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Kids on Stage goes global

MacKenzie Wasner performs with Vince Gill and her dad, Pete Wasner during
last year’s Kids on Stage Summer Academy.

The 17th annual Kids on Stage Summer Academy, sponsored by the KOS Foundation of Williamson County in conjunction with Williamson County Schools, will be held June 10-15 and June 17-22 at Hillsboro Elem/Middle School. This year, the foundation is expanding the KOS program to include a Kids on Stage Global Academy and Kids on Stage Talent Search.

The Summer Academy provides talented students between the age of 7 and 17 with a world-class experience in visual, performing and technical arts.

“This is a great place where kids can come and learn while having fun from people who made it and have been successful,” said Gene Cotton, one of the founders of the KOS program. “We have Gary Talley, one of the original members of the Boxtops, teaching guitar. In the past we’ve had Walter Egan, Michael McDonald and John Hiatt teaching songwriting. Sometimes Vince Gill hangs around. The TV class likes to interview him. It’s a place where kids can grow with professionals and really learn. It’s not just a music academy, it’s a full blown arts academy.”

This year’s class offerings include acting, acting for fi lm, beginning and advanced theater arts, improv acting, theater make-up, art adventures, mosaics, beginning and advanced art, sculpture, hip-hop dance, songwriting, keyboards, electronic music, violin, ukulele, rock band, jazz band, guitar, bass, recording arts, musical theater, African drumming, television production, movie-making, web design, ProTools and photography to name a few.

As Cotton said, academy instructors are all topnotch career professionals involved in various aspects of the art, theater and music industry. Past academies have been visited by notables such as Naomi and Wynonna Judd, Deana Carter, Faith Hill and Tim McGraw, John Anderson, Robin Crow, Trey Bruce, Robin Hood, Kirk Whalum, Randy Goodrum, Bonnie Bramlett and Barbara Bailey Hutchison who have all provided advice and hands-on pointers to KOS students. Who knows who will show up this year.

Each Saturday following the weeklong academy will be a daylong music and arts festival starting at 11 a.m., featuring art shows and performances showcasing the students, culminating at 6 p.m. with a concert. Admission is free to the public. Food and drinks will be available all day.

Tuition for the KOS Summer Academy is $250 per week. Need-based scholarships are available. Applications are available at all Williamson County and Franklin Special schools, the central offi ce of both school districts and Shuff’s Music on Third Avenue North in Franklin. They can also be downloaded at

Buses are available in Franklin, Westhaven and Brentwood to Hillsboro Elem/Middle School.


KOS is looking for the best of the best. In partnership with Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork, Dark Horse Recording Studio and Shuff’s Music, KOS is sponsoring a Talent Search for musicians 18 and younger.

The fi rst Saturday of each month between through July, Puckett’s Grocery in Leiper’s Fork will host a talent showcase. Each month judges will select a fi rst-place winner who will receive a full-day recording session at Dark Horse Recording Studios, a second-place winner who will be awarded a six-hour recording session at Dark Horse, and a third-place winner, who will be presented a $100 gift certifi cate from Shuff’s Music Store.

First and Second place winners will face off in a “Winner Takes All” final competition sometime in July – date to be announce. The first place winner will receive a week at Dark Horse Recording Studios, second place will be awarded a day at Dark Horse and third place will receive a $250 gift certifi cate to Shuff’s Music Store.

There is no fee to sign up or compete in this event, but there is a cover charge of $5 per person for the event, which will go towards the KOS scholarship fund. Space is limited so potential participants should register as soon as possible by calling Blandin Vergara-Cruz at 517-0318 or email at

After this event, the competition will continue each first Saturday with another final competition in December.

For several months Cotton has been working with Li Weaver, Tennessee’s director of development for China, on a unique program which will bring 100 Chinese students to Williamson County to participate in a Kids on Stage Summer Academy July 22-27 at the Grace Chapel school in Leiper’s Fork. KOS will also accept 100 applicants between the ages of 14 and 17 from Williamson County to host a student in their home for eight to nine days and participate in the academy.

“This will give our kids and the Chinese kids to get to know each other through the arts,” Cotton said. “They will realize they really aren’t that different from each other. When we don’t know about people, so often there’s a sense of fear. This is a great opportunity to get to know a Chinese kid – a kid from Beijing who has only known concrete and buildings – on a personal level.”

Applications for this special KOS Summer Academy may be downloaded at

For more information about the KOS programs, contact Cotton at 615-804-0153.

KOS will also be taking a team of artists, musicians and instructors to Managua, Nicaragua, to provide a one-week academy at a school in an impoverished area of the city. For almost 25-years Cotton has been involved in a variety of projects in the Managua area.

Posted on: 3/19/2013


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