The Quintero Family has called Lynchburg home with their three sons for fifteen years now. Heather and Josh have always enjoyed bringing their family to the Academy for various shows and events, but it wasn’t until two years ago when their youngest son joined the Academy Youth Theatre program that they really got involved.
Elias, fourteen at the time, had tried sports and other activities, but nothing was quite the right fit for him. He disliked the competitiveness of these teams, so when his mom eventually talked him into auditioning for Frozen Jr. two years ago, he was glad to realize that some teams can actually work together towards a common goal.
“As he got more and more involved, he just fell in love with it,” says mom, Heather Quintero, “A lot of that is due to the camaraderie of the kids participating in the camps, they have become an extended family for him.”
WATCH BELOW: Heather Quintero on Academy Youth Theatre
Elias was joined in the Academy Youth Theatre by his two cousins, Wes and Oliver, in the fall of 2021. “I think they were all shocked by how much they loved it,” voices Heather. Wes and Oliver, Heather’s nephews, have a parent with a terminal diagnosis. She states, “TheAcademy has been this place where they can get away from everything happening at home and just be normal.”
With this being the case at home, the pandemic was anything but easy on the Quintero Family. But once it was safe enough, the Academy was able to open doors and hearts back up to the Quintero’s as well as the rest of the Lynchburg community.
“I couldn’t be more grateful for the implemented safety measurements that allowed for classes and camps like AYT to continue happening despite COVID-19,” said Heather. “We always felt safe with Elias attending and the fact that the Academy took it so seriously made the difference between whether Oliver and Wes could continue theatre.”
When asked about her time working with the three boys, Education Manager, Kelli Johnson praises them. “Elias, Wes, and Oliver are a joy to work with,” she states, “They do not back down and are driven to learn and adapt and roll with whatever is asked of them and I appreciate that.”
Johnson continues, “For Oliver, Peter and the Starcatcher in October 2021 was his very first show. I have seen him grow so much in 2 months! We could barely hear his voice at auditions and he said he wasn’t sure about even being there, but then to love it so much that he came back to do a musical was huge!” “For Elias, wow I have seen him grow,” says Kelli. “He works so hard, is encouraging to others, and really desires to be own his character.” “I just met Wes this fall as well doing Peter and the Starcatcher, his comedic timing and courage on stage are infectious and I think he inspires the other kids around him.”
WATCH BELOW: Heather Quintero on what the Academy has done for her family
Elias, Wes, and Oliver all just closed on Peter and the Starcatcher this past October, and are all currently in rehearsals for Elf the Musical which opens in December. “When Elias started doing drama, he found his people, and that is not something you can replace,” concludes Heather, “That’s really the role of the Academy in the Lynchburg area, it’s irreplaceable as far as opportunities, relationships, and just beauty in general.”
Education Manager, Kelli Johnson, states, “Theater for me was always a place anybody could go, anyone, no matter race, gender, belief system, etc., they could go and feel safe and heard.” Kelli continues, “Our program’s goal is not to build the next Broadway star, our program is to develop stronger community citizens, enrich our students with new stories to tell, and enable them to use the skills they learn in everyday life: in the classroom, at their first-time job, or interacting with others on a daily basis. ”
WATCH BELOW: Heather Quintero on what she loves about the Academy
The Academy is built on creativity, a mutual understanding that there is no heart in our theatre without art. Without you, your art, and your support – we are just a building. We want you here and we need you here.
There are artists in all of us, whether it be creating, performing, or participating, your presence within our organization is invaluable. The Academy seeks to create a home to all of those who find themselves in Lynchburg, continuously encouraging them, reminding them what art and life are truly about.
Though Lynchburg might feel small at times, it is quite the opposite. There is so much life and vibrancy within the 434, and art can be found in our city in the smallest of ways. Maybe you see it in the cracks of light that shine between buildings or hear it in the melodic sounds of a Hill City Keys piano playing outside, you can even sometimes taste it in that first bite of concessions popcorn in the Historic Academy Theatre. No matter where or how art inspires you, we will always make certain it is found within the walls of the Academy Center of the Arts.
You are our greatest advocate when it comes to the arts in Lynchburg and beyond. Support your local arts center today by donating to our 2021 Fall Campaign or renew your Annual Membership and be a part of what the Academy will become in 2022.