environment where they are not judged,” Townsend said.

She calls it a supportive family-oriented approach that lets the students know their voices are heard and parents know that their child is seen. Townsend remembers what she heard from one student who had been at a program elsewhere in the city.

“He told his mother, ‘Mom, they see me here. At the other place, no one spoke to me.’”

Adults work with the students, encouraging their self-confidence and creativity and guiding them in positive directions to become better people.

“We have some of the best facilitators I’ve ever seen,” Townsend said. “We show the students how you can use your creativity to really bring joy to this world.”

The semester began Aug. 6, and rehearsals are on Sundays from 3 to 5 p.m. Auditions—which are held to assess skill levels, not to eliminate people from participating—ended Aug. 2, but the program may still be accepting members. “Go ahead and contact us,” Townsend said. “We may still be able to get them in—either in August or have them start in January. We want them here.”

Follow The Performing Arts Conservatory on Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube, or learn more on their website at

Want to help?

The Conservatory is always looking for facilitators in the areas of drama, vocal or choral, and they love it when someone arrives with piano or strings skills. They also need volunteers in production, costuming, backgrounds—ushers, too.

Other programming:

TPAC does a summer camp for children in grades 6 through 8 in the third week of June.

Upcoming shows:

Nov. 17-19: “A TPAC Nutcracker” — “A jazz-infused performance” of the traditional holiday favorite. See the website for details.

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