The Performer's Academy

by Kellie Abrahamson
All parents want their kids to be well-rounded and making that happen can take its toll. After a full day of school comes the extra-curriculars: soccer practice, ballet class, music lessons, tutoring- the list goes on and on. Driving from location to location becomes an exhausting exercise that quickly impacts the wallet, thanks to ever-rising gas prices. It was this all too common dilemma that inspired Kathryn Umberger to open the Performers Academy, a new performance center that offers acting, dance, voice, music and fitness training all under one roof.
“I have three girls who are all interested in the arts and you feel like you’re a chauffeur,” Uberger explained during the Academy’s grand opening last month. “My girls, at seven [years old], they still want to try things. They’re trying the piano now… they’ve tried ballet and they want to do rhythmic gymnastics, they love tap, they want to do jazz, they want to do belly dancing, they want to do acting, they want to do modeling- so you end up going to all these different places… [Here] you could come in and say ‘My daughter has a ballet class, I want violin lessons for my son at the same time’ and make one stop. To me, as a mother, I’m all about time management. I think it’s a wonderful way to save time and gas.”
Located at 3674 Beach Boulevard, the 7,000 square foot facility is already home to more than 20 instructors, most of which moved their established businesses into the building after seeing the genius in Umberger’s plan. The Jacksonville Centre of the Arts is now at the Academy and is teaching ballet, jazz, tap and hip-hop classes. The A.C.T.I.N.G. Coach, a school for aspiring actors, is right down the hall helping men, women and children break into film, television and commercials. A peek into another room might show the instructors from Titus Performance Fitness holding a belly dancing, Pilates or yoga class. Wander a bit further and you’ll find the new home of the Suzuki Piano School of Mandarin (now the Suzuki Piano School of Jacksonville). Most of these businesses have been successfully helping Jacksonville students achieve their potential for over a decade on different sides of town. Now they’re all in one place, working together to build something completely unique in our community.
In addition to dance, acting, fitness and piano, the Performers Academy also offers private bass and violin lessons from members of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and modeling instruction courtesy of the Kezia Rolle Model & Talent Agency. Other classes on the horizon for the center include voice lessons and audio/video production. And, while helping kids reach their goals is a big part of what the Academy is all about, there are plenty of classes for adults as well, allowing people of all ages to benefit from this unique environment.
Even parents and siblings of Performers Academy students will find something for them at the center.
“If you come with your six-year-old to take a class and your eight-year-old has homework, a lot of times your kids are just sitting there complaining and whining,” said Umberger. “We have a place they can do their homework that has an internet connection. We’ve got TVs, we’ll do resource centers with different DVDs, we’ll do private classes and tutoring.”
The Performance Academy is hosting several summer camps this year including the Cooper Morgan Dance Intensive, PointClickMagic photography camp, Broadway Bound Musical Theatre Camp, Top Model Camp and Taste of the Arts, an opportunity for kids to try a variety of art forms in one fun-filled week. Prices range from $160- $200 depending on the camp you choose and include lunch and snacks.
It’s clear that Umberger and the rest of the Performers Academy team have created something truly special that will have a great impact on Jacksonville families. Children who attend will learn to excel in their chosen activities and Mom can go back to being a parent instead of a taxi driver. That’s a win-win. For more information about the Performers Academy visit or call 322-7672.