American Idol hopefuls being groomed in Richmond

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) – A new American Idol was crowned, Scotty McCreery! That means tryouts for next season are just months away. But just how do you get ready for a career as an entertainer? One local organization can help your kid do just that.

The School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community, or SPARC, has been training students for 30 years now. A few of their alumni have already made it big!

If you have dreams of super stardom, you could take those first steps toward your goal, right here in your own backyard. A local non-profit is taking dreams and turning them into reality and all of the students here have dreams of making it big!

"I plan on being a performer," said SPARC student, Courtney Jamison. "I'd love to be on Broadway. I'd love to be in movies, on television."

17-year-old Jamison has been with SPARC for six years now. Being a part of the school has gotten her one step closer to being able to live out her dreams.

"When I first started I couldn't even sing by myself," said Jamison. "I didn't have the guts I guess to do it but I can get up now and perform for everybody and have confidence in myself."

And she's not the only one. The school is full of students who aren't just learning about the performing arts, but skills they need to make it in life.

"Each year we serve over 1,500 students throughout the region," said SPARC executive director, Ryan Ripperton. "About 300 of those are enrolled in our regular performing arts classes here at SPARC or some of our satellite locations."

"Deb Clinton is actually my mentor," said Jamison. "She's absolutely amazing."

With the help from trained teachers, these young women and men can see themselves becoming the next star of shows like, "The Voice".

"It can give you a presence," said SPARC student, Daniel Pippert. "SPARC really helps you find that spark. I used to be very shy and I used to be very self conscious about myself on stage and SPARC really helped me to open up and just be me on stage and off stage."

And on stage this 16-year-old hopes to take his dreams to Broadway.

"We try to make tuition as affordable as possible and we also have an extensive financial aid program that gives students who might not have the opportunity otherwise free tuition so that they can explore their dreams in the performing arts," said Ripperton.

SPARC classes are divided into three semesters, fall, spring and summer and run anywhere from two to 12 weeks. All are after school from four to seven and the list of students who have graduated from the school is impressive.

"Jason Mraz, Grammy award winning recording artist. Emily Skinner, a Tony nominated Broadway actress. Clay McLeod Chapman is a professional playwright," said Ripperton.

And the list goes on and on. These students had one tip for anyone dreaming of superstardom.

"Practice. Practice. Practice practice and practice," said Ripperton.

"Hopefully you'll see me on the big screen one day," said Jamison.

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