Founder's spirit alive and well in theater workshop in Sewickley
The Mario Melodia Musical Theater Workshop camp continues to thrive at Sweetwater Center for the Arts, five years after its founder's death.
Melodia's inspiration is the reason, said Martha Prine, assistant to the director. Everyone involved in running the annual camp that begins July 20 at the Sewickley center was a student or colleague of his at one time.
A Broadway performer in productions such as “Brigadoon,” choreographer, dancer, director and teacher, Melodia began the camp in 1998. That was about 10 years after he started a performing arts camp at Sewickley Academy.
“He taught and worked with so many people that we are honored to carry on his camp,” Prine said.
Prine, a Sewickley Academy graduate who now lives in Virginia, said Melodia, who died in 2008, was the most important teacher she ever had.
“He used to say, ‘I don't teach dance. I teach self-esteem.' It's true,” she said, referring to teaching with Melodia in the musical theater and dance department at the academy. “He made everyone in his dance classes and plays feel important.
Melodia was known for inspiring children to do better. “He would not allow anyone to say, ‘I can't.' We know what he expected from us — to try our best all the time. We try to pass on his lessons to a new group of students every summer,” Prine said.
Thom McLaughlin, this year's director, also worked previously with Melodia in the academy's drama department and has been a director for 23 out of the 25 years the summer Sewickley Academy Peforming Arts Camp has been held. He and has an extensive background in theater arts and teaching, at one point owning his own theater, Upstairs Theater in Bloomfield.
He said he enjoys working with children, and seeing the “ah-ha” moments they have on stage.
“They come in with that shyness and within six to eight days, they start to have poise and moxy on stage,” said McLaughlin, a New York native who now lives in Baldwin Township.
Prine said for many children, the camp is their first experience in theater because campers as young as 6 can participate. Typically, there are about 30 children who sign up, and anyone is accepted.
Some children are frightened when they arrive, but camp directors get them singing and dancing right away and give them snack breaks so they can socialize.
“And by the end of the week, we've got them singing a solo,” Prine said. “The transformations that can happen are extraordinary.” McLaughlin is filling in this summer for frequent camp director Lisa Gojkovich, who will return next summer along with her sister, musical director Nina Mascio.
Dylan Parda, 13, a rising Sewickley Academy eighth-grader, said he began attending the camp in 2007 because he always has been passionate about singing and dancing,
His siblings, Andrew, 17, and Maeghan, 15, also were campers and now they, along with their mother, Rhonda, help at the camp.
Dylan has had a lead role every year in the camp's performance, but this year he plans to help backstage so that “younger kids can share the same experiences as I have had.”
Rhonda Parda said she has seen Dylan grow more confident in his singing and dancing, and he now is able to speak in front of an audience and is willing to try new things.
“When you see kids reach out and try something new, and they are good at it and have fun doing it — that is the beauty of the Mario Melodia Camp,” she said.
Joanne Barron is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-324-1406 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Sewickley Non-Profit Consortium finds bigger venue
- Autism caregivers can get relief through YMCA programs
- Quaker Valley student races her way to world derby competition
- Sewickley Valley YMCA programs to help those suffering from chronic conditions
- World War II ship welcomed by cheers in Ambridge
- Sewickley's ‘Pink House’ rebirth nearly complete