Austin inspires theater-school founder to become a nonprofit

Janet Adderley

Since she founded her school for performing arts, Janet Adderley has had a mission. Along the way, she has trained and guided hundreds of talented kids in musical theater, including a Tony-award winner. But training the next Broadway star wasn’t why she started the school.
“From the beginning, it’s been about giving children a voice,” said Adderley. “Acting and singing are the vehicle we use to have an impact that is much more lasting and powerful.”

Adderley had been operating two Adderley Schools in Los Angeles before opening the third school in Austin in 2016. In Austin, she’s found what Los Angeles didn’t have. “Los Angeles is an incredibly segregated city,” she said, much more so than Austin. “I can count on one hand the number of children of color that I’ve ever taught in the Palisades (a Los Angeles neighborhood), but in Austin I’ve had as many as 18 in a single class.”

Here in Austin, Adderley says, things just fell into place. And it’s what led her to decide last fall to make the Austin Adderley school a nonprofit. The school will host its first fundraiser on February 3.

“I grew up in Houston in the 60’s, a little brown girl,” she said, “so I don’t have to tell you the challenges I faced.” She credits her mother for helping her find her passion in theater. But it wasn’t Janet that was enrolled in classes, it was her older brother. Her mother enrolled him in theater school to help him “find his confidence.” Adderley said, “She felt intuitively that theater training would help him get over his shyness.”

Later, when Adderley had her own children, she turned to theater to help one her daughters overcome her shyness. That’s when she started her own school. “A school had always been a dream of mine. I had a lovely career for a minute there, but what I will be known for is the school.” Among those she’s taught have been the children of Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and Ben Affleck as well as actor Sarah Hyland of Modern Family, model Gigi Hadid, and Tony-award winner Ben Platt.

In Austin, Adderley met Tracy LaQuey Parker, an Internet pioneer and community volunteer, and invited her to serve on the new nonprofit’s board. “I’ve see what these kinds of initiatives cando for underserved kids,” she said. “Janet’s desire to give back to children who are not as privileged, that resonated with me.”

“What she does is promote confidence,” said Parker.

But turning a for-profit into a nonprofit involves more than paperwork, and Adderley says she’s up to the task. The Austin school will be the basis for turning all three of her schools into nonprofits further down the line, but Adderley says she feels confident about fundraising. “I can go back and call upon all the amazingly successful people in the entertainment business whose children I have taught and who understand the value of what this has done in their own children’s lives. Now I want to level the playing field and give everyone this opportunity.”

PHOTO: Janet Adderley was inspired by Austin to make her theater school a nonprofit. Photo by Marlies Hartmann.
NOTE: This article also appeared in the Austin American-Statesman on January 21, 2018.
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