Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA)

Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA)

The Youth Ensemble of Atlanta (YEA) empowers youth, through the performing arts, to become catalysts for positive change in their communities. Founded in 1990, YEA provides the young people of metro Atlanta with free training in the performing arts as well as the opportunity to create original, issue-based musical dramas. YEA has created eight company-developed productions, Rhymes and Reasons (dealing with child abuse), Soweto! Soweto! Soweto! … A Township is Calling (commemorating the struggles against apartheid), School House Rocks (tackling the subject of youth violence), Times (dealing with AIDS and sexuality), Psalm 13 (teaching on the subject of teen pregnancy), B.L.A.C.K. – Better Left a Colored Kid (dealing with the concept of identity), Jekonni’s Song (a story of love) and Endangered Species (discussing the issues of young girls). These productions have been performed with glorious critical acclaim for more than a million people on four continents.

More importantly, YEA fosters the personal growth of hundreds of young people from childhood to adulthood. Along the way, these talented and dedicated performers develop crucial communication and life skills that result in heightened cultural awareness, a commitment to excellence and community service, an appreciation for diversity, and self confidence and self-esteem. Many of our ensemble members come from at-risk communities and face many temptations that could lead them to a life of great hardship. These young people see YEA as a safe haven where their voices can be heard, where they are free to creatively express themselves without fear of reproach, and where their uniqueness and individual strengths and talents can be nurtured and appreciated.

YEA has garnered a national and international reputation for creating original issue-oriented work for teens in a creative and entertaining fashion. These productions gingerly open the doors of communication between parents and children. We have represented our city in numerous locations in the US, as well as in China, Holland, Belgium and South Africa. Our performances have consistently met with incredible praise and our work has won awards in several international festivals. Jane Fonda summed up our work simply saying “You can’t help but cry . . . the honesty and passion of these kids is so intense. I was blown away by their professionalism.”

In addition to our training program and many productions, YEA has many other programs including our internship program and Youth Empowerment Summer (YES) program. The Intern Program provides leadership and performance opportunities for the older members of YEA to continue their artistic and professional development. The YES program is a peer-to-peer outreach program that connects with underserved Atlanta communities and aims to create a positive environment where at-risk youth can learn valuable communication, life and performance skills.

YEA has been recognized for our work by President’s Committee on the Arts (2008 Coming Up Taller winner and inaugural honoree), City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office, Atlanta Magazine (Best Theatre for Youth 1997 and 2002), Lexus Leaders for the Arts and we won the VITA Award for Best Overall Production at the 2000 Windybrow Arts Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. YEA has performed for the Trumpet Awards and the Atlanta Hawks’ Tribute to Maynard Jackson and shared the stage with Bobby McFerrin, Shirley Caesar and Smokie Norfal. Our performers have received Emmys and Grammys and are performing on Broadway, in major films and on numerous professional stages in the US and Europe.