Broadway Lights Up Las Vegas, NM

New Mexico Cabaret
Keeps Kids in School

CABARET!–Youth perform the song “Bangkok” from the play, “Chess.” Standing (l-r) Tekla Sollohub, Roberta Sons, Rebecca Sons. Seated (l-r) Andrew Wood and Billy Evans.


Now in its third year, the Las Vegas, New Mex., corp’s spring concert series features Broadway music…while motivating high school and college students to stay in school.

“The program gives young people an opportunity not only to learn teamwork, but also gain confidence and self-assuredness to stay in school, and to continue with a positive attitude,” stated Envoy Stan Sons, in-charge.

During the past three years, 30 young people have been involved in the program, which teaches all aspects of the theater. Through their work, youth learn how much work it takes to bring a show together. This spring the concert included songs from 42nd Street, Annie, The Phantom of the Opera, Oh Kay!, Les Miserables, Pal Joey, Lady Be Good, Strike Up the Band, A Chorus Line, Flower Drum Song,Chicago, Gypsy, Oliver, and The Fantasticks.

Keeps youth in school

“The most important part of this program is keeping the students in school,” Sons said. “When it started, none of these young people were on the school honor roll. After three years, 80 percent have been on the honor roll for at least one quarter and 72 percent have been on for two quarters. Six of the students had decided to quit school, and two had already stopped attending.

But all six graduated on time. One student was headed for juvenile court. Not only did that student graduate, but is now in the U.S. Military. One student and family moved to California after the first year of the program. He calls at least every other month, just to stay in touch. He has also been on his school’s honor roll every quarter for the past year. One has left a gang.

“These might seem like small numbers, but how do you measure the lives that have been touched and turned around by this program?” asks Sons. “The Las Vegas area has no industry and not much of a future for young adults. It does have plenty of drugs and gangs. The Las Vegas Corps is fighting for the lives of these young people.”

“From my perspective,” says Sons, “the spring concert is our most famous program for teens and young adults. We do, however, run this program all year. They also sing at our annual fall kickoff dinner, and, of course, at Christmas. The Salvation Army group, ‘Hand and Voices,’ is the only group to sing at the community Thanksgiving service. For the last three years, the Army has been the only group doing public Christmas caroling.”

Costumes, makeup, and special effects are greatly reduced for the fall kickoff dinner, and the music is limited to 8 to 12 songs. The dinner music is usually about half contemporary Christian, whereas the spring concert is Broadway and movie music.

Gaining new soldiers is a byproduct of the spring program. “This is our main tool to invite new teens and young adults into the Army world. First they are involved in the activity, and then into church. Just when they start to get bored they get a shot of Youth Councils. Soldiership classes start two weeks after the councils. Two new soldiers in 1997 and two in 1998, and one solid recruit in 1999 have come from this program.”

Builds Confidence

The real emphasis is on building confidence and self-assurance, so that students stay in and finish school. Not only are they doing that, but most of them are doing better with their school work.

Another aspect of this program is teaching music. Of the 30 involved over the last three years, 18 have performed. Of those, only two have had choir in school and two others had had band. Three of these teens have won music awards at music camp.

“With some we are not as successful,” says Sons “They leave prematurely, or as soon as the production is completed. The seeds have been planted, though, and might yet grow.

“This is not a training ground for performers. Out of all the participants, only one is pursuing a professional career in show business. This is a program so that these young people can believe enough in themselves to complete school and be active, vital members of their communities.”

Sharing is caring!