Once a year, in National YoungArts Week, Miami is engulfed with YoungArts finalists who are aspiring, determined and talented artists. They are taught by an array of master professionals in special casses, they offer performances, and generally soak up professional experience that culminates in a gala fund-raising dinner and performance that encompasses the week’s activities.
This year, the celebrated Tony award nominee, actor extraordinaire and triple threat, Tony Yazbeck, is not only directing, choreographing, and organizing the gala performance, he is also offering his expertise as an instructor to these ambitious and hungry artists. After a long day of rehearsal with YoungArts alumnus, multiple schedule changes and pushbacks, Yazbeck was able to spend a few minutes to share his role in the week’s activities and some thoughts on his ample career.
During the week, Yazbeck is spending many hours with the professional artists brought into Miami to create material from scratch for the Saturday, Jan. 9 gala. Collaborating with other artists is something that he loves to do, so this is a perfect opportunity. It is also a timely opportunity for the national finalists to see these professionals in their own turf.
“We have nine incredible artists alumni from YoungArts in our gala and they all have their own genius instincts when it comes to their own art. When we get together, magic happens.” Yazbeck noted.
These artists are Desmond Richardson (1986 Winner in Dance and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), Dave Eggar (1987 Winner in Music and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), India Carney (2011 Winner in Theater, Voice and U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts), Andrew Nemr (1997 Winner in Dance), Jake Goldbas (2007 Winner in Jazz), Pascal Le Boeuf (2004 Winner in Jazz and Music) and Riley O’Flynn (2014 Winner in Dance). Honorees this year include Rosie Perez, Robert Wilson and Yazbeck himself in a gala that is being hosted by Grammy Award winner and YoungArts alumnus Billy Porter and Yazbeck.
Working with and mentoring the young artists who are here in Miami as the finalists in the YoungArts competition is really the main focus of this week by allowing the students to see and network with successful professionals in their field. Yazbeck feels that this week is much about where these professionals came from, what inspired them to keep going and a passing of the torch to the next generation.
“You’re the new generation, we give this to you, we say take charge. Own your artistic process and move forward.” Yazbeck says.
At four years old, Yazbeck says he was “hooked” with dancing and performing when he watched Fred Astaire tapping in a movie on a black and white television. Connecting, helping and collaborating with others is a constant inspiration that has kept Yazbeck motivated and challenged in his work.
“As I’ve grown older, I‘ve wanted to tell deeper stories. Sometimes our world is an interesting place and you want to be able to say, 'Hey, you’re not alone with your art.' ” Yazbeck also writes and directs. “I get really passionate about it. I want to write new things and direct incredible performers.”
Yazbeck is honored and thrilled to have become ensconced in the YoungArts organization as an instructor, a panelist and now, as a director. When invited to return, he felt there was an integrity about the organization and that YoungArts really cared about the artist, the work, and the process it takes to move forward. He felt that his participation was a good fit and wanted to be more involved.
Yazbeck reflects on working with young artists. “What inspires me most is opening up an individual’s vulnerability to be able to be truly who they are in front of people on stage. So YoungArts is a great place to do that.”
As a success on many levels, he is often asked what it takes to succeed in the theater world, perhaps offering words of wisdom to the next generation of hopefuls. Yazbeck says that there is no magic formula. "Being a kind, open human being, being bold, being present, meeting a lot of people, and being an extravert are important skills that are not singing and dancing, but that are just as necessary to succeed."
When asked about a favorite role, Yazbeck took a big pause as if he really enjoys every part he plays. Perhaps the present collaboration with his wife, Katie Huff, as assistant director and choreographer is very high on his list.
“To watch her and work along side of her is really fun!” Yazbeck muses.
Throughout National YoungArts Week, YoungArts Finalists will share their talents with the public at New World Center and the YoungArts Campus.
With Performance Sponsor SunTrust, the full schedule follows below and can also be found online at www.youngarts.org/yaw.
For more information about the Backyard Ball Performance and Gala, or to purchase tickets, visit www.youngarts.org/gala.
National YoungArts Week 2016 Schedule:
- Monday, Jan. 4: 8 p.m. – Classical, Jazz & Pop Voice Performance,
New World Center,
- Tuesday, Jan. 5: 8 p.m. – Theater & Jazz Instrumental Performance,
New World Center,
- Wednesday, Jan. 6: 8 p.m. – Dance Performance & Cinematic Arts Screenings,
New World Center,
- Thursday, Jan. 7: 8:30 p.m. – Classical Music Concert,
New World Center,
- Friday, Jan. 8: 6 – 9 p.m. - Writers’ Readings, and Visual Arts,
Photography and Design Exhibition,
- Saturday, Jan. 9: 7 p.m. – YoungArts Backyard Ball,