Naperville, IL

(630) 243-5100

Same Programming, New Name! Academy of the Arts is now Illinois Conservatory for the Arts

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impact musical theatre

Session 1: june 10–14 | Session 2: August 5–9

Academy of the Arts School Coming to Naperville in 2025

Academy of the Arts

A new arts-focused school and center for the community will be coming to Naperville in the next few years.

“The biggest thing that was important for us was to find a community that’s very arts focused and Naperville having Century Walk and all these other very important arts institutions really stuck out for us,” said Dylan Ladd, co-founder of Academy of the Arts.

The first of its kind in the suburbs, Academy of the Arts is a non-profit that will be providing arts education to students in sixth through twelfth grade.

“The ultimate goal is to provide a place for students to really get that high level arts instruction, arts curriculum, connections to the professional world, understanding of the business world in the arts,” said Ladd. “But all of that without sacrificing their academic education and making sure that they have very strong academics too so that way when they leave they’re prepared to either be at the top of their game in the arts world or any other professional setting.”

The plan for the full academics and arts school is to have 50 traditional classrooms, aiming for smaller class sizes of around 15 students per class. They hope to eventually provide K-12 education.

The school will also have a black box theater, 1,200-seat auditorium, several dance studios, music classrooms, and recital halls.

“[We’re] also looking at some of the more innovative arts areas that aren’t focused in a traditional school setting,” said Ladd. “So we’re looking at things like having a TV studio within there so the students can really get into the media production side of things, a recording studio. And then a full set shop, costume shop.”

As work begins to build a curriculum, the school has created an artistic advisory board to help give them feedback. Those on the board include professional artists like Alex Lacamoire who was the orchestrator and music director for Hamilton and In the Heights, as well as 80’s artist Taylor Dayne.

Arts Center for the Community

The project also includes building an arts center for the community.

“The arts center is going to be really great because that’s one thing that the cultural scene of Naperville is missing right now is having this professional theater,” said Ladd. “And so we’re really excited to be able to create that space for the community.”

The plan is to bring professional musicians, professional theater groups, and touring acts to the area. Community organizations in Naperville will also be able to use the theater space.

A specific site for the around 200,000 square-foot building has not been chosen yet.

Ladd said they are looking at the average tuition cost of surrounding private schools to set a price. Financial aid to support students “from all financial backgrounds” is also in their budget.

The plan is for Academy of the Arts to open in August 2025.

session 1 • june 10–14, 2024

session 2 • August 5–9, 2024

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Tyler McKenzie / Dance

TYLER MCKENZIE has been a part of Hamilton since 2017. Other credits include – Broadway & National Tours: Matilda, Mamma Mia. He has a BFA in Musical Theatre from Western Carolina University and has served on many faculties and teaching staff around the country, including the Musical Theatre Faculty at Penn State University. IG: @tylrmckenzie

Melissa Foster / Voice

Melissa Foster is a Professor of Instruction in the Department of Theatre at Northwestern University, specifically teaching voice and topics in musical theatre such as Pop/Rock Vocal Style, and Pop Rock Musical Theatre. At Northwestern, she is the recipient of both the 2021 Galbut Outstanding Faculty Award and the 2022 Charles Deering McCormick Distinguished Professor of Instruction Award. She values her time inside the classroom just as much as she does outside, and simultaneously serves as 1 of 5 Faculty in Residence on Northwestern’s campus, mentoring students via their residential experience. When not at Northwestern, Melissa has been a Resident Vocal Consultant for LYRIC UNLIMITED (a division of the Lyric Opera of Chicago), and teaches for the CCM Vocal Pedagogy Institute at Shenandoah University. She has been guest faculty for Broadway Evolved, Artsbridge, Broadway Breakthru, IHSTA, ArtsLink and NATS. She has also taught countless masterclasses around the world. Highlights include: co-teaching a live-streamed, sold out masterclass with world renowned opera legend Renee Fleming and recent talks at schools and conferences in  San Diego, San Francisco, New York City, Ithaca, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Madison, South Bend, Goshen, Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, Birmingham, Palo Alto, Xi’an, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Foster has consulted for the companies of numerous National Tours, including Miss Saigon, Fiddler on the Roof, and A Bronx Tale, and has recently enjoyed consulting for pop/rock projects like working with the NPR Tiny Desk series and for the multi-Grammy winning band Coldplay. Her book, “Don’t Sweat the Technique; A Performers Guide to Hip-Hop and Rap” (Rowman and Littlefield Publishers) was released in November 2023. Foster currently lives in Evanston, IL, with her husband Matt Boresi, their daughter Vivian, and their 2 adorable bunnies, Cinna and Rue.

Kara Lindsay / Acting

Broadway: Wicked (Glinda), Beautiful (Cynthia Weil), Newsies (Katherine Plumber) Original Cast/ Fathom Events Film. NYCity Center: Once Upon a Mattress (Winnifred Standby for Sutton Foster). National Tour: Wicked (Glinda), Little House on the Prairie (originated Laura). Paper Mill Playhouse: Newsies, Jolly Holiday, Little House…Prairie. Sacramento Music Circus: Singin in the Rain (Kathy Selden). NCT: Mary Poppins (Mary Poppins).Kansas City Starlight: Cinderella (Cinderella). Kansas City Rep: Cabaret (Sally Bowles). 5th Avenue: Lone Star Love (Miss Ann Page). Geva: A Christmas Carol(Belle). TV: Murphy Brown”ABC’s “Schoolhouse Rock! 50th Anniversary Singalong”ABC’s “The Disney Family Singalong: Volume II”, Tony Awards, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. BFA Carnegie Mellon University. Huge thanks and LOVE to my friends, family, Stewart Talent/ Industry Entertainment. @karalindsay1

Brittainy Barattia / Casting

Brittainy joined the Gray Talent Group as an Associate Agent in July of 2015. She now heads up the Chicago tv/film/commercial/VO departments.  After earning degrees in Theatre Arts and Psychology from the University of Iowa, she began her career in theatre, working in the fields of fundraising and production and stage management. In tandem with her work in the field of performing arts, Brittainy worked in the aviation industry, during which time she learned that there truly is no place like sweet home Chicago. Brittainy is delighted to be part of the performing arts community and is thrilled to help showcase the amazing talents of the actors at Gray Talent Group.

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