Small Business, Big Impact: CenterStage Performing Arts Academy
Six forward-thinking creative entrepreneurs had a dream: to create a place where talent could be nurtured and children could get experience performing without having to make the trek to Nashville. That dream became a reality in 2015 when they purchased CenterStage Performing Arts Academy in Gallatin.
The business partners—Kayla Witty, Natalie Klein Hudson, David Klein, Laurie Klein, Nathan Schneider, and Daniel Hudson—quickly went to work. What started as a dance studio with about 80 students was transformed as the new owners boosted the school’s offerings. “We added a music program and a theater program and grew our student base to about 150,” says Kayla Witty, Director of Education. “The music program, directed by Nathan Schneider, features two choirs and private lessons for voice and several instruments, and the theater program produces musical variety shows and acting shows.”
The new owners have spared no expense to make their dream a reality. Led by David Klein, Director of Operations, and Daniel Hudson, Chief Financial Officer, the team gutted the 10,000-sq.-ft. building in 2016 and completely reconfigured the space. “We went from two dance studios to five, added four private lesson rooms, created a huge lobby, and renovated the bathrooms,” says Natalie Klein Hudson, Director of Performance.
They also added a massive state-of-the-art performance hall complete with professional lighting, a sound system, and chandeliers. “We did it so we can host our own shows,” says Natalie. “We’d always had trouble finding a venue in Gallatin large enough for the kinds of shows we were doing. We had been doing them at the Palace Theater or going into Hendersonville. The parents of our students preferred to stay closer to home.”
Even though they are entering their third year of business, CenterStage already has a claim to fame. A group of 13 dancers from CenterStage has been invited to represent Tennessee at Dance Excellence, an international dance festival held in Los Angeles in April 2018. The dancers will be taking master classes with dancers from Broadway and will have the opportunity to perform at Disneyland. “Just one studio from each state is invited to represent their state so this is a tremendous honor for everyone at CenterStage,” says Kayla.
What is most exciting about their work? Natalie is passionate about building confidence in the next generation. “We are giving them tools to succeed in their lives no matter what they decide to do,” says Natalie. “Whether they become performers, doctors, lawyers, or engineers, the teamwork, drive, and focus they learn from us will serve them well in any career.”
For Kayla, it’s about character. “I tell my students this: your talent will set the floor but your character will set the ceiling,” she notes. “At the end of the year, the awards we hand out are for things like diligence, kindness, encouragement, and teamwork, not who can kick the highest. We encourage the development of these attributes in our students which makes the studio a fun place to be.”
CenterStage Performing Arts Academy is located at 250 Hancock Street in Gallatin. For more information, call (615) 230-9341 or visit performcenterstage.com.