When Real Life Becomes the Classroom

Mar 3, 2020

When it comes to takeaways from student travel, Jeff Dodd, a music teacher at St. Augustine (Florida) High School, prioritizes real-life information and authentic experiences. That why Dodd—who’s been teaching everything from winter guard, to piano, to choir and musical theater with the school for 34 years—was so drawn to the workshop opportunities with Broadway Classroom.

Dodd began traveling outside of Florida with his choirs in 1995. Since then, he has traveled extensively with the choir and the musical theatre program.

“I’d heard of this experience being offered but didn’t know how to include it as part of my trips prior to teaming with Apryl and Cory Black and Green Light Tours,” said Dodd, adding that more than 1,500 of his students have participated in Broadway Classroom workshops. “All trips have been funded by the students and booster organizations—and I’ve become an expert fundraiser and financial bookkeeper!”

The workshops from Broadway Classroom provide professional-level training in the musical theater arts for promising young artists, affording them the opportunity to study with current Broadway performers. Workshops such as Broadway 101, Musical Theatre Song and Movement, Stage Combat, and the Art of the Quick Change are among the many options available.

“The students love learning pieces and parts of shows that they’ve seen or will be seeing while on the trip—not to mention getting to hear about the teaching artist’s path to their profession,” said Dodd, noting these workshops have always been met with joy and appreciation from students. “We’ve performed for tourists and had some planned performances where the audience is made up of locals, tourists, and our friends and families.”

For other educators interested in participating in a Broadway Classroom workshop for the first time, Dodd says it’s important to not stress about the students’ level of performance.

“The teaching artists have the ability to read the room and know how to divide and differentiate the information so that all students are successful and feel encouraged and included,” Dodd explained. A highlight is that many workshops take place where actual Broadway auditions and rehearsals are held. “That’s a very cool part of the experience for my students!”

A common theme Dodd’s students always notice and mention about their experience is the feeling of being part of something bigger than yourself.

“It’s magical and surreal and creates an excitement for participating,” he said, adding that seeing his student’s joy and excitement is the most rewarding part of the trip for him.

“I love knowing that what I’m teaching my students is relevant to the current performing arts world.”

Written by Sarah Suydam, Staff Writer for Teach & Travel.

This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Teach & Travel.