Performing Arts, Jr. Your Handy Guide to Local Schools for Kids

That’s Entertainment!

If your children are budding musicians, actors or dancers, there’s no need to travel to get them the training and experience they need. Our towns have some of the best performing arts schools around.


If your child wants to learn to play an instrument, head to The Cortlandt School of Performing Arts, founded by Carol Arrucci (veteran k-12 music teacher and Broadway professional) and her husband Ray Arrucci (Equity actor and vocalist).

It is the largest music school in the area, with locations in Croton-on-Hudson, Mohegan Lake and Pleasantville, and also offers instrument rentals. Students of all ages and levels can take private lessons in piano like the ones in my review here, percussion, strings, brass, guitar/banjo/ukulele, and voice.

Each lesson incorporates ear training, music theory, music history and sight-reading. The 26 instructors include certified K-12 music teachers as well as professional musicians who have performed on Broadway, at Carnegie Hall, and been featured in PBS’s Great Performances. Students have been accepted into prestigious music conservatories and gone on to successful performance careers.

If your teen is interested in Jazz music specifically, Ray Blue is your guy. Blue is an internationally acclaimed saxophonist and educator who has created a truly unique experience in Peekskill.

Dedicated young musicians come from all over the tri-state area (and Finland!) to join his Cross-Cultural Connection program, where they receive a comprehensive Jazz education and have the opportunity to perform alongside seasoned professionals in an intergenerational ensemble.

Students receive mentoring and college application guidance, and many go on to be professional musicians and music educators. Alumni are currently on college faculties at Columbia, St. John’s, and Georgia State.


Does your kiddo like hamming it up? Croton Academy of Arts specializes in musical theater and the comedic arts. CAA was founded in 2003 by theater professionals Catherine Riedel and Myrlin Valerio, and initially focused on improvisational and sketch comedy. It has since expanded to include other performing and fine arts, stage productions, summer camps and an after-school program.

Other offerings include private coaching for acting and auditions, private singing lessons, a sketch writing/acting group, and the Croton Academy of Comedic Arts performance-based program. Many of their students are pursuing careers in acting, writing and comedy.

New Era Creative Space, founded by Ridvan Foxhall in 2013, is the place to go for performing and visual arts with an emphasis on social action. Foxhall, originally from Nigeria, holds Master’s degree in Occupational Therapy and is also a certified parenting and life coach. She is committed to creating programs that develop social-emotional, leadership and moral skills as well as artistic talent.

The Children’s Theater Company of Peekskill, which Foxhall created in 2006, presents a yearly production through NECS that draws large crowds from the community.

Dance as Activism is another fantastic program that combines creative expression with political activism. The dances created address current political and social issues that affect the lives of young people. Other offerings include photography and digital animation classes, social justice youth clubs, and a high school apprenticeship program.


Those who want NYC-level dance training close to home should head to The Dance Conservatory. Opened in 2018, TDC is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Justin Wingenroth, owner and studio director, is a professional dancer and ABTⓇ Certified Teacher.

Regular classes include Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop, Contemporary, Lyrical, and Musical Theatre. Unique offerings include The First Steps Program which introduces kids ages 2-7 to the fundamentals of dance, and Limitless Movement which is for dancers ages 12-17 of different developmental, intellectual, learning, and/or physical abilities.

The Company Program offers a pre-professional level of training that prepares students for the collegiate and professional dance world. The top-notch instructors have performed on Broadway, MTV, at The Metropolitan Opera House, and with some of the best ballet and contemporary companies in the world.

If your child really wants to be a star, reach out to Scarlett Antonia of Antonia Arts. Scarlett was a professional ballerina and musical theater performer, and is now a choreographer, director, producer and manager.

For the past 20 years, she has dedicated herself to mentoring aspiring young artists. Through talent management, private coaching, classes and performances, she helps students reach their creative potential. Previous students include Grace VanderWaal (winner of America’s Got Talent), and stage and film actress Gabriel Sansone. Other students have gone on to perform with NYC Ballet, Madonna, Disney and more. Scarlett has also opened a multipurpose arts studio in Peekskill, The Artist Spot, which offers classes and workshops in the performing and creative arts.

Antonia Arts

Where: Peekskill

Arts disciplines offered: dance, theater and voice

Ages served: 8+

Types of instruction: classes, workshops, performances, private coaching, talent management

Specialty: mentoring talented young performing artists

Upcoming performances: Talent Showcase (August 19, Division Street in Peekskill, free); OZland Festival (September 18, The Artist Spot in Peekskill, free)

Cross-Cultural Connection

Where: Peekskill

Arts disciplines offered: Jazz music

Ages served: 13 through adult

Types of instruction: workshops, master classes, Pro-Am Ensemble

Specialty: nurturing pre-professional jazz musicians

Upcoming performances: Jazz at Esther Place (every Saturday through September on Esther Street – BeanRunner Cafe in Peekskill, 6-8 p.m., free); CCC Jazz in The Park Festival (August 21, 5-8 p.m. on Esther Street – BeanRunner Café, free; August 22, 1-7 p.m. at Riverfront Green Park in Peekskill, free)

Croton Academy of Arts

Where: Croton-on-Hudson

Arts disciplines offered: acting, comedy improvisation, sketch writing, creative writing, dance, musical theater, puppetry, and multimedia arts, crafts

Ages served: grade 3 through adult

Types of instruction: classes, workshops, camps, plays, musicals

Specialty: raising future comedians

New Era Creative Space

Where: Peekskill

Arts disciplines offered: theater, dance, songwriting, rap/spoken word, photography, filmmaking, multimedia arts

Ages served: 8-18

Types of instruction: after school programs, camps, classes, clubs, workshops

Specialty: empowering youth to be positive voices of change in the world

The Cortlandt School of Performing Arts

Where: Croton-on-Hudson, Mohegan Lake, Pleasantville

Arts disciplines offered: music (instrumental and vocal)

Ages served: 5 through adult

Types of instruction: private music lessons, small group classes, professional workshops, camps

Specialty: creating well-rounded musicians

The Dance Conservatory

Where: Cortlandt Manor

Arts disciplines offered: dance

Types of instruction: classes, master classes, camps, pre-professional performance ensemble

Specialty: training pre-professional dancers


  1. Yes Grace VanderWaal won AGT in 2016, she has gone on to be opening act for Imagine Dragons and Florence and the Machine as well as her own tours. Grace is also an actress appearing in Disney Studio’s Stargirl 2020 as lead actress. Grace just wrapped a new Disney film called Hollywood Stargirl, with co stars Uma Thurman, Judy Greer, and Judd Hirsch, now in post production according to IMDB. Hollywood Stargirl will be released in 2022. Grace’s 2020 movie Stargirl is available on Disney+

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About the Author: Caedra Scott-Flaherty