‘Disgracefully the arts have too often borne the brunt of shortsighted cuts to educational budgets’ – Andrew Lloyd Webber
Stealing the stage at the 2016 Tony Awards last night (12 June), the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation (ALWF) announced it is to award USD1.3m (€1.15m) to the American Theatre Wing (creator of the Tony Awards) for its newly-launched Andrew Lloyd Webber Initiative.
The grant will establish a scheme to help talented students overcome economic barriers to pursue a career in theatre. It will also provide state-school drama teachers with the resources they need to bring on talent from their classrooms.
Ring-fenced for three years, ALWF’s largest single grant in the US plans to redress the effect of extensive funding cuts on arts education in US state schools – something the foundation pinpoints as creating vast inequalities between schools in wealthy and poor districts.
Theatre education is now offered in just four per cent of primary schools and 45 per cent of secondary schools, whilst the recent Americans for the Arts report highlighted how African-American and Hispanic students are receiving less than half the access to arts education than their peers.
Said Andrew Lloyd Webber: ‘I am passionate about the vital role of the arts in education. My career started in schools with Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, premiered by a college in both Britain and the US.
‘Disgracefully the arts have too often borne the brunt of shortsighted cuts to educational budgets. I am thrilled my Foundation can join with the expertise of the American Theatre Wing to launch this initiative and provide resources to those who will benefit from them the most.
‘However, it is vital that we keep this going for years to come and I call upon other successful musicians and theatre professionals to come forward and join this initiative. Together we can nurture the talent of the future and bring the empowering force of music and the arts to a new generation.’
The money will fund school resources such as instruments, dance floors and lighting grids; extracurricular training scholarships to cover the costs associated with sending selected students to summer study and after-school training programmes; and a number of four-year partial university scholarships for selected students wishing to pursue theatre studies at university.
The initiative comes ahead of The American Theatre Wing centenary in 2017.