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Mosaic Youth Ensemble

Detroit, MI
Capital: Cultural, Personal, Human

The Mosaic Youth Ensemble, part of the Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, serves 100 students from 50 schools and four counties in the metro-Detroit area. The program consists of vocal music, acting, or technical theater. Students must audition to be included in the program.

Students in the Youth Ensemble, primarily African-American students coming from economically diverse backgrounds, work with directors, professional actors, writers, musicians, and designers with the expectation that their work meets college standards. Students rehearse a minimum of two weekday nights and a weekend day. The participants are involved in writing the play, composing the music, and designing and building the set. Their self-esteem builds due to the responsibilities they are given and the relationships they build with staff.

The program serves the community by presenting a full season of plays and concerts. Mosaic Youth Ensemble also makes an intentional effort to connect to the community. To celebrate Detroit's 300th birthday in 2001, students created a play about Detroit in the 1940s. Students had to interview someone who was a teenager in the 1940s. They interviewed their own grandparents, nursing home residents, and members of senior organizations. Other students visited the Museum of the Tuskegee Airmen and learned what it was like to be an African American in the Air Force during World War II. All of these oral histories were woven into a play and presented at Detroit's Music Hall, where 7,000 people attended the production in one weekend.

The program also demonstrates continuity. So far, the all-teen performances have toured 25 states as well as Africa, Asia, and Europe. In the first year of programming, the budget was $24,000. During the course of 14 years, the budget has risen to $1.2 million and Mosaic Youth Theatre now has 19 full-time employees.

In addition to learning about the performing arts, participants also receive career and college counseling. In an area where only 44 percent of the high school graduates go on to college, 95 percent of Mosaic Youth Ensemble participants begin college programs.

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