Kansas City, Kansas, School Wins a $10,000 Shrek Contest Grant



Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kansas, presents Shrek The Musical
Sumner Academy in Kansas City, Kansas, presents Shrek The Musical


In an effort to bring the theater experience home for families to enjoy, DreamWorks Animation and Twentieth Century Fox partnered with the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) and its Give a Note Foundation to help save at-risk music and arts programs.

To celebrate the Blu-ray and DVD release of the Tony Award winning production of Shrek the Musical in October, students and teachers visited a special Shrek website to launch a contest and social media campaign to win one of five $10,000 grants for their school’s music and arts program. 

Students and teachers conducted massive grassroots efforts to encourage voting for their school, reaching out to their families, friends and communities to participate. Ultimately, five schools waged the most successful campaigns:

  • Celia Cruz Bronx (New York) High School of Music
  • Staunton River High School, Moneta, Virginia
  • Baldwin Hills Elementary School, Los Angeles, California
  • Playa Vista Elementary School in Playa Vista, California
  • Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, Kansas City, Kansas

Interestingly enough, students at the Sumner Academy were rehearsing for their own production of Shrek The Musical, when they learned about the contest was being offered.

“It was pure coincidence because the play was selected over a year ago,” said Jean Ney, coordinator of fine arts & physical education for the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools. The production of Shrek November 21–23 attracted  largest audiences ever to the Academy.

Becky Thomas, a choral director with the Sumner Music Academy of Vocal Music, said:

“We found out about the contest from one of the students in the Shrek cast who just happened to stumble onto it via Facebook. She asked if she could tell the rest of the cast and crew about it. She announced it at rehearsal one day, and students and staff put it on their Facebook pages and encouraged people to vote. I told my choirs about it, too, and encouraged them to vote, too.”


The November 2013 production of The Sumner Academy' s Shrek The Musical
A scene from Sumner’s  Shrek The Musical

“Sumner is incredibly grateful for the generosity of DreamWorks Animation Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment, and NAfME, Principal Jonathan Richard, says.

 He adds, “The grant will be used to continue to grow and enhance Sumner’s current musical programming. As a school for the arts and sciences, we understand the important role music has in a student’s ability to learn and express themselves.”

“Our performance of Shrek The Musical provided an avenue for students to experience the arts and bring theatre to the surrounding community. In an era where the fine arts often are cut from schools, the generosity of DreamWorks Animation and Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment reinforces a message to our students that their efforts are a worthwhile and meaningful cause,” Richard says.

Thomas adds, “We have many ideas of how to use the grant money!  Since it was primarily the cast and crew of the musical who promoted the competition and did the voting, we’d like to do something that will benefit further musical productions, such as head worn microphones and a Clear Com system.”

“No decisions have been made yet, but lots of dreaming. It is so rare to have opportunity to spend this amount of money.  We will certainly consider our options wisely and make choices that will have a lasting impression for the furtherance of quality music experience for our students,: she says. 

She says that the Sumner music program consists of three choral groups:

  • Chorale, an auditioned mixed choir of sophomores through seniors
  • Women’s Ensemble – an auditioned girls’ choir of freshman through seniors
  • Mixed Chorus— a non-auditioned mixed choir of 8th grade through seniors. Mixed Chorus is offered at three different times in the school day to allow for flexibility in scheduling due to the rigorous academic requirements of Sumner Academy, Thomas says.

“The Chorale and Women’s Ensemble have a long tradition of excellence receiving top ratings at regional and state festivals for at least the past 25 years. Recently, the top groups have begun to travel to participate in national festivals within reasonable traveling distance and receive high marks at these festivals as well,” Thomas shares.

“Again, thank you for offering this opportunity. As a school from a low income district, this is very much appreciated,” the Sumner choral teacher says. 

In 2011, NAfME established the Give a Note Foundation to bring together business leaders and everyone who cares about music education to work to establish and grow music education programs for under-served students across the United States. To date more than $1 Million in grants have been distributed to deserving schools.

During the Dream Works and Twentieth Century Fox contest, fans, were also encouraged to vote for their favorite Shrek The Musical character poster, on the website. “Fiona” won “fan favorite” for a poster that suggests, “Express Your True Self Through Music.”

Photographs by David A. Smith, Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools

 Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, November 25, 2013. © National Association for Music Education