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Salama Brings ‘The Wiz’ to Belmont

Continuing a five-year partnership, Belmont University’s Troutt Theater will host a production from The Salama Institute this weekend as students from the Christian-based nonprofit organization perform The Wiz.

Last summer Salama celebrated its 25th anniversary with Dimensions, a Cavalcade of Music from Opera to Broadway that included performances of Porgy and Bess, The Wiz, West Side Story, Dreamgirls, Grease, Cinderella and Carousel. This year, students return to The Wiz, a soulful rendition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.

“We do Broadway for a couple of reasons: it demands artistic excellence, is a great training ground for our kids and exposes them to more classic work,” said Development Director George Crook. “We have been doing Broadway shows for 11 years and use it as character development for our kids. Peer pressure, sex, drugs, broken relationships, the struggles with fame – we try to take these things and find the life lessons our kids can learn from it. The Wiz is a historical African-American production, and it has a lot of life lessons on why you have to value home. With the tornado we talk about the trials of life, courage and hope.”

Salama, meaning “peace” in Swahili, has served Nashville students for 26 years by providing academic, language, leadership development and performing arts programs to equip children with skills needed for success in life and to nurture lives of integrity and hope through the foundation of faith. Students in kindergarten through 12th grade commit to attending Salama daily after school and throughout the summer to supplement their public education with a liberal arts emphasis, all from a Christian perspective readying students for college or other post high school experience. Each student receives 750 hours of instruction each year. All students who have completed the Institute have graduated from high school and enrolled in college or post-secondary training.

Belmont’s partnership with Salama began when University President Bob Fisher attended a production of West Side Story under a tent and invited the nonprofit to hold its annual production on campus and benefit from the work of the University’s faculty and students. Belmont now donates the use of Troutt Theater to Salama for six weeks each summer.

Previously, Honors students created a volunteer program for Salama and completed a study on its cost effectiveness. This year, Associate Professor of Finance John Gonas and Belmont Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) taught a Business 101 class to high school students on Wednesday nights. Students from Assistant Professor Bernard Turner’s Social Entrepreneurship classes have volunteered and interned at Salama. Vice President and Chief of Staff Susan West recently began a three-year term on Salama’s board of directors and will serve on the operations committee.

“We want to express our gratitude to Belmont and Dr. Fisher for the use of Troutt Theater. Salama students feel like Belmont is home to them. We feel a real sense of partnership with Belmont and feel like we belong to Belmont. We want to continue the journey with Belmont and leverage all of the assets that Belmont has to offer,” Executive Director Stan Weber said.

“Everything that we do is meant to produce value and leaders so we use performing arts as an inherent disciplinary builder for our kids to learn projection and speech patterns. The students in Salama never lack for a job because of their presentation skills. The Wiz is about finding contentment within yourself and finding people to point you in the right direction,” said Weber.  About 85 percent of the cast is current or former Salama students.

The Wiz will show at 7 p.m. July 20 and 21 as well as 4:30 p.m. July 22 in Belmont’s Troutt Theater. General admission tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, and $7 for youth ages seven to 12 and $2 for children under age 6. Tickets may be purchased in advance online or at the door.