Sharron Miller, the founder of Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts, started her organization in 1996 with the goal of creating an inspiring and supportive space for children, teens, young adults, and adults to explore the arts. The Montclair-based Academy has taught thousands of students and received grants and recognition from national arts endowments and statewide arts organizations. Despite receiving all of those accolades, Sharron puts training at the forefront of the academy, allowing students to explore different forms of movement like modern, jazz, Afro-Haitian, and more. Keep reading to learn more about Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts.
(Photo credit: Chris Francois)
Montclair Girl: Where are you originally from?
Sharron Miller: I am from Washington, DC, and moved to Montclair at age the age of six.
MG: What about Montclair made you want to invest in the area by opening your non-profit there?
SM: I was raised in Montclair and knew it was a supportive community for children and the arts.
MG: What inspired you to get into the dance + teaching world? What were your first experiences with it?
SM: I had flat feet and it was suggested that dance would strengthen my arches – it turned out I had talent.
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MG: Tell us about Sharron Miller’s Academy for the Performing Arts (SMAPA).
SM: After a career in dance with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and performing in seven Broadway shows, it was time to share what I had learned with the next generation.
Teaching came much later. I was motivated to open a school in this community by the need for a serious, non-commercial type of school like the Ailey School in New York.
SMAPA was founded in 1996. Its mission is to provide comprehensive, inclusive developmental training in dance and related theater arts to students at every stage of life. Our holistic philosophy inspires students to believe they can achieve, nurturing the potential within every student by encouraging creativity, building skills, fostering self-discipline, and bolstering self-esteem.
We offer classes for kids, teens, and adults in Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Flamenco, Afro-Haitian, Contemporary, Floor Barre, Core Strength & Stretch, Zumba, Yoga, as well as a full slate of classes for toddlers and preschoolers.
MG: Do you teach all of the classes yourself? If not, which classes do you teach?
SM: I teach some of the modern and floor barre classes but the faculty of 25 other teaching artists provides instruction for the full roster of classes.
MG: Does your school participate in competitions?
SM: We operate as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) which allows us to receive grants and provide scholarships and outreach programs to underserved communities. We do NOT do competitions. We are truly about the training and not the trophies.
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MG: What would you say makes your school special?
SM: We have received grants for our outreach programs in underserved communities like Newark, East Orange, and Paterson from The Dodge Foundation, The Turrell Fund, The Victoria Foundation, the Stone Foundation, The New Jersey Council on the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. I think the work speaks for itself and perhaps that’s what makes us special.
MG: What does a typical day look like for you?
SM: Being the founder and director of a large nonprofit arts organization takes a great deal of time. There is not much time for playing or dining but I do occasionally dine out at Zeugma on South Park Street.
MG: Who or what is your biggest source of inspiration?
SM: I admire Jazz House Kids for its work not only with children but its major presence in this community. Founder and President Melissa Walker is phenomenal.
MG: What advice would you give to someone who wants to start their own business?
SM: My only advice to anyone wanting to start their own business is to educate yourself about the requirements and be passionate about your product. If you believe in it, you can convince others to join you. It takes a village!