Notes from the director... - June 2021
THE E. Y. HARBURG ACADEMY
The Shedd Community Music School is extremely pleased to announce the naming of our musical theatre department as The E. Y. Harburg Academy for Musical Theatre in honor of renowned American lyricist E. Y. “Yip” Harburg (1896-1981), who, within a rich long career, wrote the lyrics Finian's Rainbow, Cabin In The Sky and The Wizard of Oz . This past spring, the Harburg family officially accepted our request to make this change in its acknowledgement of The Shedd Institute and Community Music School’s ongoing commitment to classic musical theatre and training in all the aspects that go into making a musical...and of our especial love for Yip Harburg as one of the greatest and "most fun" lyricists of the Classic Songbook.
Composers, lyricists, musicians, performers, and the tech crew all have a part in making a musical happen. Most people remember their favorite songwriters and singers, but not the people whose words helped make those beloved songs memorable. The Shedd champions lyricists as much as we do the composers and performers who helped create “the American Songbook”. Lyricist E.Y. Harburg wrote what may be the most memorable of all musical theatre songs, “Over the Rainbow”, along with many more, including "It's Only A Paper Moon", "How Are Things In Glocca Morra?", "Happiness Is A Thing Called Joe", "Brother, Can You Spare A Dime", "Old Devil Moon", and that funniest of funny songs "Lydia, The Tattooed Lady"! Yet, few people recognize his name. The Shedd is proud to bring that name to the forefront with The E. Y. Harburg Academy for Musical Theater and deeply honored that his family has trusted us with that honor.
Our Harburg Story
: The Shedd’s musical theatre training programs are created for students of all ages, skills, and skill levels across all aspects of musical theatre. The Revue is a bi-annual performance intensive for high schoolers, each time themed after a particular performer, composer, or lyricist. In 2018 the winter Revue showcased one of our favorite lyricists, Yip Harburg, with students introducing biographical vignettes about Harburg prior to singing their selected songs.
To our great surprise we learned that Yip’s grandson Tom and his family were planning to attend the first of the two performances! The students were even more surprised when we introduced him backstage following the show. After their initial shock, they peppered Tom with questions about his grandfather and the veracity of their stories. These students will never forget Yip Harburg!!
Soon afterwards the Harburgs attended The Shedd’s production of The Wizard of Oz, seeing it for probably their 5,000th time. Nevertheless, they enjoyed it thoroughly and laughed just as hard as everyone else at our truncated Munchkins. These experiences exemplify both the ongoing freshness, creativity and timelessness of this classic American art form, as well as the magnetic wizardry of lyricists like E. Y. “Yip” Harburg.