Music, and Theater, and Art, Oh My!
Emily Dodson leads kids to grow their own creative gardens while pursuing her own various artistic passions.
Muggy mid-June morning air waltzes around H.O.M.E. headquarters
and surprisingly stumbles upon 20-or-so chattering and giggling kids in costume perusing the hallway outside the closed event room doors. One of the large white doors cracks open, and Emily Dodson’s head peers out; she coaxes the gaggle of kids back into the event space, typically empty at this early hour, to continue rehearsing for their early evening showcase. Two of the kids begin to harmonize a familiar indie song as they all excitedly march through the doors gradually closing behind them. That evening would be the highly anticipated Red House Imaginarium Rock & Roll Theater Camp Showcase at the H.O.M.E. event space, streamed live to the kids’ family and friends unable to attend the performance in person.
The genius machine behind the event goes by the name Emily Dodson.
Resident of Nashville since before Y2K, Emily is the director of an independent Performing/Fine Arts youth education center called Red House Imaginarium. This past summer, she found herself in a pinch, suddenly without a venue to host Red House Imaginarium’s summer camp scheduled one week away. In order to find a solution to her predicament, she called Center 615 to see their event space ability. When they were unable to provide event space for her, Center 615 recommended Emily contact H.O.M.E. for a summer camp venue. The match was so perfect for H.O.M.E. and Red House Imaginarium that Emily has continued to partner with H.O.M.E. for her experiential performing/fine arts education programs, on top of enrolling herself as a H.O.M.E. member. The combo allows the kids to not only see production equipment in person, but to interact with it, learning how to use it hands-on.
Acting and singing aficionado herself since adolescence,
Emily strives to introduce kids to creative expression through performance. Her artistic inspirations that guide her through her passion include Ella Fitzgerald, Adèle, Cindy Lauper, Madonna, The Broadway Musical Les Misérables, and additionally classic rock, old blues, jazz, and alternative music.
Emily preaches to her kids and to others that confidence is crucial in creativity. She proclaims, “If you can talk, you can sing. If you can walk, you can dance. If you can lie, you can act.” Of course some people have more of a knack for creative expression than others, but confidence goes a long way on a stage.
Another principle she teaches to her students is the importance of embracing delayed gratification. Working hard includes knowing that the reward will not be instantaneous.
Oftentimes with stage performance, the feeling of gratification does not come until after several weeks of hard work and practice. Today with everything being instantaneous, working towards delayed gratification is especially difficult for the kids, so they learn to support each other and push each other to be their absolute best.
Many times Emily has seen her students one week before showcase freaking out because they don’t feel prepared for the performance. She reassures them that one week is still enough time to polish their performance. When the day of the show arrives, Emily sees them light up on stage, truly allowing themselves to shine. Afterwards, the kids feel proud of themselves, recognizing the pay-off of hard work not only within themselves but also with others. One of the best places to learn teamwork, hard work, and delayed gratification is in music or theater stage performance.
Emily created a character she calls Mona, and sometimes portrays her for amusement. Mona’s background story is that she had been a stripper before she found the Lord and happily became a Mormon and second wife to her husband, Nathan. Once, Emily walked around Five Points as Mona and passed by people who knew her but did not recognize her persona. They unknowingly treated her as a stranger, but they simultaneously amused her and gave her a sense of freedom.
In the little spare time she has, Emily is working on her sophomore album.
When it’s been a slow day at one of her jobs working at an art gallery, Emily whips out her guitar and writes songs. She has stacks of written songs, so the main issue is recording the songs in a studio. Alongside writing, performing replenishes Emily’s energy, feeding her soul so that she can share the energy with others. Also, how can she teach others to perform without performing herself?
If there were a million hours in the day, Emily would additionally pursue more theater acting. Every now and then she’ll have a role in a film, but not enough to satisfy. One activity she does dedicate more time to, though, is literary writing, participating in a memoir circle. Emily also wrote a couple of plays and a musical.
At the moment, Emily is bouncing around an idea for a new musical,
though it is not top priority, as her students will always come first.
The script will be based off her past experience in college with a boy she met at a Julliard audition in snow-covered New York. After the audition, the two had a whirlwind romance, coincidentally on the weekend of Emily’s 18th birthday, enjoying picturesque activities like walking in the snow through Central Park and inevitably spending a full 48 hours together. The musical will appropriately be named “Audition.”
Emily holds a handful of cards, so stick around to see what she does next!
Interviewed and written by Andra Ingram