Beyond bergenPAC: Making Live Performing Arts and Arts Education Accessible

Photo By Jeremy Lebled

The nonprofit mission of Bergen Performing Arts Center (bergenPAC) is to make live performing arts and arts education accessible to everyone in the community. Many people know about the theater, but a major part of how it delivers on that mission is through the Performing Arts School at bergenPAC.

While 1,100 students come through its doors each year, Beyond bergenPAC – the community outreach initiative – impacted impact 14,086 students in 124 schools in 79 school districts in 8 counties last school year. The initiative provides arts programming in New Jersey public and private schools where funding in the arts has been cut or an enhancement to the existing curriculum is needed. All the programs are customized to fit the schools’ needs and budgets and meet New Jersey’s Core Curriculum Standards.

Photo By Jeremy Lebled

The initiative was started in 2011 with the Paterson School District with an emphasis on using arts education as a tool for promoting literacy and physical education. It was implemented in a partnership with the New Jersey Development Corporation and corporate underwriters. The results showed higher test scores, confidence with learning new material and a healthier approach to physical education.

More schools were added as the initiative gained more corporate support. The programs include:

In-School Residencies

In the face of growing budget cuts, bergenPAC’s In-School Residencies keep the performing arts in the schools. bergenPAC’s professional teaching artists work with schools to create a personalized curriculum focused on a specific art form. In-school residencies are available for any length of time, both during and after school, and can be customized for all abilities. Certified teaching artists can also provide in-school residencies geared toward the special needs community. All The teaching artists have degrees in the performing arts, as well as teaching and performance experience.

Photo By Jeremy Lebled

School Time Series

Visiting a professional performing arts center for the first time is an extraordinary experience for a young person. Through our strategic partners, we established a School Time Series at bergenPAC that brings classroom lessons to life in a fun way, as students can interact with the performers. There are also opportunities for post-show Q&As.


bergenPAC provides live assembly programs with topics customized to schools’ interests. The assemblies let students interact with live performers, learn about important issues and experience live theater in the comfort of their own schools. These assemblies promote cultural awareness and enhance learning through performances connected to the schools’ curricula. Teacher Resource Guides and a Q&A session with the artists are included. Topics have ranged from anti-bullying to fun science to drug abuse awareness.

Gerrilynn Guerrero


Co-productions are unique to bergenPAC because they give students and teachers the opportunity to work with professional directors, designers and choreographers to take their theater productions to the next level. High school-level productions are performed on the main stage at bergenPAC, while middle and elementary schools put on a professional-quality production in their home theater.

Special Stars: Sensory-friendly programs

The Special Stars program offers dance, music, hip-hop and theatre workshops customized for special needs students so they can enjoy the benefits of a performing arts education in the comfort of their own classrooms.

Photo By Gerrilynn Guerrero

High School Arts Impact Initiative

bergenPAC recently launched a unique partnership with the Union City Public School District and Bergen Community College, in which Union City High School students take dance, theater, music, production and recording classes at bergenPAC’s Performing Arts School, while also participating in an arts management internship at bergenPAC. The students can earn college credits through Bergen Community College, which can be applied toward public colleges in New Jersey.

Photo By Jeremy Lebled

Voices in Harmony

bergenPAC proudly hosts Voices in Harmony, an annual musical celebration featuring singers, musicians and dancers from 16 schools across seven counties with students with disabilities. Professional teaching artists conduct workshops in the participating schools throughout the year to help the students rehearse for their big performance on the bergenPAC stage. The performance is presented by PAS and ASAH, with sponsorship support by the William T. Morris Foundation and The Alliance of Private Special Education Schools of North Jersey.

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Founded in 2003, the 1,367-seat Bergen Performing Arts Center, or bergenPAC, is the area’s cultural mecca. Housed in a historic Art Deco-style theater boasting one of the finest acoustic halls in the United States, bergenPAC attracts a stellar roster of world-class entertainment. The jewel in our crown is The Performing Arts School at bergenPAC – the innovative, educational performing arts initiative that, through programs, classes, outreach, school shows, and main theater presented shows, reach more than 30,000 students and community youth annually. The Performing Arts School provides community youth, age 2 months to 21 years, with unique, “hands-on” training in music, dance and theater by industry professionals. It is through the ongoing generosity of sponsors, donors, members, and patrons that the not-for-profit 501 (c)(3) corporation bergenPAC and The Performing Arts School are able to thrive and enrich our community. For updates, “Like” bergenPAC on Facebook (!/bergenpacfan), follow @bergenPAC on Twitter, follow us on LinkedIn and visit our website at

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