Meet Angi Burns of Ovation Academy of Performing Arts
I began acting at the age of four and continued to study Theatre in high school and college. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in both Theatre and Broadcast Communication and went on to obtain a Master’s Degree in Education Administration. I taught public school Speech, Theatre & Debate for nine years, directed UIL One-Act play, musicals and a variation of other productions both in the educational setting and throughout the community. As a performer, I have been involved in numerous educational, amateur and professional theatre productions across Texas and Oklahoma. I am an award-winning Radio DJ, Sports Emcee and Comedian. I served as the Assistant Director of Children’s Theatre for the Oklahoma Shakespearean Festival, Educational Director for the OSF After-school program, Owner/Director of Broadway Bound School of Performing Arts, a teaching artist for Junior Players and as the Artistic Director of The Young Actor’s Guild of Collin County and CenterStage Youth Theatre in addition to teaching in Wylie ISD and McKinney ISD.
As an educator and a mom of young artists I began to see the pitfalls of traditional education models in regards to students who are passionate about the arts. Many of the students who are college or career bound in theatre, dance or music were not getting the tools needed to be successful in the industry. Although they were talented in their art form, they were inexperienced and naive to the requirements and work ethic it takes to make it in the industry. A majority of these young artists are victims of bullying or suffer from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or attention deficit disorder. Often students who are members of the LGBTQ community gravitate to the arts as a safe place as well. Most traditional education models are not set up to help these students manage their issues in a healthy way. These young artists are not receiving the level of training needed nor the opportunities to network to take their careers to the next level. The performing arts industry has become so competitive that the joy has been lost.
My own children were booking more professional jobs in film, television and theatre. Despite their solid grades and lack of behavior issues, they began receiving truancy notices for working and gaining experience in their chosen field. As I saw more and more students suffering from the societal norms in place in traditional education models I knew I needed to do something to provide high-level training, industry networking, flexibility and a safe space for these students. I knew that with my background in the arts and in education, I could do something to help these students. I wanted to provide a safe, supportive and inclusive home for young artists to pursue their passions and develop the industry and life skills needed to succeed. Therefore, I created Ovation Academy of Performing Arts. Currently, we are a private Conservatory Academy (501c3 Non-profit Educational Organization) but we are taking steps to become a public Charter school in the next few years.
My goal is to develop good humans who can give back to the community in a positive manner through their art.
It has absolutely been the most challenging yet rewarding journey I have ever been on. I have been involved in the arts for over 30 years and in education for over a decade but the business side of things is all new to me. Pretty much anything that could have gone wrong has; yet we have somehow overcome it. There have been may times I did not know how we would survive to the next month but we pushed through and miracles happened, which tells me we must be doing something right. There have been numerous logistical issues along the way and so many things I never even considered which became major speed bumps. I have been fortunate to surround myself with incredible people who are wiser and more experienced than I am who have helped guide me. Being a nonprofit, there are different rules and regulations and being a school there are responsibilities and obligations. Ensuring that all areas of our organization line up and are working together is difficult. There are days in which I want to quit, many days actually, but then I see the kids and how excited they are about an upcoming audition or event, I watch them perform their hearts out onstage with the most breathtaking honesty, I hear them discuss how they feel at home and safe at Ovation and it reminds me why I have made the sacrifices I have to make this dream a reality.
Being a strong woman can be a challenge. There is a delicate balance between being bossy and being a leader. Women are often not met with the same level of respect that men in business are naturally given. I have been the only female in the room during business meetings and felt completely ignored until I spoke up and proved that I knew what I was doing and had important knowledge to contribute. I think oftentimes, even in 2020, it is assumed that men speak and women listen but to be a strong leader we must show that we are capable of doing both intelligently and efficiently. Most women are natural empaths which can often lead to us being vulnerable and taken advantage of in professional settings. However, I prefer to see the good in everyone and see their humanity rather than just a business deal so if I get burned a time or two, which I have, at least I know it was because I took the high road and meant well.
I am the Founder and Executive Director of Ovation Academy of Performing Arts. Ovation Academy was founded to provide a home for performers to pursue their passion of the Arts through professional style training which provides the technique, life-skills, experiences and connections necessary to succeed in the industry. We focus on each individual student and their unique journey. Ovation Academy strives to produce knowledgeable, respectful, empathetic and impactful artists who will contribute to their communities and to the performing arts industry. Our students come to us when traditional education models are not meeting their needs. This could be due to a number of factors. A number of our students suffer from mental illness, anxiety, depression or learning disabilities and require a more individualized education than can be offered in public school or more resources than can be offered in a homeschool setting. Beyond the academic benefits, our program also offers students specific vocational training in the performing arts which is not offered in public or homeschool settings. In public school students are forced to choose between their passions. They generally cannot take dance, theatre and choir which puts them at a deficit when auditioning for colleges or professional work.
In order to get training in all three disciplines they must spend a great number of ours after school training which takes a huge toll on them physically and mentally. We eliminate the need for after school training which allows them to focus on their academic studies, family time and mental health. The level and style of classes offered in public school does not meet the needs of students who aspire to work professionally or attend a top performing arts college. Our program goes beyond the art form and teaches the tools needed to succeed in the industry. Many of our students currently work in the industry and have more experience than their previous teachers. Additionally, Ovation Academy provides networking and professional opportunities for our students. The current focus in most public schools is on STEM education. This forced curriculum does not benefit artistic students or their career path. We are seeing more and more artistic kids fall through the cracks. Our lower student to staff ratios allow students to thrive by building relationships with a mentor which allows us to proactively monitor their mental health and behavior. Our program helps to keep these young artists in school and focused on a career path. We assist in maintaining the mental and physical well-being of the students. We teach our students life-skills which help make them better people and make our community stronger.
Additionally, our full-immersion students compete in numerous competitions and perform at various events throughout the year. We have been pleasantly surprised with how well they have done being such a new program.
Here is a list of our accomplishments in just our 1st year.
32 National Qualifiers
1st Place Dance Challenge
August Wilson Monologue Contest
4 State Semi-finalists
3 Regional Finalists
1st Place Regional Winner
Top 15 in Nation
Broadway Artist Alliance
11 Students accepted into elite Summer Training Program in NYC
4 Ovation Academy students starring in
Rio Ranch Studios “Still the One” Pilot
Student from Ovation Academy cast as
live Rio Rancho Studios mascot “Bonnie O’Clare”
Goliath Games/Celebrity Dance
Students from Ovation Academy cast as
Goliath Games and Celebrity Dance Models
Rotary Oratorical Contest
Broadway World Awards
12 Staff and student nominations
Speech & Debate
Local finalists/champions in multiple events
Numerous Feature film, voice acting, commercial and television castings
Numerous Dance Competition Platinum awards and top honors
College Acceptance and scholarships awarded to ALL graduating students
5 Musical Productions
3 Stage Play Productions
8 Cabaret Performances
6 Community Performances
7 Non-Profit Community Service Projects
15 Community Marketing Events
I define success by the difference someone makes in the lives of others. When I see our students succeed academically, socially and in their art, then I know we are doing something right. For me personally, watching our students on stage come to life and exude confidence, hearing that they are booking professional commercials, film, television, voice-over and theatre gigs regularly, knowing that they are happy and healthy and want to go to school each day is proof of my success. When I first began this journey I had no idea the impact it would make on others. I knew I wanted to help young artists but I did not realize that I would be doing so much more than teaching them technique and skills. I was oblivious to how much these kids needed a safe and supportive environment and how much that could affect their mental health. I was unaware of the torment some of our students went through everyday due to being different. I was lucky to have grown up in a generation tat did not have the vast influence of social media. I had a student tell me once that before coming to Ovation they, “wanted to take their life before they had taken Algebra.” That comment has stuck with me. That same young man is now graduating with over $100,000 in college scholarships and has been accepted into one of the top performing arts programs in the country and he has embraced his own identity and worth. He has grown so much as a person and an artist over the past two years. His success is how I measure my success. We have dozens of students like him now. They each make a lasting impression on me and remind me why I began this crazy rollercoaster ride and that no matter what happens or where we go from here it was successful.