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Performing arts academy opens on GB

What the founders hope will be the first step to a school dedicated to the performing arts, communication and basics such as deportment and etiquette, has opened its doors in Freeport.

The Reginald Michael Sheppard (RMS) Academy, which opened September 12, was co-founded by Liselle Harris-Russell who serves as the center’s performing arts director; Pakeisha Parker-Edgecombe, former MP for West Grand Bahama and Bimini, as communication and broadcasting director; and playwright Sue-Lynne McCrea as theater and curriculum director.

“The academy is named in honor of my brother who is now deceased,” Harris-Russell said.

“He was a lawyer and an avid orator who spoke to many young boys about the importance of being a gentleman. He was also a member of many clubs and he was a musician.”

Harris-Russell is no stranger to the performing arts.

She founded the Young Adults Regency Drama (Y.A.R.D.) group in 2012, which teaches people ages 18-35 the basics of theater operation and production.

Speaking of her background in the industry, she said, “I am called a theater baby. I’ve directed major plays and musicals such as Annie, Sister Act, Greece, etc.”

Courses in acting, set design, script design, puppet theater, and more will be offered in the area of performing arts and directed by Harris-Russell, while the communication and broadcasting course will offer classes in “Introduction to Public Speaking”, “Effective Listening and Critical Thinking”, “Speech Writing”, and “Conflict Resolution”, which will be directed by Parker-Edgecombe, who Harris-Russell is certain will be a great fit for the institution.

“She will help to build confidence in the students, help them to speak confidently and properly,” Harris-Russell said.

“This is very important because foundations of the RMS include communication and broadcasting with concentration on public speaking.”

Parker-Edgecombe worked for more than 15 years in the communication and broadcasting industry as a reporter and anchor at ZNS North before entering politics.

She said, “It is our aim to introduce new methods of reaching children, many of whom are timid and need assistance with effective communication.

“We want to help them express themselves and help develop conflict resolution skills. This part of the program also includes technology. We know that due to technological advancements and social media, communication is not happening anymore. Therefore, we want to enhance the human connection.”

In addition to performing arts and communication, RMS will offer etiquette classes in dining, grooming, business, and more.

Harris-Russell believes this type of training is important to ensure that children know how to speak, eat and conduct themselves appropriately in public.

It also teaches them how to dress for different occasions, she said.

Harris-Russell believes it is important for young people who are creatively inclined to have an outlet to express themselves while developing their creative talents, but said the Bahamian education system lacks performing arts courses.

“Right now, there is a big focus on sports and plenty students are not sports-oriented or athletic,” she said.

“I want parents to know that their creative child who is a singer, dancer, musician, etc., can pursue a career in fields that are performance or communication-based instead of being a lawyer, or doctor, or accountant, because everyone is not fit to join those careers either. Therefore, we are building these programs to guide the creative child, build their self-confidence and promote self-discovery.”

Although RMS is in its inaugural phase, Harris-Russell sees opportunities for more types of programs.

“I would like to open a gentlemen’s and ladies’ club for young boys and girls in our community,” she said.

“However, the long-term goal is to eventually open up a full academic school of performing arts and communication. We want to concentrate on establishing a program that is effective, and then move forward with building the program which will hopefully lead to opening a Juilliard School in The Bahamas.”

She also wants to obtain internships and help students get jobs.

“Hopefully, by the second year, we are able to move forward with helping our students gain employment in their respective fields of interest,” Harris-Russell said.

She added, “We want to ensure that when we open up the market of performing arts and communication and broadcasting to students, it is not only as an after-school program, but it is opening up the world to them. We want to make sure that before they go out into the world of performing arts, they have actually experienced some of what it is about and what it has to offer.”

RMS is open Monday to Friday from 4-6 p.m. and is located at #1 and #2 Pyfrom Manor, Freeport, Grand Bahama.

Those interested are encouraged to take advantage of the introductory rate of $150 per month which is currently being offered this semester only. To register or receive further information, contact 242-351-5457 or 242-727-2757. You can also contact RMS via email at