Michael McElroy knows the healing power of music. And under his leadership, Tisch drama students at the New Studio on Broadway were able to share their own gift to lift the hearts of children battling pediatric cancer and their families at a special concert at Ronald McDonald House New York last night.
An acclaimed Broadway star, Tisch Associate Arts Professor McElroy began his involvement with Ronald McDonald House New York as founder of the gospel ensemble Broadway Inspirational Voices (BIV), which unites talent from all over the Great White Way and beyond. For four years, BIV has met with children and their families in order to compose original songs that are then performed at an annual concert.
Since 2010, when Tisch’s New Studio on Broadway was founded, McElroy has opened up this experience to his students, where a select group of students are chosen to perform a unique composition. This year’s song, “Ronald McDonald House New York,” written and composed by McElroy, was rehearsed by students on their own time.
“It’s just an incredible experience because you can really see how much they appreciate it,” said Tim Sampson, a senior at the New Studio who performed with the group for the second year. “Once you’ve done it once, you want to do it again and again.”
Indeed, some of McElroy’s group include recent alumni who come back specifically to take place in the BIV Ronald McDonald House New York concert.
“I’ve done this since 2010 and I will keep coming back,” said Taylor N. Daniels (B.F.A, ’14). “It inspires the children, but it also inspires us.”
In addition to “Ronald McDonald House New York,” Thursday’s program included five original compositions by celebrated lyricists such as Tisch alumnus Steve Lutvak, winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, and Tony Award winning composer Brian Yorkey, who co-wrote a song with popular music star Sting, with whom he is currently collaborating on Broadway with The Last Ship.
"We’re tremendously fortunate to have somebody like Michael teaching our students, not simply because of his undeniable talent, but because he's teaching them to give back to the community through art,” said Allyson Green, Dean of the Tisch School of the Arts. “Our students gain something of deep value through this -- both in professionalism and in heart.”
In each musical number, the children and their families were invited on stage while performers sang a song written exclusively for them, based on previous meetings they’d had with the artists. Each performance is videoed for each family so they can relive the performance long after the concert is over.
“Experiences like this are invaluable to the health and well being of these children and their families,” said William T. Sullivan, president & CEO of Ronald McDonald House New York. “When you’re battling cancer, hope and encouragement can be the strongest medicine.”
Since 2011, together with Broadway Inspirational Voices, Tisch students have performed for more than 30 children at their annual concerts. And in future years, Dean Green and McElroy hope to expand Tisch’s involvement to encompass other programs within the school, including film and dramatic writing.
“A lot of us are who we are, pursuing our dreams, because someone took an interest in us,” said McElroy. “So it’s crucial that we give back to others, and we do that through the thing that touches us the most, which is music."