Meet Scholarship Recipient, Hayden

Hayden Hubner first got into contact with us after a friend, and Hume-Fogg Magnet High School counselor, told her about the Be About Change scholarships and writing opportunities.  After learning a bit about her goals, we were able to connect her with some graduates from local universities.  Hayden is an artist in every sense of the word – from dancing and singing, to writing and photography.  After talking with her, it became clear why she was a finalist and recipient for one of this year’s scholarship awards.  She plans to attend Middle Tennessee State University this fall.  In addition to immersing herself in various arts, Hayden also possesses a charitable spirit, and enjoys combining her talents with nonprofit work.

Here is Hayden’s scholarship essay about the nonprofit, The Dancer Project.

The Dancer Project: The Pursuit of Producing, Preserving, and Promoting Performance Arts


By Hayden Hubner

In trying times like these, art can be the only outlet for self-expression and freedom that people have to hold onto. Nashville, Tennessee is clearly a huge advocate for the arts, specifically being the hub for many singer/songwriters and aspiring musicians. From the Belcourt Theatre (Nashville’s nonprofit cinema) to the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, to the ubiquitous accessibility of music throughout the city, there seems to be one artform lacking of attention and opportunity in Nashville: this is the art of dance and movement. This is not to say that if one wishes to seek excellent training and performances, they can not find it in studios such as Nashville Ballet or Vanderbilt Dance Theatre. It is to say, rather, that for pursuers of dance who do not have the financial and/or physical ability to involve themselves in these high-end dance companies, there has been little hope for dance to reach them in this community.


However, one very formative person in my life has sought out to change this fact of the dance culture in Nashville. The Dancer Project is a new non-profit organization started by the artistic director, Jennifer Drake, in an already fruitful attempt to make performing arts financially accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and socio-economic status’. Jennifer has been my coach in ballet and contemporary since I was in the 6th grade, and she has aspired to start The Dancer Project since 2007. After the unfortunate and sudden flop of our previous studio, leaving many dancers in the company jobless and many students unable to afford training elsewhere, the motivation to cultivate The Dancer Project grew exponentially. Our mission statement is this: “The Dancer Project is a nonprofit classical ballet and contemporary dance company and conservatory. Our mission is the pursuit of producing, preserving, and promoting performance arts. We accomplish this through affordable performances, community outreach programs, volunteering, tuition-free dance classes, and low-cost performance training. Performing Arts has become financially inaccessible within our community, and we plan to change this.” So far, three performances, put together solely from the volunteers that have been touched by the mission of The Dancer Project, have resulted in the company becoming an official non-profit. This means, firstly, for so many aspiring dancers, young and old, that they will get the opportunity to receive professional training in all types of dance and movement classes. Secondly, performances which usually require $30-$100 tickets by respectable audiences dressed to the nines, will through this organization be a come-as-you-are and pay-what-you-can scenario, making dance an art that is open to touching all people across the spectrum, which will further promote community at a time when I believe we need it most. Jennifer is planning to offer affordable professional dance training, from the little ones, adults, sensory programs for dancers with special needs, all the way to seniors.

The President of the United States has stated that he plans to eliminate funding to the National Endowment of the Arts, as well as the National Endowment of the Humanities, leaving so many artists in fear of the future that lies before them and their respective passions. Programs like The Dancer Project are here to bring hope and opportunity to those artists and potential audiences. As Winston Churchill questioned, when asked to cut arts funding in favor of the war effort, I wonder in light of the defunding of these arts programs: “what are we fighting for?” Without art and community life is dull and meaningless. Jennifer Drake’s impact on my life has been more than just physical training; she has been the leading factor in forming me into a fearless and compassionate young woman, and through her impact on my life I am enabled and inspired to go out and spread love, community, and art to people who couldn’t have experienced it otherwise, those who need it most. My experience with Jennifer and The Dancer Project, filled with hope and community, is common among those who work with the company, which is why I am so thankful and excited to promote and take part in this non-profit organization.

Congratulations Hayden!




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Your donations help provide scholarships for students like Hayden.  By impacting young hearts and minds with scholarships, you not only facilitate more access to higher education, you also show our youth we are all in this together – an attitude that yields exponential returns for generations to come.  Thank you for your generosity, and please continue to help students achieve.  Please consider making a donation.

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Marcel Hernandez

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