Disney awards $100,000 grant to Wharton

Posted at 2:57 PM, Feb 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-15 14:57:15-05

Wharton Center for Performing Arts has been awarded a $100,000 grant from Disney to bring the Disney Musicals in Schools program to Michigan. Wharton Center is one of only four arts organizations in the nation and the only one in the State selected this year to collaborate with Disney Musicals in Schools. The program is an outreach initiative developed by Disney Theatrical Group to create sustainable theater programs in under-resourced elementary schools.

Wharton Center chose four public elementary schools (grades 3-5) from eligible applicants for the 2015- 16 academic year. The selected schools are Lewton and Post Oak Elementary, both in Lansing and Doyle Rider and Holmes STEM in Flint. The after-school program is free to these participating schools.

Each of the schools will take part in a 17-week musical theater residency. Wharton Center and Disney Theatrical Group have trained and assigned Wharton Center teaching artists, who will conduct the afterschool sessions. Performance rights, educational support materials and guidance from the teaching artists will be provided at no cost to the schools. The teaching artists’ roles are to help produce the chosen Disney musical by working with educators to create a sustainable theater program in these schools.

The programs will culminate in a Disney KIDS musical at the school site. Disney KIDS musicals, created in partnership with Music Theater International (MTI), are about 30 minutes in length and have been adapted from the classic Disney stories 101 Dalmatians, Aladdin, The Aristocats, Cinderella, The Jungle Book, The Lion King, Sleeping Beauty, and Winnie the Pooh.

On May 31, 2016, Wharton Center will host a Student Share Celebration, where each school will have the extraordinary opportunity to perform a selection from its show on Wharton Center’s Cobb Great Hall stage for an audience of fellow students, family members and friends.

Because the $100,000 grant will support two years of programming, another four schools will be selected next year. Disney Musicals in Schools helps keep arts programs in schools and utilizes the unique world of musical theater to build positive relationships among students, faculty, staff, parents and the community. Students work in teams to develop and restore self-confidence, and to strengthen communication and collaboration skills, all while learning and enjoying the process of creating a musical theater production.

Disney Musicals in Schools was launched in response to Disney Theatrical Group’s concern that low-income students in urban public schools were not afforded equitable access to the arts. After successfully offering the program in New York City schools, Disney Theatrical Group began partnering with organizations in other communities around the United States. Learn more at