DELAWARE ARTS CONSERVATORY
Tracy Friswell-Jacobs started dancing and performing at the age of 2½. She studied ballet, jazz, musical theatre, and tap throughout her school career, and went on to graduate from the University of Delaware with a degree in Elementary and Special Education and minors in English and Theatre. For seven years, she taught a variety of subjects at the Cab Calloway School of the Arts in Wilmington, DE while still pursuing her love of performing.
Her favorite role to date is twice playing Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors. A blonde herself, Tracy says, "You have to be intelligent to appreciate the humor in playing a dumb blonde." Other favorite roles include Polly in Crazy For You, Rizzo and Sandy in multiple productions of Grease (for which she received a Stoney Award), Lola in Damn Yankees, Ruby in Dames at Sea, and Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. Tracy also performs with her husband as ON TAP and has traveled the world entertaining on luxury cruise ships and on several tours with Charo and The Drifters.
On the other side of performing, Tracy has directed and choreographed numerous shows including the world premiere of Anything Cole at the Riverfront Arts Center in Wilmington, Gershwin, By George! (also at the Arts Center), Annie, The King and I, Bye Bye Birdie, The Boys from Syracuse, Anything Goes, Oklahoma!, The Wiz, and Cinderella for theatre companies in the Mid-Atlantic States. Choreographic highlights include having her choreography performed at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. in June of 2000 and at Lincoln Center in NYC as part of a benefit for the police and firefighters following 9/11. Tracy can be seen in numerous print ads, commercials, and industrial films for companies like QVC, Hershey Foods, Unisys, The Vanguard Group, CBS3, and Electronics Boutique. She can also be seen in the featured films Dead Poet's Society and Flying Blind.
Tracy has received much recognition in the Miss America pageant system, winning the 1994 talent award for her song and dance routine in the Miss Delaware pageant. The following year, she was the runner-up to Miss Delaware, winning thousands of dollars in scholarships. Through this organization, Tracy has performed at functions for The American Cancer Society and Rotary International and was involved with the pageant system for over five years as an executive director for pageant hopefuls. She currently judges preliminary pageants and choreographs for pageant contestants.
When not performing, Tracy adjudicates performance competitions and teaches master tap, jazz and musical theatre classes for several convention and competition companies across the country. She is also the mother to Benjamin and Ella. She occasionally sleeps.
Laura Russo, an accomplished and sought after artist and photographer, received her Associates Degree in Graphic Design from the Antonelli Institute of Art & Photography and her Bachelors of Fine Arts and Bachelors of Art Education from Arcadia College (formerly Beaver College) in Philadelphia, where she was selected as the Student Art Teacher of the Year. Laura also student-taught at the Philadelphia School for the Blind and has a published teaching unit of Native American art adapted for blind students.
For ten years Laura taught art and theatre for the Christina School District both at the elementary and middle school levels. To foster awareness and appreciation of the students’ abilities and talents, she organized student art exhibits and produced and directed several musical theatre productions. Her creativity was also exhibited in designing theatrical sets and costumes.
Laura studied theatre at the University of Delaware and has both extensive on stage and back stage theatrical experience. As a director, Laura has helmed productions of Li'l Abner, The Wiz, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Grease, and Seussical The Musical. She has enjoyed performing in many shows including You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, The Roar Of The Greasepaint The Smell Of The Crowd, Cabaret, and Grease.
Other noteworthy credits include working for ten years alongside photographer Jo Vernon at the Photo Design Group, where her experiences included wedding album layout and production, working extensively as a hair and fashion model for Main Line Models, and holding the title of Modern Miss Pennsylvania 1985. While holding this title, Laura had the opportunity to work with the Special Olympics and the Make A Wish Foundation. Following her reign, she judged Modern Miss State Pageants.
Laura continues to work as a commercial painter, portrait artist, fine arts photographer, and portrait photographer, as well as playing the role of mother to her three children, Madison, Austin, and Carson.
Scott Jacobs received his degree in Musical Theatre Performance from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. He trained with June Taylor dancer, Jacque Jaeger, and with legendary tapper and Tony Award-winning choreographer, Henry LeTang.
Scott is writer, producer, choreographer, and performer in his comedy / tap dance show, ON TAP. As ON TAP he has traveled the world from Russia, Israel, and Thailand to Italy, Spain, Greece and Morocco (just to name a few), performing as a headline act on luxury cruise liners and has performed on several world and inaugural cruises. ON TAP has also toured with Charo, The Drifters, and Barry Williams (Television’s Greg Brady from “The Brady Bunch”), and has danced with the world renowned Harry James Orchestra under the direction of Fred Radke.
Prior to ON TAP, Scott performed as Donald O’Connor in the critically acclaimed Las Vegas production of That’s Entertainment Live! starring Debbie Reynolds and Rip Taylor and went on to star in the U.S. and Canadian tour of Singin’ in the Rain where he played the Donald O’Connor role of Cosmo. Other performing highlights include dancing on Celebrity Cruise Lines as one half of the tap duo, “Hot Foot”, dancing with tap dance legends Fayard Nicholas, Buster Brown, and Peggy Ryan, and with Tap Dogs in New York City.
Scott co-directed and co-choreographed the world premiere of Anything Cole and Gershwin, By George! at the Riverfront Arts Center in Wilmington, Delaware and full-stage productions of Annie and Seussical The Musical. He also danced his own choreography on Broadway at Lincoln Center, where the proceeds of that show went to benefit the New York City Firefighters and Police Departments. His performances and choreography have also taken him to Las Vegas' MGM GRAND, Harrah's, The Four Queens, and the Tropicana Hotel & Casino.
Scott has been seen in commercials for several Las Vegas casinos, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Harrah’s casino in Chester, PA, and was on the air for 10 years as a spokesperson for “The More You Know” for NBC. He also had the starring role in “Real Stories of the Highway Patrol - The Cabrallas Story.”
Scott’s tap routines have been represented by several title holders in the Miss America Pageant System and has consistently won top awards at performing arts competitions for the past several years. He has also taught master tap classes at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and for Maryland Dance Festival and was a guest choreographer at West Chester University. His choreography was also featured in the national tour of “Maurice Hines – Tappin’ Thru Life.”
Scott's favorite productions to date are his children, Benjamin and Ella.
As a native of Windsor, Ontario, Canada, Priscilla Payson began her early ballet training in the Royal Academy of Dancing ballet syllabus, completing both the children and majors examinations. Her further training includes the Canadian National Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School in London, England on a full scholarship. When she returned to Canada, she rejoined the professional “Windsor Light Opera Company” where she performed in numerous musicals. In 1962 she moved to Battle Creek, Michigan where she taught and performed with the professional regional “Barn Theater.” Before settling in Delaware, Ms. Payson was a member of the dance faculty at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, a soloist with the Louisville Ballet Company, and performed with the nationally known and award-winning “Actors’ Theatre” in Louisville, Kentucky.
In 1978 she opened the Ballet Studio of Newark and in 1982 she established the non-profit Delaware Dance Company. In 1984, with the help of friend Camille Izard Morris, formerly with the prestigious American Ballet Theatre, Ms. Payson presented the first annual “Nutcracker” which just celebrated its 30 anniversary. In 1993 she made the decision to relinquish ownership of the Ballet Studio of Newark to the Board of Trustees of the Delaware Dance Company. Ms. Payson was retained as Artistic Director, a position she held until 1999. During her tenure as Artistic Director she choreographed and presented a full-length “Sleeping Beauty” ballet in the spring of 1994, 1995, and 1996. In 1997 she choreographed an original ballet based on the well-known fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” accompanied by the Delaware Symphony Orchestra. In August 1999 Ms. Payson was appointed the Administrative Director of the Delaware Dance Company, a position she held until leaving the company in 2005.
As Ballet Mistress of the Delaware Arts Conservatory, Ms. Payson has led numerous DAC students to successful careers on the Broadway stage, on tours, and in regional theatres and companies. Her students have taken top honors at several competitions and received numerous scholarships from the Maryland Dance Festival, Diane Drulis Foundation, and the Rock School in Philadelphia. Ms. Payson has also helped her students gain acceptance to the professional summer ballet programs at American Ballet Theatre, Pennsylvania Ballet School, the Rock School and to prestigious collegiate dance programs, including the Boston Conservatory and the University of the Arts.
In December 2013 she directed the premiere performance of the DelArts annual production of the “Snow Queen,” a holiday show based on the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. The productions includes several styles of dance and continues to be a holiday favorite for young and old.
Candice Culmer-Smith is originally from Frederick, Maryland and began dancing at the age of three. She danced at Mid-Maryland Performing Arts Center, where she trained in everything from ballet to hip-hop. Candice graduated Magna Cum Laude in May 2005 from Towson University with a BFA in Dance Performance, and was awarded the Jim Synder Award for Excellence in Dance. There she was a member of the Towson University Dance Company and had the pleasure of working with Geoffrey Holder and Jawole W.J. Zollar. She continued her training on scholarship at Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago and River North Chicago.
Candice completed two seasons with the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble in Denver, Colorado, where she has had the privilege to tour nationally and internationally and work with Christopher Huggins, Roger Jeffery, Milton Myers, and Nejla Yatkin.
She was invited to teach at In Motion School of Dance in Bermuda to serve as their Jazz Director and Office Manager and has been on faculty there since 2007. There she has had the pleasure of performing and choreographing with Bermuda’s greatest talent and collaborating to produce international events held on the island. She has also been invited to choreograph and perform with Bermuda’s professional dance company, In Motion Dance Company, where she serves as Rehearsal Director. While in Bermuda, Candice performed with Gilbert & Sullivan Society of Bermuda as a chorus girl and dancer in the musicals The Producers and South Pacific.
Candice has been teaching and choreographing for over fifteen years at various studios throughout the U.S. and Bermuda, and has had the honor of being chosen to set several works on various public school and community college dance companies on the East Coast. Most recently, she graduated Summa Cum Laude from Drexel University with a Masters of Science in Arts Administration where she was awarded an Academic Excellence Award.
Nichelle Lanier is an awardwinning choreographer whose dance and teaching style have been inspiring creativity in her students for 15 years. Her performances include The Nutcracker on Broadway, Magic Music Days at Disney World and Universal Studios in Orlando (1997, 2000), the 9/11 Benefit Performance for the Firefighters at Lincoln Center in New York City, and the world premiere of Anything Cole at the Baby Grand Opera House in Wilmington, Delaware.
Nichelle has traveled internationally as a dancer and teacher for workshops, performances, and competitions. She has previously coached the dance teams for Padua Academy, St. Mark’s High School, and has been the choreographer for the Glasgow High School Drama Club since 2005 (FAME, Little Shop of Horrors, Guys and Dolls, and GREASE).
Many of her students have gone on to do great things in the world of dance; performing on Broadway, cruise ships, joining professional dance companies in major cities like Chicago, and have been accepted into dance programs at prestigious colleges like Point Park University, University of the Arts, and The Boston Conservatory. Nichelle’s contemporary company was invited to perform her piece “My Life For Yours” at the Youth America Grand Prix International Finals in NYC in 2014.
Heather Ley-Wolfe Graduated from Cab Calloway School of the Arts in 2005 as a dance major and was a dance scholarship recipient. Heather has performed at Lincoln Center on Broadway, for Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Lines, at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, in The Liberty Bowl 2006 half-time show with the Beach Boys, and at the Boscov’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
Heather in an enthusiastic and motivational teacher with 21 years of dance experience behind her. She is a member of Dance Masters of America where she holds certifications in Ballet and Jazz. She was a contestant in the Delaware Jr. Miss Pageant 2004 and returned to the pageant as a choreographer in 2005. As a competitive dancer, Heather won numerous awards including the prestigious title of Miss Broadway 2006.
Heather Reynolds grew up in Elkton, Maryland where she began dancing at the young age of two and a half. At age eight, she continued her training by joining the Delaware Dance Company, having Priscilla Payson as one of her first teachers. Heather has studied ballet, modern, jazz and theatre dance. She spent over fifteen years as a Performing Company Member with DDC, dancing in numerous productions including The Nutcracker, Sleeping Beauty, Hansel & Gretel, and Peter Rabbit and Other Tails, to name a few.
Heather is an honors graduate from Wilmington University where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education and a Master’s degree in Elementary School Counseling. Heather is very excited to share her passion and enthusiasm for dance with the students of DelArts.
Viveca begin her dancing career 25 years ago with Simon Dancers in Philadelphia. After moving to Delaware in 2000, Viveca continued her training at Cab Calloway School of the Arts under Alyson Cohen. Viveca was a member of Cab Calloway's dance and musical theatre companies and was featured in "A Chorus Line," "Little Shop of Horrors," and "Closer Than Ever," all under the direction of Marji Eldreth.
Viveca also studied at Philadanco in Philadelphia, the Tremaine Dance Company in New York, and other various dance workshops throughout the East Coast. Her performances includes "Pieces of a Dream" Dance Concerts, Clifford Brown Jazz Festival, and The Philadelphia Fringe Festival.
Many years ago Viveca developed a love for hip-hop dancing, not just about how to express yourself, but how intricate the movements can be. Viveca studied hip-hop at Koresh Dance Company in Philadelphia and has taught hip-hop dance camps at Delaware Technical Community College in Wilmington. Viveca’s hip-hop choreography has won numerous awards including first place overall high scores and special awards at regional dance competitions. Viveca believes in providing a challenging, yet fun and inspiring dance environment for her dancers.
Sara-Beth Miller has been dancing since age two. Early training included ballet, tap and jazz, with a later focus in lyrical and modern. Noted performances include the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, and Dew Drop Fairy, Arabian, and Chinese in The Nutcracker.
Following her competitive and performing years, Sara-Beth began teaching while completing certifications for Early Childhood Education. Sara-Beth has been an advisor for a Behavior Modification Through Movement study and most recently was a Broadway League Educator Apple Award nominee for her outreach and dedication in connecting youth with performing arts. When not in the studio, she can be found cheering on her daughter, Reilly, at the soccer field or applauding the dance stylings of her daughter, Brianne, where anywhere is her performance space!
Aisha graduated from LIU (Long Island University) Post with a Bachelors in Fine Arts in Dance Studies. She started dancing at the age of 4 and has been trained in many forms of dance including ballet, pointe, tap, jazz, lyrical, modern, musical theatre, and contemporary, and African.
As a performer, she has worked with teachers from Alvin Ailey Dance Theater and Ballet Hispanico and was seen in "The Nutcracker" and at Symphony Space in New York. Her choreography has been seen in The Nutcracker, Hairspray, Rodger's and Hammersteins's Cinderella, and at Hofstra, Penn State University, and LIU Post. Aisha is also on faculty at MOT Charter School in Middletown, Delaware, where she teaches dance.
A teacher for over 20 years, Betsy Conner holds a BA in Music Education from Lincoln University with a piano performance concentration and a vocal minor. She was a student of pianist John Young and took summer master classes with Robert Goldsand at the Manhattan School of Music.
Betsy was Musical Director for many shows at Three Little Bakers Dinner Theatre where she was also Stage Manager. She has also musical directed shows in local community theatres and high schools. Her students have gone on to study at NYU, Syracuse, University of the Arts, Drexel and Catholic University and have performed in regional theatres such as The Walnut Street Theatre, The Arden, Candlelight, Three Little Bakers as well as in national tours, and have garnered awards such as the Bert Parks Special Talent Award at the Miss America Pageant.
Betsy was on the national tour of Fiddler on the Roof, where she had the privilege of working with Topol, Harvey Fierstein and Theodore Bikel. She also toured with Peter Pan starring Cathy Rigby, On Golden Pond, Jesus Christ Superstar, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and the first national tour of Blast.
Leanne Acero, a Delaware native, has been onstage for most of her life. She began performing at age 2 and over the years has worked at The Three Little Bakers, Candlelight Dinner Theatre, Walnut Street Theatre, and Opera Delaware.
After graduating from The Tatnall School, Leanne moved to NYC and graduated from AMDA (The American Musical & Dramatic Academy). She has studied voice under Forrest McClendon, Elaine Petrokoff, Jeffery Dunn, and Phillip George. Some of her favorite roles include Ursula in The Little Mermaid), Bloody Mary in South Pacific, and Abuela Claudia in In The Heights.
Leanne specializes in creating a repertoire for the student that is age and style appropriate for auditions. She is very excited to bring her special skill set to the Delaware Arts Conservatory family.
Arden is currently a junior at the UD working towards a major in choral/general music education and a minor in piano performance. She has participated in numerous ensembles, competitions, and festivals, winning many awards and honors in both piano and vocal performance. She has received superior ratings at many piano festivals and was given the prestigious honor of performing in the NVMTA Sonata Festival Honors Recital in 2017. Arden has also been chosen for numerous honor choirs including at the district and state level along with the VMEA Senior Honor Choir and Fairfax Choral Society Master Singers. She attended the VA Summer Residential Governor’s School for Vocal Arts in 2016 and is currently a member of the UD Chorale and the Delaware Choral Scholars.
"Music and teaching are my two greatest passions. I strongly believe that music is a valuable skill that has the power to change lives and bring joy to many. I hope that I can be a part of you and/or your child's musical journey and help instill a life-long love of music."
Jennifer Kowalski has been teaching Elementary General Music and Choral Music at Sanford School for the past four years. She previously taught various Music Electives and Choir at Delaware Military Academy and has been teaching private voice and piano lessons at Delaware Arts Conservatory since 2014. She is also the Musical Director for the Summer Stage program through DelArts & Candlelight Dinner Theater. Jenn holds a Bachelors of Science in Education for Music Education from Millersville University and currently serves as the Public Relations Chair for the Delaware chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.
No stranger to the stage, Jenn is a frequent performer at the Delaware Children's Theater. She began dancing at the age of three years old, and shortly after, began her dance training under the direction of Tracy and Scott Jacobs!
Jenn loves to share her passion of music and performing with her students in her private studio and in the classroom setting!