Conservatory expands to teach more students
May 20, 2006
When seven-year-old Christine Bishop entered the Park City Arts and Music Center (now renamed the Utah Conservatory) four years ago, she suffered from severe diabetes, ADD and asthma. Her mother, Helen, took her to the doctor weekly for asthma symptoms. Four years later, Christine shows almost no sign of the asthma and ADD that plagued her.
Dr. Fredric Cook, the executive director of the conservatory, believes her healing came from the heuristic method of training she received at the school. It’s a philosophy that utilizes positive reinforcement.
"We have no criticism here, it’s not part of what we do," Cook said. "We are focusing their attention on their uniqueness. We really train people to focus their attention on something outside of themselves."
In Christine’s case, Cook said that helping her focus her attention that way actually removed many of the symptoms of ADD. Learning how to sing also taught Christine how to breathe correctly, this stopped many of the symptoms of asthma and she has never visited a doctor for this problem again. But it wasn’t just her health that found success. Christine is now in the San Francisco Conservatory, a school that only admits 11 students per year. She is singing with the girl’s chorus and symphony in San Francisco.
She’s not the only success story either. After concerts, Cook said, "people come back and say ‘where do you get these kids?’ They’re just off the street. It’s not where they come from but what you do with them when they get here."
David Fuller, the conservatory’s fifth student, entered the program nine years ago without being able to sing an aria, a highlight of an opera.
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"I’m doing opera classics now," Fuller said.
He can now sing Nessum dorma by Giacomo Puccini, a difficult and rangy opera.
Michelle Parker, an autism student that entered The Conservatory in the sixth grade, wasn’t able to attend a public school.
"She was so introverted when she came here that she couldn’t sing out," Cook said.
That changed soon. She learned music quickly, won singing competitions and was admitted to a public school within a year.
"She was wonderful," Cook said. "She was such a joy."
When Cook and his wife Debra came to Park City almost a decade ago, they looked for a music store. When they found none, Fredric said to Debra, "Well, I know why we’ve moved here. After we started, the teachers came out of the woodwork."
The Conservatory is a non-profit organization that has a goal of being able to teach any student regardless of their affluence. The founders want to promote maturity, creativity and self-esteem; and to provide professional and vocational instruction, which also supplements school district and private studios’ resources.
The Conservatory expanded last month to include 11 practice rooms. They have 18 music teachers that instruct the whole gamut of music.
"I think right now we don’t have a harmonica teacher," Aaron Mitchell said with a grin, the faculty administrator and co-founder of the conservatory.
Today is the start of open registration for summer and fall courses and lessons. Students should register early so they may have priority for courses and times.
From June 26-30, it will offer a week of recreational singing and activities for school-aged kids, and then will have performances during the week of July 4 around local festivities, including a Mountain Town Stages event. It will also offer the second annual College Bound Singers Camp August 2-5. The camp will feature workshops and classes to support singers towards matriculating and succeeding in a college career. The camp is held in cooperation with The Utah Symphony and Opera and the Deer Valley Summer Music Festival.
The Utah Conservatory recently expanded their studios to serve more students. Open enrollment for summer and fall courses begins today. To enroll in any program or for other information call the Utah Conservatory at (435)649-6292. The Conservatory is located at 1612 Ute Blvd.