Founded in 1993, The Adderley School for the Performing Arts operates in both Texas and California. Janet Adderley, founder and veteran of Broadway and television, calls Austin her home.
Since the school’s inception, thousands of children across all age groups have found a passion for musical theater. On stage, they gain confidence in their voice and movement.
Finding Your Voice
Adderley describes the persona of her school with a Mary Poppins quotation. “With every job to be done, there is an element of fun.”
The Adderley School for the Performing Arts blends hard work and joy to create a talent funnel of young musical theater stars–and confident leaders. Theatrical expression is about more than sculpting talent. When you practice the value of your voice, you discover how to be heard.
The mission of The Adderley School is personal. Adderley glowed as she explained, “If I were a color, I’d be fire engine red. If my daughter were a color, she’d be lavender. I want to help all those lavender girls and boys find their red voice.”
The Adderley School’s Legacy
Adderley was born to two trailblazing role models—her mother a mathematician and her father a doctor. In fact, Adderley’s mother, Velma McAfee Williams, was the first African-American woman to enroll in the Rice doctoral program in mathematics, in 1965. She left Rice three years later, after she was denied an adviser for her dissertation, and pursued a career in education.
In an effort to right a past injustice, Rice University recognized Williams in 2016 during commencement ceremonies, with honorary doctoral regalia. This is one example of how Adderley’s parents displayed the fruition of grit and dreams. Now Adderley teaches the same lesson among the community of youth she mentors.
It was Williams who sought out performance theater as a tool for her oldest son. He was shy during a time when, according to Adderley, “It was difficult to live in Texas, be black, quiet, and not into sports.” In an effort to boost her son’s confidence, Williams enrolled all her children in the children’s theater program at Houston’s Alley Theatre.
Adderley’s sister became a minister. Her brother, a doctor. Meanwhile, Adderley blossomed into an artist and change-maker.
Love at First Stage
When Adderley first stepped onto the stage as Molly the Munchkin, she found her nirvana. She went on to earn a degree from Yale, and her career trajectory whisked her into showbiz. Landing the role of Belle in the Broadway production of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “Starlight Express,” Adderley made her name across television, the big screen, and theater throughout the 1980s and 1990s.
How did she make the transition from actress to dream catcher? As Adderley explained, sometimes your purpose finds you. In an effort to help her youngest find her voice, Adderley started volunteering at her daughter Alana’s school. Alana played the role of Miss Adelaide in “Dolls,” and was enamored by the texture of her character’s accent. All of a sudden, her introverted nature turned inside out into her character’s persona–and Alana came alive.
After three years, The Adderley School had 300 enrolled kids and it was time for Adderley to make a life decision. “Out of a mother’s need to help my child, my career found me.” Not only did Adderley’s children initially inspire The Adderley School for the Performing Arts, but today Alana continues in her mother’s footsteps to help other young people find their voice.
➡️ Keep reading: Heartsong Music Bridges Generational Gap With the Joy of Song
Mission to Serve
After dedicating much of her career to helping those who could afford her mentorship, Adderley grew determined to be a role model for less fortunate children. So in 2018, The Adderley School developed a nonprofit leg that enabled any child to benefit from its life-changing musical school program.
Graduates of the school, such as Ben Platt and Jack Dylan Grazer, use their celebratory status to bring musical magic to under-served children, assisting in fundraising for the Austin nonprofit. With pop-up programming for Austin’s lower socioeconomic schools, and scholarships to The Adderley School, Janet Adderley continues to grow her legacy as a pillar of the arts with a social justice arm.
For locations across Austin and class schedules, visit The Adderley School for the Performing Arts website.
@theAustinot wants to know:
Where in Austin do you lean into your favorite artistic expression?
We always have unique content on the Austinot and we love to give things away. You know, like event tickets, gift certificates, and other cool stuff. We only send out our “Best of the Austinot” newsletter two times/month. It’s where we give you a recap of our best articles and give stuff away. Interested? Subscribe to Best of the Austinot here!