This is the Schneider-Farris Family's Blog. Keep up with what we are doing by logging into this site regularly! (The reason this site is called "Tragedy and Triumph" is that when I first founded this site, my husband, Dan, had been in a horrible accident, and he recovered. His recovery was a miracle! Go back to the 2005 archives to read our story.)

Friday, November 06, 2015

Summary of My Family's Experience With the Colorado Springs Conservatory

Before I begin this blog post, I must first mention that Linda Weise and the Colorado Springs Conservatory gave so much to my daughter Rebekah and Linda went over and above for Rebekah.

But....


On Wednesday, November 4, 2015, our family received a letter from the Conservatory that devastated us.  The letter stated that Rebekah and our entire family were no longer welcome or allowed at the Conservatory, the Mezzanine, or at anything related to the organization including attending performances.

I may still be suffering from shock as I write this post.  The Colorado Springs Conservatory had become Rebekah's "entire world."  Everything that was important to her in the life she had in Colorado Springs is gone.

I am just so, so sad.

I do think it is best for me to now write down about our experience with the Colorado Springs Conservatory so I no longer have to think about what is now so very painful.



Here's our story:


In 2003-04 my three children went to a drama-music-dance school called Attitudes.  It was located in the same shopping center as the Conservatory.

One day I stepped into the Conservatory's offices and picked up a brochure.  The prices were too high for me to even consider since Attitudes was inexpensive, but also it was thought that Attitudes' program was no where as high quality as the Conservatory's program.  I wished so much I could get my children in The Colorado Springs Conservatory's program, but due to the cost of the program, I accepted the fact that it was not an option for us.

Time passed.    

In 2010 it was announced that the Colorado Springs Conservatory had set up a partnership with Mountain Vista Homeschool Academy.  That meant that all three of my children could attend the Conservatory and that Mountain Vista paid for each student to attend!

I was so excited and cried tears of excitement and joy knowing that something wonderful would come from this opportunity.

We were not disappointed.  My children were exposed to wonderful learning because of The Conservatory's outstanding program and instruction.



On Father's Day 2011, I heard that my favorite musical Gypsy was going to be in Colorado Springs and the musical included the Conservatory's staff and students.  Our family went to the production that day and it was AMAZING!  I felt that it was just as good as a professional Broadway show.

When the show ended, my dad asked Linda Weise and some of the Conservatory staff how his grandchildren could be in similar events, but sadly, we were told those opportunities were only for the Conservatory students who paid regular tuition, not the Mountain Vista Homeschool Academy kids.

But...


When the summer of 2012 came along, The Conservatory needed extra cast members in the ensemble for the production Fiddler on the Roof, and sent out an invitation to all Mountain Vista Homeschool Academy students to join the cast!



Wow, I was excited and Joel and Rebekah began an amazing adventure that included hours and hours of rehearsals.  Annabelle was in only the wedding scene, but also was in a most outstanding musical!

It was so, so wonderful to see my kids in that production.  Linda mentioned how especially talented Rebekah was after that experience.

Time passed again.

In 2014, Joel and Rebekah began to prepare for auditions for the Disney On Ice professional ice show and the audition included acting.  I contacted Linda Weise asking if she'd be able to give my kids some acting private lessons to prepare and Linda set up lessons with Stephen, a talented Conservatory graduate.  Stephen was amazing and brought the kids, especially Rebekah, to a new performing level.

During the time with Stephen, we learned that another classical musical, Oklahoma, was planned for the summer.  I contacted Linda and she worked it out for Joel to be in the ensemble and Rebekah to be in a supplemental music group that would promote the show.  Both kids again had a tremendous experience and their acting and singing skills grew.






Stephen put on a week long Conservatory improvisational workshop and both Rebekah and Joel participated.  Joel was very busy preparing for a skating test that week, but Rebekah "ate up" all that she learned from Stephen and when the final performance of that week came, where the parents were invited, I was so, so proud to see Rebekah perform!  She stood out!




When the 2014-15 school year began, Rebekah auditioned for the Conservatory's Senior Musical Theatre company and was accepted!  I still remember how excited she was when she called me to tell me she'd been accepted!  A new and wonderful adventure was about to begin for her!

What followed was a very, very busy year for Rebekah.  She had a leading role in The Pirates of Penzance, did tons of volunteering with the Conservatory, learned to do stage managing, learned to teach little kids, danced, sang, and completed the adventure with a major role in the summer musical Working.  She performed in recitals during the year and in jazz nites.  Every time I saw Rebekah perform, I'd cry tears of joy.

The Colorado Springs Conservatory and Linda Weise had given her an amazing chance to excel. She'd discovered she was talented and loved to perform and learn and Rebekah's singing voice was just so beautiful!



At the final Senior Recital I thanked Linda Weise for giving my Rebekah so much.

During the summer, Linda Weise offered Rebekah a week long job stage managing a kids play.  Rebekah was paid $300 and had a wonderful and busy week.  I recall also Rebekah managed another play called Seamarks with her friend Carelyn at the Mezzanine during the 2014-15 school year.  Seamarks was an unpaid job which took up hours and hours, but Rebekah gained much through that experience too.

In August of 2015, when Rebekah realized that the college she'd chosen in Gunnison was wrong for her, she contacted Linda Weise and Linda offered Rebekah something incredible:  A full scholarship to take classes at the Conservatory for an additional school year, volunteer and paid work experience at the school, and paid major roles in productions at The Mezzanine!

It was like a "Silver Platter" had been given to Rebekah.  Rebekah told me that Linda Weise believed in her talent and wanted to help her find the right college where she could go on to study musical theater.  It was wonderful to learn that Linda believed so much in my Rebekah.

Quickly Rebekah became so, so very busy.  It seemed as if she was always at the Conservatory, but when she was home, I'd hear her singing and playing the piano constantly.  She also played the Ukelele!  It was beautiful to hear music in the house all the time.

Rehearsals for The Mezzanine's production of Born Blue began.  I saw little of Rebekah, but knew she was busy and happy.



Then...our family was invited the official preview of Born Blue on Wednesday, October 28.  I've written a previous post on that experience which is below.
Rebekah told me she was going to be paid for her work in Born Blue and it opened on Friday, October 30, 2015.  Rebekah was gone the whole weekend and there was a show on Friday and Saturday nights, and Sunday afternoon.  I asked Rebekah how the performances went, and she said they just kept getting better and better and she was so happy.




Then....


Wednesday, November 4, 2015 came.  It will be the day I always remember because on that day our family received a letter stating that Rebekah and our entire family were banned from ever having anything to do with the Colorado Springs Conservatory or The Mezzanine ever again.

What led up to the above decision is not completely clear, but that decision has changed our lives. All that was Rebekah's world was ripped from her on that day.  I am so, so very sad.  I just don't understand this decision at all and I've asked Linda for an explanation but have not received one.  In addition, it seems that Rebekah has been cut off from all the people that were so close to her that are associated with the Colorado Springs Conservatory.  I have been told that there has been no response to her texts or phone calls.

On Thursday, November 5, 2015, Rebekah left Colorado Springs for good and will stay with extended family in California.  Her heart was breaking when she packed   The sadness I feel is so huge that I plan to move our family away from Colorado Springs as soon as we can.

The Colorado Springs Conservatory changed my family's life with this decision because it made us realize that Colorado Springs can no longer be our home.  We are no longer welcome here.

So much sadness and bad things have happened to us in Colorado Springs and doors have closed and new opportunities have not opened.   This was and is the "last straw."   It is time to leave the city my husband and I came to with such excitement and anticipation in 1991.  It is time to leave the place where my three children were born and raised.

Further Reading:

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Words escape me... I wish the best for you and your family. Hoping you find people who will recognize all your family's talents. Keep your head held high, Rebeka! You are an awesome performer!

Unknown said...

Sadly, this story is a familiar one. My daughter, Caroline, was a student at the Colorado Springs Conservatory from 2009-2013. She quickly became one of Linda Weise's "favorites" and was given so many amazing opportunities on stage and around town. So many, in fact, that this was part of the reason we decided to homeschool her at the beginning of her Sophomore year of high school. Being homeschooled, she had more time to travel with Linda and the conservatory to various events and fundraisers. Caroline loved every minute of it. She loved the kids at the Conservatory, she loved the teachers, she loved the classes, she loved the musicals and being cast as the main part, she loved and admired and respected Linda. The conservatory was her second family, and was preparing her for her dream of performing on Broadway.
In the fall of her Senior year just as she was preparing for college auditions, our family was called to a meeting at the Conservatory. At this meeting, she was dismissed from all her studies at the school. Our family was in shock. We were given no real reason as to why she was asked to leave. We met with Linda and her board members where my daughter begged to stay. Immediately, she was shunned by the students and teachers and director she and loved so much - it was earth shattering to say the least.
As I said, this was two years ago. We have moved on. But reading your post makes me so angry that Linda is still damaging kids! I can tell you that I know about a dozen kids this has happen to at the Conservatory - a DOZEN VERY TALENTED KIDS LIKE YOUR DAUGHTER!!!
Perhaps you can take comfort in knowing that you're not alone, and that Linda's awful treatment of your daughter has nothing to do with her talent. Or maybe it has everything to do with her talent?
I'm so sorry that you're going through this right now. Please give Rebekah a hug from us and I will have Caroline contact her.

Amy Carr said...

Not sure why I am shown as "unknown" above. I'm happy to post that my name is Amy Carr. :-)

Alison said...

Hello,
My name is Alison Mastrangelo. I am a reporter at FOX21News in Colorado Springs.
I would like to talk to more about your family's experience at the Conservatory.
If you can give me a call 719-339-0402 or you can email me at afmastrangelo@kxrm.com.
Thank you for your time.
I look forward to hearing from you.

Alison said...

Hi,
My name is Alison, and I am a reporter at FOX21News.
I would like to talk to you more about your family's experience at the Conservatory.
My cell is 719-339-0402 or afmastrangelo@kxrm.com
Thank you for your time.

Deborah Barkat said...

Although I live in California, I too am familiar with problems at the Conservatory. I prefer not to communicate publicly on a blog,
so PLEASE send me an email so I can give you a suggestion. This whole mess could end up being a blessing in disguise!

dkovitz.barkat@gmail.com (Debby)

Karl Brevik said...

I was a former instructor at the Conservatory and couldn't return to work for reasons like this. I heard many stories from this I cared about as students and families of students that I couldn't change from my position with the Conservatory. Add in that I was originally pitched the concept that we would be creating theatrical opportunities for kids who wouldn't normally have the chance only to find parents had to front the money to be included in many things (unless gaps needed to be filled) and it broke my heart just as much when I found out that I couldn't attempt to carry the banner any longer. My biggest regret hearing this story is that I wish I could've been involved in letting you and Rebekah know there are other doors. I now work with Theatreworks and the Fine Arts Center doing theatre with youth. Still she sounds very talented and I agree with the above comment. Maybe she's too big a fish for these waters and this is a nightmare that can be twisted into a dream!

Kat Reena said...

Hi Amy its Katrina Paschal, Linda's executive assistant from 2011-2013. I too feel as though I was wrongfully fired an employee. I absolutely loved CSC, the faculty, staff, volunteers and students. I was fired without explanation to the board or anyone. I am so so sorry that Linda treated Caroline and your family that way. You too Schneider-Farris family. I also am curious to know where conservatory kids end up. Just know their drive and love of music was innate and nothing can stop them from being who they were meant to be.
-Katrina Paschal

Kat Reena said...

Hi Amy its Katrina Paschal, Linda's executive assistant from 2011-2013. I too feel as though I was wrongfully fired an employee. I absolutely loved CSC, the faculty, staff, volunteers and students. I was fired without explanation to the board or anyone. I am so so sorry that Linda treated Caroline and your family that way. You too Schneider-Farris family. I also am curious to know where conservatory kids end up. Just know their drive and love of music was innate and nothing can stop them from being who they were meant to be.
-Katrina Paschal

JO ANN Schneider Farris said...

My Thoughts on 11-17-15 Gazette Article Regarding the Colorado Springs Conservatory

Two weeks ago I would have shared the article of praise about that Conservatory that appeared in the Gazette on 11-17-15 with all my friends and family, but then, just two weeks ago today, on Wednesday 11-4-15, our family received a letter from The Conservatory that stated we were banned from all Conservatory and Mezzanine events and programs.

We can't even go to a show, and we were given no explanation.

Since then, I've heard from other former Conservatory parents and students, and their children were hurt in the same way. Teachers and employees have shared stories too.

I am so, so sad, since The Colorado Springs Conservatory was my daughter's entire world. The next day she left Colorado Springs for good and her heart was breaking. I worry she will never sing, dance, act, or play music again.

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Jo Ann Schneider Farris has participated in skating for most of her life as a competitor, coach, and author.

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