When Emma Mathes first participated in The Smith Center’s Camp Broadway program five years ago, she had no idea it would lead to her singing and dancing for a national audience in New York City.
Yet that’s just what happened in November 2017, when the 15-year-old Las Vegas resident enjoyed the life-changing opportunity to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
“I’ve grown up watching the parade, and to actually be there in New York, marching in the parade was just a very surreal experience,” Emma says.
This was made possible by her participation with Camp Broadway, The Smith Center’s summer youth theater program that trains youths ages 6 to 17 in singing, dancing and acting with top theater professionals.
Beyond boosting her confidence and her love for performing, the camp provided Emma with the chance to represent the national Camp Broadway organization in the parade televised for 50 million viewers.
Alongside seven other Camp Broadway participants from Southern Nevada, Emma performed with more than 100 children from similar programs across the U.S.
“It was amazing,” she says. “It motivated me to keep working hard and to pursue what I love.”
Taking the Spotlight at Camp Broadway
When Emma first gave Camp Broadway a try, she found it impacted her in more ways than she could have predicted.
She embraced the excitement of learning musical theater skills and putting on a real show in Reynolds Hall at The Smith Center.
The camp also nurtured team building and helped her make a lifelong friend.
“The people at Camp Broadway are just so supportive,” says Emma, who continues to participate in the program every year. “They really create a family environment that encourages you to develop talents you didn’t even know you had.”
A Rare Audition Opportunity
Emma jumped at the chance to submit an audition video for Camp Broadway’s musical theater number in the Macy’s Parade.
The performance specifically served as a tribute to the armed forces. This meant a great deal to Emma, whose father Mike is a squadron commander at Nellis Air Force Base.
“It meant a lot to me to see these kids from all over the country from military families unite for the sole purpose of honoring the men and women who protect our freedom,” she says.
When Emma learned she was chosen to perform, she adds, she was “overwhelmed with excitement.”
Performing in the Parade
Emma’s six-day experience in New York City was a whirlwind, she says.
This included full-day rehearsals led by experienced Broadway performers.
“It was very cool to get tips and advice from them,” she says.
The day of the parade was epic, with Emma performing in the energetic ensemble for thousands of cheering spectators.
“As we marched along, people would start chanting ‘USA!’” she remembers.
Her trip also included special New York experiences like watching the Radio City Rockettes and taking in Broadway shows – one of which even featured a backstage tour.
“I was so excited I cried,” she remembers. “Camp Broadway really is a family, and to be part of this family is something I’ll cherish forever.”
Enrollment is now open for The Smith Center’s Camp Broadway program!
Shining Stars Camp for ages 6 to 9 runs July 9 to 13. Mainstage Camp for ages 10 to 17 runs July 16 to 20.
To learn more or to enroll your child, click here.
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