Since its creation in 1996 by Julia and Robert Aubrey, the Youth Music Theatre Workshop was designed to fill a need in the community for children’s theatre during the summer. The goal was to develop performance skills in music, drama, and movement through creative exercises. The two weeks culminated in a short production that allowed the children to demonstrate their new skills and express themselves as singing actors. For the next 20 years, hundreds of children performed in the YMTW in collaboration with the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, the UM Opera Theatre, and Oxford Shakespeare Festival. See the History of the Youth Music Theatre Workshop.
Beginning in 2017, the Ford Center took over production of the YMTW with a generous donation from the Kite Foundation and Nancye B. Starnes. This funding allowed the workshop to expand to two sessions allowing more children to participate. The grant also provided the means to increase the production value and hire more professional artistic staff, assistants, and pit musicians to work with the children. Ms. Starnes has continued to fund the workshop each summer and her support was matched in 2019 by the Madison Charitable Fund through Joc and Leigh Anne Carpenter.
In 2021, a new fund was established to honor Mary Lewis Poole who devoted her time and seamstress talent to help costume the children for over 15 years. The fund provides scholarships for children who are not able to participate without financial assistance. If you would like to donate to the fund, please visit https://give.olemiss.edu/where-to-give/cultural-arts/.