What is CYT? Travis Russell (and a video) explain.

You may have seen the new What is CYT? video circulating around the webiverse recently. It’s an awesome look into the CYT program as a whole and highlights kids from Affiliates around the country having a blast putting on various productions. It sort of makes me wish I was under 18 again.

And while many people had a hand in making the film, I sat down with the guy who ultimately put all the pieces together: Travis Russell, CYT Inc’s Director of Communications.

Travis, break it down for me – technically speaking, why are videos a good idea?

Videos have a much greater impact connecting with people. If you look at the analytics for different mailers, posts, and pages that contain video, its engagement is easily 3-5 times higher than content without video.

A few CYT Affiliates had been asking for quite some time for a short video that would act as a “teaser trailer” to explain what CYT is. With the Spring 2014 shows quickly approaching, the time seemed right so I sifted through hours of footage and selected the best clips.

The video is super rad and I know it took a lot of work from a lot of people. Let’s give credit where credit is due.

Most of the footage came from CYT Lafayette and their amazing videographer John Rabalais from Focus Productions. Some of the footage was from Corrie Cooper from CYT NYC, and CYT San Diego. I did most of the editing which was fairly easy due to the great “CYT Theme Song” written by CYT Inc’s own Renee Kauffman.

I know nothing about making a professional video. Take me through the process.

First, using Final Cut Pro 10, I laid down the music track and marked any key music changes that needed to be on beat. I laid in the clips we selected and then trimmed each transition. The hardest part for me, not being skilled with words, was coming up with concise, explanatory text. Being simple with your text is hard.

Yes, it is. Thank you for acknowledging. Continue.

I previewed the whole video a few times making little tweaks and changes. Once it’s done you have to export it, upload it, and share it with the world. I can only watch it a few times before I go crazy wishing I had more time to make it even better.

Spoken like a true creative.

The hope is to one day be able to curate quality footage from all CYTs so everyone is represented. I hope to make many more videos about CYT so we can really get the message out about why arts education and teamwork are so important.

Thanks for the insights, Travis!

You can watch the video on YouTube, and then head over to CYT Inc’s Facebook to share it with your network of peeps.

New Face: CYT New York City’s Corrie Cooper

Corrie Cooper is an oxymoron. She may be a new face to CYT, but her roots are from Kansas City, where she’s acted alongside CYT KC’s AD Gina Milbourn. She’s the perfect combination of what a CYT Artistic Director should be: new, but already-knows-how.

Cooper is currently the Artistic Director of CYT New York City. She graduated from NYU/ CAP21 studio, with a B.F.A. in Drama and an emphasis in Musical Theater, and has appeared regionally in over 25 musicals. Her experience and strive for Godly character, are qualities she brings to CYT NYC.

You may remember seeing Cooper tap her heart away on stage at CYT’s Got Talent last year at the 2012 Expo. She believes her athletic background (she played field hockey growing up) strengthened her as a dancer. Aside from her appreciation of dance, her love for the stage has always been present since the early days. Over Christmas break, I chatted with Cooper to find out more about her journey to CYT.

Tell me how CYT New York City came into being.

I am originally from Kansas City. Several of my cousins were involved with CYTKC and had a wonderful experience. I have known Gina Milbourn, Artistic Director of CYT KC, since the age of 12 when we performed together in a community production of “Annie” (I played Annie and she played Lily St Regis). I’ve been in New York City for over 15 years now after finishing my education with a degree in Drama (emphasis Musical Theater) from NYU.

It was during college that I deepened my relationship with God and re-focused my perspective on what is most important in life…namely learning God’s will for my life, getting to know Him through His Word and living as both a disciple of Jesus Christ and disciple-maker. I have continued to develop skills on both the production and performing sides of theater in NYC while making my own character development a priority.

CYT NYC is the fulfillment of a prayer to God from about 10 years ago.

I prayed that someday I would be able to run theatrical workshops for young people that focused on biblical character and values. I also wanted to work with Laura Gimpel, a fellow NYU classmate and co-laborer at church for many years. In God’s perfect timing, He has allowed those prayers to be answered through CYT NYC! Also, Laura Gimpel agreed to become CYT NYC’s Managing Director and continues to be a good friend and valued business partner. Yay God! (Psalm 84:11).

How did CYT NYC’s Fall Session go?

We had 2 areas of classes (NYC and Northern NJ) and 4 CYT@school programs running in our first Fall Session!

How do you forsee CYT NYC impacting the community?

CYT NYC offers families an opportunity to gain the benefits of theater arts training (which can translate to corporate presentations, leading teams, public speaking, etc.) while developing biblical values, self-esteem and character. Our standard is not just excellence in our craft, but excellence in our character before God. That dual focus is lacking in the theater capital of the world and is badly needed to develop effective leaders of tomorrow. We’ve heard several parents say “I’ve been looking for/praying for something like this!” I believe CYT NYC can impact groups of young people who then can impact others.

Do you see it quickly spreading like wildfire?

Our focus is on quality. If we are able to impact and help develop 10 kids, great! If word spreads and we can impact and help develop 100 kids, great! We are very prayerful that God will help us to manage our growth effectively in the coming months and years. We are also mindful not to get discouraged with curve balls or “set backs.”

This is God’s project and we will expand or contract as He leads (Psalm 127:1). Of course, there is the possibility that it will spread like wildfire, but I would almost rather experience slow and steady organic growth, because quality and integrity is so important to maintain. Our staff and teachers are developing and we need time for that.

You have been performing since the age of 3. Did you know then that you were born for the stage?

Well, my mom was a music teacher and we started doing mother/daughter concerts at a very young age. My first professional theater role was as Molly in “Annie” at around age 6. Performing certainly seemed natural and I had the capability to do it, but I don’t remember ever thinking I was born for the stage (that’s what other people tell you…haha…).

Apparently, I kept asking to be involved in theater, so my parents graciously obliged. In general, I enjoy learning, so theater arts always gave opportunities for learning and challenging myself in new and different ways.

You are still involved with the dance faculty at CAP21. What is it about dance that you love?

Tap is creative and musical, while demanding precision and coordination. It’s also fairly athletic. I was more athletic than a dancer growing up, actually – field hockey in the fall and the musical in the spring. Tap shoes are basically musical instruments with infinite possibilities in terms of creating.

As a teacher, I love the strategy of trying to help students master any step they try and encouraging them to keep learning, setting them up for success and having fun in the process. I would certainly say my niche as a dancer is with tap – it’s an overall good fit for me.

Find out more about Corrie Cooper at her website, corriecooper.com

CYT NYC at Summer Streets!

CYT NYC staff and local volunteers teamed up last Saturday to give a taste of CYT to New Yorkers!

We were invited to provide 30 minutes of stage programming for kids in Manhattan’s Financial District at the 5th annual Summer Streets Festival. Summer Streets is sponsored by the NY Dept of Transportation and opens up nearly seven miles of New York City’s streets for recreation (ever wanted to zip line through the skycrapers?) and local entertainment (like us!).

During CYT NYC’s stage segment, passers-by stopped to learn portions of popular musical theater numbers including “You Can’t Stop the Beat” and “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.” A few participants even chose to brave the stage and join the CYT NYC Team, performing a final showcase for their friends and family.

Onlookers smiled from ear to ear and bounced to the beat as the excitement and fun spilled off the stage and into the streets!

CYT NYC is especially thankful to God for providing great weather despite the forecast for rain.

Seeing the enthusiasm of all involved on Saturday has heightened everyone’s anticipation for the launch of CYT NYC’s inaugural fall season of classes and our first show, “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown.”

Happiness is… experiencing CYT!

View more photos from the event at CYT NYC’s Facebook Page.
Contributed by CYT NYC