Meet the shining stars of YAA

The Young Artists of America at Strathmore (YAA) are presenting Beauty and the Beast featuring Blake’s very own, junior Natalya Jimenez, senior Joel Zinkievich, and senior Joseph Lee! 

Beauty and The Beast will be live in concert in the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda on Saturday, March 28 at 3:00 pm. Tickets go on sale in February, and the show is only performed once! The show promises to be great, given the fact that they had guidance from songwriter and music conductor, Alan Menken who was the composer of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, and Beauty and the Beast.

YAA is an audition-only association that contains performance ensembles that are shown throughout the school year, and provide students with special opportunities to collaborate on large scale productions of music theatre. Their students are given the opportunity to work alongside leading professional mentors from Broadway and beyond.

One might wonder how Blake’s students received such an opportunity. These students had motivators that pushed them to be in YAA. Jimenez mentions that her sister played a role in her future YAA success. She says, β€œ She loved watching people who had the same interest as her succeed and enjoy their time.” She continues, β€œSeeing all [the] talented people from around Maryland made me excited to meet those who have the same passion I have in the arts and the same talent level to compete with.”

Lee, however, chose YAA for his chance to see past productions. β€œ They’ve been so incredible, polished and entertaining.” Not only did he enjoy viewing their productions, but he also enjoyed watching his friends enjoy themselves too. β€œI also have friends who have done both stage company and the orchestra. They had great experiences, so I wanted to join them.”

Students in YAA didn’t all necessarily have training when they auditioned, some recently started perfecting their skills. Jimenez says, β€œI have been singing since I was [about] 5 years old, but I only started training fully this year.”

Although these students also star in the shows at Blake, YAA shows give them a different experience. Jimenez mentions, β€œAlthough I’m more featured in school shows and it’s a good performance opportunity, YAA gives me more of a chance to improve and work with professionals in their craft.” She also mentions that through YAA, she has received access to more opportunities and met successful composers like Matthew Morrison, Shoshana Bean and Kristin Chenowith.

YAA shows are more than just performances, they’re musical theatre pieces. The acoustics in the theatre change the feel and experience for the performers. Jimenez expresses that, β€œ[performances are] accompanied by an orchestra. So performing with live music gives me a bigger and nicer performance space and feeling.”

Not only does YAA give these students a different feel but it provides later advantages in their professional life. Jimenez states, β€œ YAA has definitely allowed me to have more professional opportunities because [they] work with other big stars that have agents, scouts and more professionals that are looking for someone they think will have a chance in a future performance space.” The association has also allowed the different skill sets levels between people to be acknowledged. β€œ The competitive nature shows the top people to be really good and show their level of talent,” Jimenez says. 

Beauty and the Beast promises to be an amazing show that we’re all looking forward to. We look forward to seeing our Blake stars Natalya Jimenez, Joseph Lee, and Joel Zinkievich shine!

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