Creating a Safe Space for Students: Cultivating Authenticity in Your Studio

Let me paint a picture for you: a student walks into a studio that is focused on one thing… creating the perfect performer. The environment is stale and the air matches it. Teachers are too focused on the surface to begin to work on what’s inside. Sure, there is talent being produced, but at what cost?

Now, picture this: a vibrant studio, brimming with creativity and passion. The energy is palpable, the air alive with the sounds of laughter and music. Teachers know their students by their chosen name and use the correct pronouns when addressing students. Everyone is supported at their current level and celebrated for who they are.

Which would you choose? Which would your students and parents pick? If you chose the second example, then welcome to a safe space where students can freely express themselves and shine like the stars they truly are! In honor of Pride Month, let’s explore how we can create an inclusive and empowering environment that celebrates diversity in all its forms.

Creating a safe space is no simple trick though. You can try to snap your fingers and hope that things will magically get better, but making a space safe for all requires intention and effort. Luckily, we have some amazing organizations like GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (glsen.org) and the youth-run Safe Space (SafeSpace.org) to guide us along the way. So, let’s dive in and uncover the secrets to unlocking the full potential of our studios!

 

Embrace Diversity, Celebrate Individuality

In our studios, we should embrace the vibrant tapestry of identities that make each student unique. Whether someone identifies as LGBTQIA+ or has their own beautiful story to tell, we should strive to create an environment where everyone feels seen, heard, and valued. Remember, the more diverse the cast, the richer the performance!

 

Educate and Advocate

Knowledge is power! Take the time to educate yourself and your staff about LGBTQIA+ issues and the challenges faced by marginalized communities. Organizations like GLSEN provide invaluable resources that can enlighten and empower us. By becoming allies, regardless of our own identities, we can stand up for our students and create a studio that fosters understanding and empathy.

 

Establish a Safe Space Policy

A safe space policy is like the glue that can hold your studio together and keep students returning. It also sets the tone for respect and inclusivity for everyone, regardless of identity. Clearly communicate your studio’s values, anti-bullying measures, and reporting procedures to all students, parents, and staff. Not only will a safe space policy give your studio transparency when it comes to what you expect from everyone involved and what they should expect from you, but a safe space policy will serve as a shield against discrimination and create a sense of security for everyone involved.

Decorate with Pride

As we celebrate Pride Month, let’s show our rainbow colors with pride! Hang up inclusive posters, paint the walls with affirming messages, and create an atmosphere that radiates acceptance. When students walk through the doors, they should feel an instant burst of love and support. But after Pride Month ends, don’t let the support end. Find ways to show students that we care about them every month, not just in June.

 

Sprinkle Humor Everywhere

Everyone knows that laughter is the best medicine, and it can also be the best way to break down barriers! Infuse your studio with a healthy dose of humor, reminding students that creativity thrives in a joyful and lighthearted atmosphere. Why take life so seriously in a field that celebrates individuality? Never be afraid to embrace your inner comedian and create an environment where laughter is music to our ears.

 

Create Support Networks

Building strong support networks within our studios is crucial. Do you know another student who might be going through a similar experience or maybe you yourself experienced a similar struggle growing up? Encourage students to lean on each other and never be afraid to open up to their peers! We are instrumental in making connections that can foster support and empower students to lift each other up. In unity, there is strength!

 

Collaboration and Inclusion

In the world of performing arts, collaboration is key. Once your students have found support in their peers, encourage them to work together, supporting each other’s ideas and talents. Create opportunities for diverse voices to be heard and seen in various and unexpected ways. By embracing collaboration and inclusion, we create performances that reflect the beautiful mosaic of our world.

 

Remember, creating a safe space is an ongoing journey. It requires constant self-reflection, open dialogue, and a commitment to growth. As we perform our way through Pride Month, let’s continue to spread love, acceptance, and understanding in our studios. Now it’s your turn! Grab your glitter, strike a pose, and let’s embark on this exciting adventure of creating a safe space that is as colorful and diverse as the rainbow itself. Together, we can create a haven where students can truly shine and unleash their artistic brilliance!

Brandon Marcus, MLA

Brandon Marcus (he/him/his) is the Owner/Director of The Studio, an award-winning educational performing arts studio located in Daphne, Alabama. As a Musical Theatre voice teacher and audition coach for over a decade, Brandon has seen success in his students who have starred in Broadway tours and Off-Broadway productions, collaborated with Disney and Marvel Studios, and won top awards at state, regional, and national competitions. Brandon is an active member of the National Association of Teachers of Singing, the Musical Theatre Educators’ Alliance, the Music Teachers National Association, The Voice Foundation, and the Voice and Speech Trainers Association. For more information, visit www.bmarc.us.