Change is Good

Two recipients of the W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship share how being a part of the program is helping them change for the better.

For dual-enrolled Florida Virtual School and Polk State College student Emma Barker and Osceola County School for the Arts student BJ Granville, the W. Daniel Mills Apprenticeship has given them a supportive environment that allows them to try new things.

Barker was already volunteering at the theater’s summer camps when she auditioned for the apprenticeship. Growing up dancing at her mother’s studio and helping run classes, Barker says she became interested in the education-track apprenticeship because it allows her to take part in one of the most diverse roles in all the performing arts—teaching. 

“I love working with elementary kids. It’s really fun,” Barker says. “I’ve found that there is no better way to sharpen my own skills than by teaching. Plus, I get to see the kids light up and fall in love with performing. It’s something special to be a part of.”

While Barker enjoys teaching, she continues to hone her craft by singing, dancing, and acting in Garden Theatre productions. She and Granville recently performed in Encore, a medley of musical theater which featured Tony Award Winner Kelli O’Hara.

For Granville, who began as a dancing major at his performing arts school, versatility is equally important. He added a vocal performance minor three years ago to round out his skillset. 

Working under the tutelage of Garden Theatre’s artistic director Joseph Walsh, Granville says just being able to work with professional performing artists has helped him grow.

“At school they know me but working with a whole new set of directors and performers gives me a fresh start where I can learn more as well as showcase what I can do,” Granville says.

Both Granville and Barker have high goals but remain pragmatic. They say they will continue their performing arts studies in college. Barker hopes to move on to the University of Central Florida’s performing arts program after she finishes her associate degree at Polk State. Granville says he will likely begin his college career at a Florida school but has designs on finishing his education at Boston Conservatory or a school in New York City. 

Barker says she wants to shoot for the stars and takes comfort in the fact that her mother taught her to not let her insecurities stop her. “My mom always says, ‘what have you got to lose? If you go to an audition and you don’t get the part, you’ve at least gotten your name out there, networked and learned something from it. You might have a good cry, but it’s always ‘on to the next audition.’”

Granville also plans to chase his dreams and maintain a go-getter attitude.   

“I know I have to have a plan B and I do: I could do TV or modeling or something else, but I really want to work on Broadway,” Granville says. “My parents have always been supportive of me. I think the most important thing is to not just talk about it, but to get out there and do it.”

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Written by Tarre Beach

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