What the BYU Young Ambassadors Taught Me

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I just received a new video of history of the original Young Ambassadors that I performed with.  I wanted to share.  Incredible timing. 

BACK STORY  

On October 18, 2019 I will be sitting in the audience watching the annual SPECTACULAR in the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah! It’s a huge collaboration of the many performing arts programs at my Alma Mater, Brigham Young University, including The Young Ambassadors.  Many of them just returned from a landmark tour to China where they appeared on national Chinese TV multiple times.

I was privileged to have been a founding member of this renowned Young Ambassadors group that represented the United States Department of Defense on a diplomatic mission through the USO.  I’m in the first scene at Osaka and in the final frame of this video sitting on the wing of a plane. 

Years later I was delighted to have taught in the Music Dance Theatre Department for a short time, where many of the students have gone on to the professional world of Broadway, Disney Cruises, Disneyland, Disney Japan, Disney World, Opryland, Las Vegas and Hollywood.

Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Young Ambassadors, and because of what I learned while performing all over the world, I still feel YOUNG and my perspective of the importance of the performing arts will be forever changed.

THE INTERNAL-EXTERNAL ARTISTIC TUG OF WAR

Being in the arts can become a self-focused endeavor, because YOU are the product you are marketing.  It’s tough to keep your sense of self worth when you don’t get cast in the show you had your heart set on.  And then, after you do get cast, with so much applause, it then becomes tough to keep your overgrown self-worth from turning into pomposity and narcissism, money and greed, fame and power in ways that can actually be harmful and corrupting.

Being on stage on this diplomatic mission taught me that my talent can be used for the greater good in the world around me, and it can even help ease tensions.  It was all about SERVICE – INSPIRING and UPLIFTING others. 

Being on stage in New York and in Dallas and on a national tour taught me that it’s all too easy to take that bow and lose sight of just how much power and influence for good – or ill- we as artists have in the world.  

But because I had the prior experience, when I walked out onto that stage, I reminded myself that there just might be someone in the audience that my performance could pull out of depression or some sadness from a personal or professional loss.  It was far more exhilarating than being self-focused.  “How am I looking, singing, acting” was not on my mind.  The outer-focus that gave me a MISSION during that performance naturally eliminated any concern or doubt about how I was looking or acting and had the effect of catapulting me beyond any talent I might have developed.

And this external focus – still works for me today.    

The world is in constant turmoil, but I have a hope and a dream for this young generation that they will come to know who they are by serving others with their talent.  It is my wish for them that no matter the challenge or the disappointment or the inequity of life they may encounter, that they will rise above it and overcome.  It is an attitude of avoiding victimhood – to shrug off what may be said or done to hurt their feelings, but to develop a fortitude and a resolve that no matter what, “I will be a VICTOR, not a victim.”   It is my vision that they will learn how to turn adversity to ADVANTAGE and opposition to OPPORTUNITY.

Because everything has its opposite.  Without opposition we cannot become strong.  It’s all good.  

THE YOUTH AMBASSADORS

I’m directing a talented group of young people again for the purpose of channeling their talents to be ambassadors for GOOD wherever they go throughout their lives.

I’ve affectionately named them after The YOUNG AMBASSADORS….Yep.  A deliberate, direct steal.  They are the YOUTH AMBASSADORS. 

YA’s for short.  It’s a musical theatre program in which the students learn the basics – voice technique, song interpretation, movement, acting, audition technique, and much more.  And then they get to perform it. 

We are only in the first few weeks of getting to know each other, of learning and in a short time memorizing new songs that they’ll perform in December on stage at the longest running family theatre in the round – the Glendale Centre Theatre.

I have been contemplating my trip to Utah this weekend and suddenly in my inbox came this video.  It brought back all the memories of my experience with The Young Ambassadors and how we worked together to create something brand new way back when.  It has became the core of the Music Dance Theatre Department.

And what perfect timing! Now I get to share with you what this part of my life has been all about over the years.

Oh, and by the way, they’re singing one of the songs the Youth Ambassadors will be singing in December (who isn’t?!  It’s got a much-needed message in this troubled world.)  I hope this one inspires you!

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