Tony Yazbeck received quite the surprise when YoungArts came calling a few years ago. "They called saying that since I'm an alumni, maybe I'd consider teaching a master class," the Broadway star says. "I had won an honorable mention in high school, but I didn't realize until later that this meant I was an alumni."
On the heels of a career milestone – Yazbeck was recently nominated for a Tony award for his leading role as Gabey in On the Town – he'll return to YoungArts yet again. There, he'll teach a master class in audition technique and receive the esteemed honor of the Arison Alumni award recognizing his influence on aspiring young artists across America. "When they told me, I was definitely very humbled," Yazbeck says.
To the actor's colleagues at YoungArts, the award comes as no surprise. For the last four years, the actor has spent a generous amount of time working with YoungArts Week, the foundation's week-long culmination of a worldwide search for young talent. "What's so great about YoungArts Week is that all of these artists across disciplines get to come together and collaborate for one week," he says. "That's the kind of thing you don't get to do in your hometown. It's a major opportunity for aspiring artists."
In addition to lending his artistic expertise, Yazbeck also sits on a judge's panel for dance, teaches master classes seasonally in New York, and regularly participates in promotional efforts, through YoungArts Awareness Day and his own social media accounts. "I do a lot of free publicity for YoungArts," he laughs, noting that while YoungArts is one of the most important artistic programs available to young students, there are still plenty of students who aren’t aware of the opportunities the program provides.
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This year, Yazbeck will also be directing the Backyard Ball Performance and Gala, the organization's largest fundraiser of the year. The stellar lineup of performance vignettes includes contemporary dancer Desmond Richardson, singer and The Voice finalist India Carney, tap dancer Andrew Nemr, jazz musicians Jake Goldblas and Pascal LeBoeuf, and contemporary dancer Riley O'Flynn. "We just had our first rehearsal and I couldn't believe how the ideas we had in pre-production morphed because of who these artists are. I stepped back and watched them work and I was totally amazed."
While Yazbeck has plenty of wisdom to impart on his students this week to help them get through tough auditions, there's one piece of advice he deems the most valuable. "They have to understand that as talented as they are, it's really about who they are, and the true nature of that coming through their art," he says. "That's the exciting part, finding deeper meanings, finder deeper ways of being vulnerable with you art."
National YoungArts Week
Happening this week with the Backyard Ball and Gala Performance on Saturday, January 9. Tickets start at $1,000. To purchase, visit youngarts.org.
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