McSweeny's Overview & Events
McSweeny's School of the Performing Arts is a music school that is located at 1633 North 29th Street, Fort Dodge. The school is celebrating its 26th year in business. McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts has five professional music instructors offering private music lessons in voice, piano, violin, guitar and instrumental music specializing in brass, woodwind, and percussion and participation in the Fort Dodge Area Children's Chorus (grade 1-8). Instructors include MaryAnn McSweeny-Buhr, B.S., M.A.; Owner, Voice Instructor and Children’s Chorus Music Director; Dan Cassady, B.M., M.A.; Instrumental Instructor specializing in brass; Micah Walsh Levi, B.M. & M.M.; Instrumental and Piano Instructor specializing in trumpet, piano and organ; Jeremy Ober, Guitar Instructor; and Gaga Won, B.M., M.M.; Violin and Piano Instructor.
Voice students are frequent semifinalists and finalists in the National Association of Teachers of Singing (NATS) competitions, continue to be consistent recipients of college vocal music scholarships and are frequently cast as musical leads in area school and community musical theatre productions. During the last 15 years over $600,000 in scholarship money has been awarded to vocalists wishing to pursue vocal music at the college level. Younger vocalists and instrumentalists are encouraged to pursue musical excellence through participation in the Youth Honors Recital and perform in area Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search Shows during the summer with vocalists consistently qualifying to perform at the Iowa State Fair with a Grand Champion Sprout awarded in 2018. All students demonstrate their progress and quest for musical excellence through participation in bi-annual recitals held in December and May. McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts has a private recording studio, sound booth, and a large stage and concert hall. McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts is the host of the Youth Honors Recital co-sponsored by the Fort Dodge Area Symphony and McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts for outstanding young soloists. The recital is open to vocalists and instrumentalists 8th grade and younger. McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts is also host of the annual Desiring the Arts Festival. Desiring the Arts Festival connects and provides concerts and educational workshops for youth and adults in Fort Dodge and the surrounding area with working professionals from all over the world specializing in the arts.
McSweeny's School of the Performing Arts has been voted Best Music School numerous years in the Messenger Readers' Choice Awards, including in 2021. “Thank you to our families for their loyal support of the performing arts and for making music a priority in their family and children's lives,” McSweeny – Buhr said.
Please feel free to visit our website at www.mcsweenysschool.com for additional information.
Articles & Resources
Year in Retrospect
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF TEACHERS SINGING AUDITIONS
High school, college and adult singers are encouraged to pursue musical excellence through participation in the National Association of Teachers of Singing Auditions. I would like to encourage any serious high school, college and adult singers to consider participating in NATS Auditions. The benefits include learning, polishing and memorizing lots of repertoire, pushing oneself, developing musicianship skills, working collaboratively with your accompanist, hearing other singers, visiting college campuses, checking out their music departments and networking with college instructors.
The NATS auditions require 3-6 memorized song selections, so it is essential to begin learning your music early. Students in grades 9-12, college and adult singers may compete in a Classical Singing and/or Musical Theatre Category. Commitment, a strong work ethic, outstanding musicianship skills and piano skills are essential for any singer interested in competing. NATS auditions are a wonderful way for students to learn the art of challenging themselves in a competitive performance setting. I always stress to students that the ultimate competition is within themselves. Take every opportunity to audition and perform and give yourself permission to learn and grow from each and every experience. Please contact MaryAnn at 576-3636 if you have any questions regarding participating in this performance opportunity.
HISTORY OF THE BILL RILEY TALENT SEARCH
In 1946, Iowa Falls native Bill Riley emceed variety shows held at the Iowa State Fair by KRNT radio. In 1957, Bill approached Fair secretary Lloyd Cunningham about showcasing talented kids during the State Fair. Two years worth of convincing later, Bill Riley's first Iowa State Fair Talent Search was held. By August of 1959, Bill had crisscrossed the state holding numerous talent shows. During the Fair, the state's brightest young stars performed for delighted Fairgoers.
"Our daily shows started at 2 o'clock," Bill recalled. "They were so popular that people weren't attending the afternoon shows in the Grandstand, so the Fair Board asked us to move our start time to 1 o'clock. Then, people went on the Grandstand, but they got there late. So finally, we started our shows at Noon."
Affectionately known as "Mr. State Fair," Bill retired from the Talent Search in 1996. That same year, the Plaza Stage was renamed the Bill Riley Stage. In 2006, Bill celebrated his 60th Fair. He passed away in December 2006.
Today the Talent Search is still thriving. Nearly 100 local qualifying shows are held across the state. There are seven days of preliminary competition for Sprouts (ages 2-12) and Seniors (ages 13-21), followed by the semi-finals and, ultimately, the selection of six Sprout champions and one Senior champion. The Sprouts do not compete beyond the semi-finals, but are chosen as champions to be showcased in the Championship Show. Bill Riley’s son, Bill Riley, Jr., continues to host the show.
BILL RILEY STATE FAIR TALENT SEARCH
All vocalists are encouraged to pursue musical excellence through participation in the Bill Riley State Fair Talent Search.
Local shows are primarily held throughout the summer during the months of June and July. Summer voice lessons are highly encouraged for anyone interested in participating.
“I am thankful for all the life lessons singers learn through their participation in the Bill Riley Talent Shows at both the local and state level. Singers learn to persevere and ‘never give up’, are provided with many opportunities to develop their stage presence, self-confidence, work ethic and ultimately the push to excel.
The Bill Riley Talent Search is truly a wonderful program to grow as a singer, musician and person.” -MaryAnn McSweeny-Buhr-
The mission of the Bill Riley Talent Search is to serve as a developmental platform for young Iowans involved in the performing arts. By maintaining a nurturing and educational environment their aim is to promote self-esteem, self-discipline and self-confidence while helping performers achieve their goals and shoot for the stars, one performance at a time.
There were 102 qualifying shows across the state in 2018 with approximately 2000 acts competing for a chance to make it to the State Fair. During the State Fair, there were 7 days of Preliminary Shows, 3 days of Semifinal Shows with 9 Senior and 8 Sprout Champions selected.
Please contact MaryAnn at 515-576-3636 if you have any questions or would like your son or daughter to participate in area Bill Riley Talent Search Shows next summer.
YOUTH HONORS RECITAL
Students (1st – 8th grade) are encouraged to pursue musical excellence through participation in the annual Youth Honors Recital held in March. Younger vocalists are encouraged to participate as a vocal soloist or a member of a vocal ensemble representing the Fort Dodge Area Children’s Chorus in the annual Youth Honors Recital, co-sponsored by McSweeny’s School of the Performing Arts and the Fort Dodge Area Symphony. The benefits include learning new repertoire, including possibly singing in a foreign language, developing musicianship skills, working collaboratively with your accompanist and other young singers and developing leadership skills.
All students demonstrate their progress and quest for musical excellence through participation in bi-annual recitals held in December and May.
DESIRING THE ARTS FESTIVAL
The Desiring the Arts Festival connects and provides concerts and educational workshops for youth and adults in Fort Dodge and the surrounding area with working professionals from all over the world specializing in the arts.