18 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

(WBIR-Knoxville) Tickets to see a Broadway show can cost more than $100. But an East Tennessee program is helping provide students with access to the arts.

Tennessee Theatre's Youth Arts Alliance Fund started in 2007. It is supported by BPV Capital Mangement and Variety of Eastern Tennessee. The program provides free tickets to Knox County students at Title 1 schools (high-poverty schools).

Sunday night, the Historic Tennessee Theatre held its final performance of the musical Jersey Boys.

Among the ticket holders included more than 20 students from Austin-East High School, who saw the show for free thanks to the Youth Arts Alliance.

For some of them, it was their first time seeing a professional show.

"It's amazing. I'm so glad people could pay for us to go. It's really nice and I'm very excited that we get to experience this," said Destiny Cunningham, a junior at Austin-East.

Austin-East Theater Teacher Doug James said he has taken advantage of the program many times, two shows last year and two shows this year.

"I teach at a school that is very underprivileged and I mean they barely have money for food and for clothing. And so the opportunity for them to be in this beautiful theatre and see these amazing shows, I was immediately like, 'Yes,'" he said.

But those involved with the Youth Arts Alliance say not enough teachers know about it or take advantage of it. About 750 students saw events through the program this school year.

"To me, it's all about access. It's all about giving these kids access to something that maybe they couldn't do on their own. And then, just that night, that one night when maybe they go, 'I can do that. That's something I could do,'" said Mike West, CEO of BPV Capital Management.

Becky Hancock, executive director of the Historic Tennessee Theatre Foundation, can remember the first professional show she attended.

"I saw Cats here in Knoxville in 1987... My mother took me and my brothers and it was a great experience. I just couldn't believe all those things were happening on stage live... So I think that made a big impact on me," Hancock said.

Donations to the Youth Arts Alliance are 100% tax-deductible. Individuals or companies that want to help fund the Youth Arts Alliance can contact Becky Hancock at 684-1200 x145.

Teachers who want to learn more can contact Susan Rodenbeck, Tennessee Theatre Box Office Manager, at 865-684-1143.

18 5 LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE
Read or Share this story: http://on.wbir.com/1kMKGRi