Finding My Voice Again with Centre Stage

Written by Amanda Velez-Buck

In the Holiday season of 2014, my life changed for the better.  This was the year that I was introduced to Centre Stage Inc, Monrovia.  

My family attended church at  in Monrovia, CA.  That year was the first time that used our church for their Christmas production, The Stories of Christmas.  I was amazed at the talent that was showcased and the range of ages that were seen on stage. Keely Milliken, the founder and director of Centre Stage Inc., took what could have been a simple Christmas recital andturned it into a full blown production. Each vocal class from the toddlers to the teen classes (group and private vocal classes) performed pieces that were interwoven into a beautifully written script that was performed by the students from her musical theater classes. I was awestruck and desperate to be apart of what I was seeing. My daughter who was 2 years old at the time, was already starting to show me how much she loved singing and dancing and I knew that one day she would need a place that would teach her how to utilize those possible talents. During intermission, I took time to look through the program to find out information about Centre Stage and that’s when I saw it…IFGF (my church) andCentre Stage were going to work together to put on the musical Les Miserables. I sat there, reading the ad over and over again. Would I be able to participate in this production?  It was one of my favorite musicals and would be a dream to be a part of but I was in my second year teaching kindergarten, I had a 2 year old,  2 teenagers and a husband. My life seemed full and busy. On another note, I hadn’t acted or performed in a musical since college and that was a long time ago.  Did I still have what it takes? After thinking and praying, I decided that the answer was yes, I would audition. I didn’t know this at the time but this decision would put my life on a new path and would open doors for me that I didn’t even know were a possibility.

Through the next 3-4 months I was immersed again in the world of musical theater, I was hooked.  My 2 oldest children were participating in their first musical and I was enjoying performing as Fantine, one of my favorite characters, in one of my favorite musicals. Evie (my littlest) came with me to every practice.  She learned the songs and watched all of the big kids on stage. Keely, noticed how she came with me every day and allowed Evie to be apart of the ensemble. This would cement Evie’s love of performing (which she still does to this day).  My family has always been a family that sings together but now my step children and I would sing the music from Les Miserables together at home.  It annoyed my husband but created a bond that still remains today.  

Centre Stage and IFGF Production of Les Mis 2015

Not only did being a part of Les Miserables build my bond with my children, it also showed me what I was capable of.  Up until that point, I had figured that performing in musicals was behind me.  I now knew that I could enjoy my passion, my career, and my family. Throughout the years I have continued to work with Centre Stage Inc.  I have had the pleasure to work alongside Keely as she teaches her Vocal Classes and I have assisted with the Kids Theater Classes. Evie has begun taking vocal classes with the BVC (Beginning Vocal Chorus). Both of us participated in the Musical Theater Summer Camp.  This has been a beautiful and challenging experience. I have been given an opportunity to share my passion with my daughter and watch her grow in her talents. I am so grateful to Keely Milliken and Centre Stage Inc. for bringing me back to the life of musical theater and helping me find my voice again.