Miss Renee comes from a very diverse background that includes being a director, choreographer, teacher, performer, writer, and mom! Renee has been teaching for over 18 years and has been the Artistic Director and owner of Front & Center for Performing Arts in Springfield, NJ for the past 8 years. She teaches all disciplines as well as directs and choreographs F&C's many productions. Renee's students have been seen on Broadway, in National Tours, and have won numerous awards at Competitions all across the state and Nationally. Renee is extremely proud of the many achievements of the students at the studio and feels extremely blessed to have everyone at F&C as a second family! As a director and choreographer, her credits include productions of 13, Thoroughly Modern Millie, RENT, Beauty and the Beast, Working, Once On This Island, Godspell, CATS, Into the Woods, Seussical, The Pajama Game, and Annie.
Renee began her ballet training at the Rochester City Ballet in Rochester, NY. She began training in voice and acting at age 10. After graduating from the Rochester School of the Arts, she attended NYU's Tisch School of the Arts. There she earned a BFA in drama with a minor in Dance Education. She is an Associate member of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society and a long time member of the Actor's Equity Association.
She has attended as well as taught at many teacher-training programs including Dance Masters of America, Leap 'N Learn Teacher Training, Finis Jhung's Ballet Training, Broadway Dance Center's Teacher Training, Dance Teacher Magazine's Teaching Summit, NYCDA, Rhee Gold's DanceLife Convention, and Broadway Teachers Workshop. A specialist in teaching Musical Theatre for young children, Renee is the author of Leap 'N Learn for Musical Theatre (www.leapnlearn.com), a young children's curriculum which is currently being sold and taught at studios and colleges worldwide. Renee is a teacher's teacher as well and has presented at many teacher conferences including The Dance Teacher Summit in NYC and Leap 'N Learn conventions across the country. She is currently working on a new book for Leap 'N Learn; a curriculum for Musical Theatre Summer Camps for young children.
In her past life, she was seen on Broadway in The Wizard of Oz, as Rumpleteazer in the National Tour of CATS and at numerous regional theatres including Paper Mill Playhouse, Walnut Street Theatre, and numerous others professional theatres across the country. Renee has a true passion for sharing her love of musical theatre with children of all ages. At home, she enjoys singing show tunes with her three young children, Celeste, Lucas, Thomas and her incredibly supportive husband, Michael (whom she met in a children's theatre group when she was 11 years old!)
Laura Byrne holds a B.A. in Theatre from Kutztown University and has been involved in all aspects of theatre. While performing in college Laura was nominated four times by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival for the Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship. Laura focused on Children's Theatre at Kutztown and toured Pennsylvania with a Children's Theatre Company called Sunshine Players. Through Sunshine Players Laura was able begin a theatre program, and direct productions at both Kutztown Middle and Elementary Schools. Laura has Stage Managed numerous shows at Front & Center over the years as well as assisted on productions at The Summit Playhouse This summer she taught at Triple Threat and Broadway Bound camp at FNC. Laura currently teaches at Passiac Arts and Science Charter school where she is developing a charter school performance Competition. She is also directing a production of Jungle Book as well as directed a very successful production of Once On This Island last year. Currently working on her masters in Curriculum and instruction at Caldwell College Laura has also been an assistant director on Thoroughly Modern Millie at Bergen Arts and Science Charter Middle/High School 2012. Her Students have performed at the Garden State International Heritage Festival, and at the annual Arter Charter at NJPAC. Laura truly feels a part of the Front & Center Family and is excited to watch all of the students here grow and learn.
Teresa is a graduate of Drew University, where she studied theater, playwriting and stage managing. She has been an Administrative Intern for Rising Sun Performance Company and a Literary Intern for Lark Play Development Center. She has taught playwriting and theater games/improve to high school students in Newark as part of an after-school program, inspiring her passion for arts education and introducing theater to the next generation. Teresa has also worked at George Street Playhouse in Patron Services and at Sundance Production as a Production Assistant/Office Assistant in NYC. From stage managing to organizing playwright festivals, Teresa's passion is theater and supporting artists.
She is thrilled to be joining the Front & Center family and watching little artists learn and grow!
Matthew Deming (Voice) is a graduate of Boston University's School for the Arts, where he studied vocal performance, piano, and oboe. He has been teaching private voice for over nine years in Boston and New York, and is happy to be joining Front & Center Family! Musical theater credits include: The Visit with Chita Rivera (Signature Theater), A Christmas Carol (Trinity Repertory Company), James Joyce's The Dead (Huntington Theater Company), Floyd Collins (Speakeasy Stage Company), Showboat, Bells Are Ringing, JC Superstar (Allenberry Playhouse), Kiss Me Kate (Carousel Dinner Theater), Joseph... (Ogunquit Playhouse). He has music directed and played piano for several productions including: Annie, Grease, Kiss Me Kate, Into the Woods, Hello Dolly, and Music Man. Recordings include: Santa Claus is Coming to Town , Allegro. He is a regular singer with the New York Philharmonic, American Symphony Orchestra, Musica Sacra, the Bard Music Festival, the Mostly Mozart Festival.
In addition to teaching ballet, pointe and coaching at Front & Center, Lynne Grossman is on faculty at New Jersey Ballet, Montclair State University's dance department, and since 2005, is a guest artist at the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts in Denville, NJ. She also serves as adviser and guest teacher at Dance Institute in Austin, TX. In 1993 she received the College of Fine Arts Teaching Excellence Award from the University of Texas at Austin. Ms. Grossman studied extensively with Fred Danieli and is a protégé of renowned master ballet teacher Gabriela Darvash. She danced with the Garden State Ballet, Israel Ballet, Austin Ballet Theatre, Sharir Modern Dance Company, and the Texas National Dance Theatre in Austin as co-founder and director of the Dance Theatre Academy. Ms Grossman danced principal roles in classics such as The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, and Sleeping Beauty, and performed Balanchine works including Serenade, Symphony in C, Concerto Borocco, and Valse Fantasie. She also performed works by choreographers Doug Verone and David Parsons and many original works by contemporary artists. At Radio City Music Hall, Ms Grossman performed in over 300 shows as both a ballet and jazz dancer. She has taught extensively in the NJ area and nationally, including five summers at the South Carolina Governor's School for the Arts, catering to gifted young dancers.
Miss Lynne has had the pleasure to teach and help design and nurture the Ballet/Dance Program at Front & Center since its inception. It has been a rewarding and joyful experience every step of the way. She's our biggest fan!
Back at F&C, Chris Hale, currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center NYC, is Associate Director of :pushing progress and Director of the :pushing progress contemporary training program, which launched in the fall of 2009. Through his work with :pushing progress Chris and his partner Calen J. Kurka are at the helm of a revolution in the way we train dancers. Through incorporating anatomy and varied methodologies for sustainability and injury prevention, they hope to bring a sophisticated level of information into the lives of every dancer who has the drive and passion to grow as an artist.
Professional credits include KTU's miracle on 34th Street where he performed with such recording artists as Mary J. Blige, Deborah Cox, Tamia, Gloria Gaynor, and Michael Jackson. In 2002 he got the pleasure of performing with international singing sensation Anastasia at the FIFA World Cup Final Draw in Busan, Korea. Television credits include HBO's "Sex and the City" playing opposite Kim Catrall. He along with fellow instructor Calen Kurka, released an instructional video for the Live At BDC series entitled, "Floorwork, with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale." In the summer of 2004 he debuted a collection of never before seen works entitled "CollidE (with me) at Brooklyn's Williamsburg Art Nexus "WAX" in three evenings of sold out performances. Since then his work has appeared throughout New York in choreographer's showcases such as "The Turning Point" at NYC's Puffin Room, and "Envision This" by Enfocus Dance.
Most recently his work has appeared in the :pushing progress "Showcase Series" started by Calen J. Kurka as a means to bring a wide range of choreographer's together in the shared vision of creating a memorable dance experience. As a choreographer he will continue to create work that pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance and hopefully bring it to the mainstream in a way that is accessible to everyone. His more than two years experience with the GYROTONIC® methodology has hugely influenced his teaching and brought a heightened awareness to his own dancing. Chris is very excited to add GYROKINESIS® to his teaching. Chris is an ABT® Certified Teacher, who has successfully completed the ABT® Teacher training program.
Sharon Hockstein is originally from New York. She received her Ballet training at the School of American Ballet, and studied on scholarship at the Joffery Ballet School and with Robert Denvers. She danced many leading roles in the School of American Ballet Workshop performances, such as George Balanchine's Serenade and Concerto Barroco. Sharon danced professionally with The New York City Ballet performing at Lincoln Center, touring the West Coast, Saratoga Performing Arts Center, and Jacob's Pillow. She was also a Guest Artist with other choreographers and Ballet companies, performing as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Dew Drop in the Nutcracker.
Sharon also choreographs the Musical Theater productions at French Woods Festival of the Performing Arts. Her work there includes Seussical, On The Town, Kiss Me Kate, Les Mis, Urinetown, Nine, and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum. Sharon truly enjoys passing on her knowledge and love of Ballet to future generations of dancers. She has been teaching for over 15 years and is thrilled to be a part of the Front & Center family.
Kevin Kern has starred on Broadway in Wicked (Fiyero), The Wedding Singer (Standby for Robbie Hart), and Les Miserables (Marius). Most recently, he performed at the opening of the Culture Square Theater in Shanghai, China and then returned home to do a concert tour of the upper-Midwest. He also recently picked up the family and traveled to London, where he was a part of the West End cast of Hair. Other travels have taken him to Los Angeles where he was in the Pre-Broadway production of 9 to 5 The Musical and across the country in the National Tour of The Music Of Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Closer to home, he has performed several times in the smaller New York venues of Off-Broadway. He was in the original Off-Broadway production of Next To Normal at Second Stage Theater as the standby for Dan and Dr. Madden, played Woody in Finians Rainbow at the Irish Repertory Theater, and was a swing in the original company of Altar Boyz, where he performed all five roles.
When he's not working in New York, Kevin has performed in some of the many regional theaters the U.S. has to offer. He has performed across the country in such venues as The Papermill Playhouse in New Jersey, The St. Louis MUNY, Sacramento California Music Circus, The Virginia Opera, The Signature Theater in Washington D.C., North Shore Music Theater near Boston, and Theater Under The Stars in Houston Texas. He has also performed at the world famous Carnegie Hall. He has made several appearances on television on The Today Show, The Rosie O'Donell Show, and in commercials.
When Kevin is not working in a show, he travels all over the world doing concerts and corporate events. He's recently performed all over the U.S. and many Caribbean Island, traveled to Chile and Argentina, Singapore and Tokyo.
Kevin originally moved to New York city to attend New York University where he earned a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance. He and his wife, Megan Lawrence, have three kids...and one on the way! Kevin looks forward to getting to know the students at FNC.
Thrilled to be returing to F&C, Calen was raised in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, Canada, Calen Kurka started his training in Jazz, Tap, Ballet, Musical Theatre, Modern, and Chinese Dance. He then later moved to Edmonton, Alberta, furthering his training competitively. Currently on faculty at Broadway Dance Center in New York City, as an instructor Calen has taught across Canada, the U.S. and Japan, and more recently in Ireland at Dublin's Dance Jam '07. He is currently instructing for Dance Masters of America as one of their Master Faculty, and is also on faculty with Dance Educators of America. His choreography has been recognized as outstanding at many competitions throughout the U.S. and Canada, and has been the recipient of many awards.
In addition to teaching in and around New York he's also assisted choreographer, director, instructor, Michele Assaf. Calen's performing credits include being an original member of the first national tour of Jeff Amsden's widely acclaimed "A Few Good Men Dancin'", and performing with recording artist Carmella in a tribute concert to Cher. He's also worked closely with choreographer/instructor Chris Hale. As a featured performer, Calen's stage credits include having spent a year on contract with Tokyo Disney as a Main Stage performer, and taking on such leading roles as Capt. Von Trapp in "The Sound of Music" and Seymour in "Little Shop of Horrors" in regional stage productions. In addition he can be seen in "The Live! at Broadway Dance Center" video series "Turns and Turn Combos", dancing with choreographer Danny Herman, and heading his own instructional video "Floor Work with Calen Kurka and Chris Hale": A new addition to the "Live at BDC" collection.
As founder and Artistic Director of :pushing progress a company, Calen hopes to continue his journey as an artist, instructor and choreographer. He wishes to inspire, and be continually inspired by those who so honestly give of their talent and themselves. He continues, with his company, to create work pushing new movement, strong technique, honesty, emotional commitment, and growth. It is an evolutionary journey with no boundaries, no limits, no ends.
Calen was a 2012 Nominee for the prestigious Capezio ACE Awards (Award for Choreographic Excellence) in NYC for up and coming choreographers.
Winner of the Payne Award for Outstanding Featured Actor in Music Theatre, James most recently appeared as Mark Cohen in Rent under the direction of Jose Zayas. Some favorite credits include Henry in Next to Normal, Abraham in Altar Boyz, and Cosmo Brown in Singin' in the Rain. Select on camera credits include ABC's Primetime: What Would You Do?, A&E's Fugitive Chronicles, and Nickelodeon's Mega Music Festival. Favorite classical performances include Rossini's Stabat Mater and Bach's Magnificat. A fan of singing and vocal pedagogy, James can be heard on the CD that accompanies the new book, Singing Exercises for Dummies by Dr. Pamelia S. Phillips. A graduate of the NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts, James is happy to share his craft and passion for singing with the students at Front and Center.
Julie has spent her life in the arts, performing as a dancer and actress since she was a child. At age 9, she was given a full scholarship to the prestigious San Francisco Ballet, but chose to stay in her native Houston, where she performed with the Houston Ballet. She later went on to perform with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. She toured the U.S. in West Side Story, Dick Clark's American Bandstand and State Fair, which later transferred to Broadway. Not only did Julie appear on Broadway in State Fair, but she also served as the assistant director, working alongside James Hammerstein. It was while working on State Fair that Julie decided that she wanted to begin a career as a director/choreographer. She was the associate director on Abby's Song at City Center and then went on to direct sold-out productions of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Footloose,Carousel, The King and I and the acclaimed Morrison, off-Broadway. In 2009, Julie was ordained as an Interfaith Minister after studying for 2 years at The New Seminary in NYC. She has served as an art therapist abroad under the auspices of the United Nations where she incorporated song, dance and theatre to help children overcome severe trauma in war torn and disaster ravaged countries.While her interests may be diverse, one of her greatest passions is teaching children to dance and instilling a love of the arts that will carry through to adulthood. She is thrilled to be a part of Front and Center and can't wait to get to know everyone!
Ryan Scott Oliver is a 2009 Jonathan Larson Grant recipient and wrote the music and lyrics for Mrs. Sharp (2008 Richard Rodgers Award Winner, at Playwrights Horizons July 2009 starring Jane Krakowski, dir. by Michael Greif), Darling (Pace New Musicals 2009), the song cycle Out of My Head, Quit India (commissioned by UCLA), and the music for Angus Oblong's The Debbies. A collection of his work, Rated RSO, was recently seen at Joe's Pub, where it will return January 2010 following an engagement at the New York Musical Theatre Festival (NYMF). His work has also been heard on the hit YouTube TV show The Battery's Down ("This is Your Life" among others) and in showcases presented by Summer Play Festival (SPF), The York Theatre, Goodspeed Musicals, William Finn & Barrington Stages, New York Theatre Barn, Monday Nights New Voices, and the Festival of New American Musicals in Los Angeles.
Currently he is the Executive Director of the Pasadena (PUSD) Musical Theatre Program in California, produces The Spotlight Cabaret in New York City, and is at work developing a commission by Broadway Across America as well as We the People for TheatreWorksUSA, directed by Alex Timbers, which will premiere Off-Broadway in 2010. B.A. Music Composition, UCLA; M.F.A. Musical Theatre Writing, NYU-Tisch, a proud member of A.S.C.A.P. He is currently represented by Jessica Sarbo at The Gersh Agency. Ryan has taught voice and musical directed numerous productions across the country. Last season, Ryan musical directed both Working and Once On This Island here at Front & Center. He is very excited to be sharing his professional knowledge with the students at Front & Center on a weekly basis as a permanent member of the vocal department.
Shannon is thrilled to be joining the Front & Center family! After studying at The Boston Conservatory of Music, she moved to New York City to become an actress, singer and dancer. Some of Shannon's credit highlights include: The National Tour of Grease (Sandy) starring Cindy Williams and Eddie Mekka, the National Tour of Ragtime (Evelyn Nesbit) and the National Tour of Cinderell (Fairy Godmother). She has also worked regionally in many productions including: Jekyll and Hyde at Gateway Playhouse, Ragtime (Evelyn Nesbit) at North Shore Music Theater and Sacramento Music Circus, Kiss Me Kate (Kate) North Reading Music Co. On television, Shannon had a reoccurring role on All My Children for over five years. She's also made television appearances on The Conan O'Brien Show and Entertainment Tonight. Shannon was born and raised in Newport, New Hampshire and was honored to be Miss New Hampshire and represent her home state in the 1994 Miss America pageant. She currently resides in Maplewood, NJ, with her husband Michael and their daughters Skye and Cashlyn. Shannon's been a performer her entire life and looks forward to sharing her passion for performance with everyone at Front & Center!
On Broadway, Eric appeared in Annie Get Your Gun (Tommy Keeler), Aida (u/s Radames), Sweet Smell of Success (u/s Dallas), 42nd Street (u/s Andy Lee), Sweet Charity (u/s Vittorio Vidal and Big Daddy), A Chorus Line (Frank/ u/s Don, Mike, Greg, Bobby, Ritchie, Al, Mark, Paul, & Larry), Cry-Baby (u/s Cry-Baby), Pal Joey (u/s Joey), Rock of Ages (Primo, Mayor, Ja'Keith, etc...), Priscilla Queen of the Desert (u/s Tick/Dance Captain), and most recently The Mystery of Edwin Drood (u/s John Jasper and Neville Landless). He also was a featured dancer in the City Center Encores productions of Anyone Can Whistle and Fanny. On tour, Eric played Tommy Keeler in Annie Get Your Gun, and Paul in A Chorus Line. Eric has appeared on several Tony Awards telecasts, a few Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades, The View, The Today Show, The Rosie O'Donnell show, danced in a nation Dr. Pepper commercial, and also starred as "Kyle" in the indy-film, Moving Mike, which was featured at the Williamstown Film Festival.
Eric served as the Dance Captain for the Broadway production of Priscilla Queen of the Desert and as Associate Chroeographer for the Papermill, North Shore, Atlanta TOTS, & Houston TUTS co-production of Seven Brides for Seven Brothers with acclaimed chroeographer, Patti Colombo, in which he also appeared as "Frankinsense." Eric
Eric received his BFA in Musical Theatre Performance from The University of Cincinnati's College Conservatory of Music (CCM) in 1997. While at CCM, Eric appeared as the Emcee in Cabaret, Will Parker in Oklahoma!, Giorgio in Passion, Billy in Something's Afoot, and Man1 in And The World Goes 'Round. Teaching and mentoring students for years, Eric has taught workshops and masterclasses for The Broadway Classroom, Camp Broadway, and Broadway Artist Alliance in New York City, and he's been a special guest teacher at Mercyhurst Preparatory School in Erie, PA, and CCM in Cincinnati, and as a guest judge for OnstageNY. In 2006, Eric began directing and choreographing with the Wake County/Broadway Series South production of Elton John and Tim Rice's AIDA, featured 40+ highschool students from 8 local schools in Raleigh, NC.
Kendal Sparks is thrilled to be joining the Front & Center family! A Musical Theatre performer and teacher based in New York City, Kendal has taught young people of all ages in New York, Washington, D.C., Miami, and Nicaragua. In addition to teaching voice, he also teaches private piano lessons and gives vocal coachings. As a performer, Kendal has been featured as a guest artist on multiple albums of children's music with Grammy-winners Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer. He has been a featured soloist at the Kennedy Center, the St. Louis MUNY, and various venues in New York. Kendal is a proud member of Actors Equity Association, and a graduate of the University of Michigan's Musical Theatre BFA program.