Lynden Performing Arts providing learning opportunities for diversity of student population

There’s a role for everyone in the Lynden Performing Arts program. Whether a line in the fall drama at Lynden High School or dancing in the ensemble cast of the LHS spring musical, Tina Miller, director, finds a home for students wanting to participate. 

“We always make sure we have large ensemble parts and even for the dramas, we have written in parts so students can get lines,” Miller says. “I haven’t had to cut for the drama, it has worked out to give kids a line. We find a part for everyone, no matter what we are doing.”

As participation continues to grow in Lynden Performing Arts, Miller, who has led the program for a decade, can now select even bigger productions. This November’s fall drama, Anne of Green Gables, incorporated 50 Lynden students. The high school’s spring musical will likely give around 70 students an opportunity to get involved. And that doesn’t even count the spring musical at Lynden Middle School.  

Through it all, the Lynden students gain not only an opportunity to be involved, but a wealth of learning opportunities. Miller says, “There is a lot that people don’t realize,” everything from public speaking skills to the mathematics involved in keeping a beat and timing during musicals. There is teamwork, dealing with different personalities and even physical activity. “I have had football players say the dancing is tougher than a football turnout,” Miller says. “There is a lot of things that people really don’t know.”

From language and literature to stage presence and from confidence building to problem-solving, the list just goes on. During rehearsals, Miller has the students working on improv games so she can teach the students that if something goes wrong on stage, this is how you fix it and you must go on so that nobody knows. “It applies to life,” she adds. 

The musicals really bring together the most students. Last spring’s Newsiesmusical had 52 students in the cast, another 10 on the stage crew and eight on the technical crew, with even a few in the orchestra. This year’s Guys and Dollsspring musical will likely reach 70 students participating, especially as Miller is looking to incorporate more students into the orchestra. 

No matter the interest, Miller says “we put them in a part we know they will have success in so they can build confidence and grow.”

While that holds true for the different roles in the cast, having a stage crew, technical team and orchestra allows for an even greater mix of interests and personalities to be a part of something. “We couldn’t do it without them,” she says of the crews. “It is definitely a full-round program. Some kids just don’t want to be on stage but are involved in another group. Theater is one of the most accepting groups there is. It doesn’t matter if you are the smartest or most physical, we accept everybody as they are.” 

With the rise of the technical aspects, from computer projections and digital lightboards and soundboards requiring computer programming, more students are getting interested in the technical aspects. Miller has students helping build the set and stage and all of the painting and set design is now done by the students, inviting artists to get involved. 

“We’re just as big as a sports team or any other extracurricular event and I think people are starting to realize how important theater is to so many kids,” says Sarah Brossow, the lead in last year’s Newsies and 2019 LHS graduate now attending Grand Canyon University in Phoenix. “In the past, the program has had to work really hard to be noticed. Now, I think people are becoming aware that we aren’t going anywhere. It’s a good feeling.”  

The opportunities provided through the Lynden Performing Arts program is about more than learning a play or a musical, it is about creating an environment where students learn, grow, succeed, overcome and accomplish. And they do it together.