Curtain Up For Act 3
Sarah Clay Lindvall moves from performing and teaching to supporting tomorrow’s musical stars
No one is more surprised than Sarah Clay Lindvall to have landed a job that she’s unknowingly been preparing for since she was a teenager. Growing up in west Cobb County, the 31-year-old former cheerleader, chorus singer and musical theater performer never imagined running an arts program for youngsters, but as the recently named education director for the ArtsBridge Foundation, she’s doing just that.
Lindvall’s high school classmates, however, may have seen this sort of job coming years ago when they named her “most likely to end up in New York City.”
“I remember thinking it was the silliest award; I was going to Georgia Southern to study biology and premed,” says the Ansley Park resident. But within a year, Lindvall had switched to music, with one caveat. “My parents said if they were going to pay for my housing, I had to get a degree in music education—something solid,” she says. “So that’s what I did.”
While student teaching, Lindvall heard about the college program at Disney World that recruits young talent to be part of the park’s entertainment. “I auditioned just to see what would happen, and I got an internship,” she recalls. “I was in Orlando full-time for a year and a half, and I got to play a ton of characters—none of which I can name; it’s in the contract.”
Before graduating, Lindvall spent a winter studying musical theater in New York City and loved it. She was accepted into that graduate program at NYU and moved north, where she stayed on to create a music and dramatic arts program at the Notre Dame School of Manhattan, establish a music and musical theater program at a public elementary school and found Sirens of Gotham, a women’s chorus in Manhattan. Along the way, she met and married her husband, Brian, and when his job moved them to Georgia last fall, Lindvall started looking for a good fit.
“We had three weeks to move when I found this ArtsBridge position and was floored,” she says. “It tied in everything I’d done before, from starting programs from scratch to running a nonprofit.”
Based at the Cobb Energy Centre, the 10-year-old foundation provides arts education and community programs to about 300,000 elementary and high school students each year. The jewel in its crown is the annual Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards – Shuler Hensley Awards, named for Atlanta native and Broadway actor Shuler Hensley. Now in her ArtsBridge position, Lindvall supports up-and-coming musical performers and gets to direct the annual awards show that showcases the best high school musical talent in the state. “We’re trying to make the show a big celebration of our 10 years, and I spend a lot of time meeting with everyone involved—musicians, choreographers, production people. The show is broadcast live on GPTV (April 19), and it’s always one of the highest quality productions I’ve ever seen.”
ArtsBridge also sponsors master classes, conducted in conjunction with artists touring on the Broadway show circuit, as well as student field trips to live theater performances. “For some of these students, it’s the first production they’ve seen live,” Lindvall says. “We try to focus on Title I schools to allow them to experience the arts in ways they may not do at home or in school. We also have family performances on weekends, and we’re looking to add summer camps, more master classes and partnerships with area universities.”
Given that broad scope, Lindvall is energized to use her talent to expand ArtsBridge’s reach. And though she’s not in the spotlight, she’s happy shining it on the next generation of musical talent. “These programs are the reason I’m involved in the arts today,” she says. “And I wouldn’t be here myself without programs like these.”
STORY: H.M. Cauley
PHOTO: Stephen Payne