PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - NBC is funding an initiative to create musical theater programs in U.S. schools in need of arts education.
The network said Friday the effort to launch stand-alone musical theater programs will begin this month with a pilot group of 20 schools nationwide. NBC is joined on the Make a Musical project by iTheatrics, which adapts musicals for student productions and provides tools for teacher training.
The nonprofit iTheatrics' Junior Theater Project aims to begin another 180 programs this fall, building toward a 2014 goal of 1,000 school programs reaching 1 million students, NBC said. Schools may apply for the fall program at the website makeamusical.org starting Friday.
NBC declined to put a funding amount on the initiative.
The Make a Musical project has another goal: NBC said it "celebrates" the network's upcoming series "Smash," a Broadway-set drama that premieres Feb. 6 and stars Debra Messing, Katharine McPhee ("American Idol") and Anjelica Huston. Its executive producers include Steven Spielberg.
""Smash' centers around a group of people working to be part of a Broadway musical," said NBC executive Len Fogge. "It's only fitting that NBC play a role to further empower students and teachers to discover the thrill of one of America's most unique art forms through the process of creating their own musical theater programs."
The pilot programs are in cities including Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Los Angeles, Houston, Nashville, Tenn., and Seattle, with specific schools to be announced Jan. 15, NBC said.
Other such initiatives have successfully developed self-sustaining arts programs, including the New York City Department of Education's Shubert Foundation-Music Theatre International Broadway Junior Project, which started in 2005 and has created 50 musical theater programs in New York middle schools, NBC said in its announcement at a Television Critics Association meeting.