“I loved my Broadway experience,” Robbins says. Working with the likes of Colm Wilkinson and Sutton Foster – among many other industry greats – Robbins reflects as a turning point in her life. “I grew up performing locally, learned from some amazing teachers and worked incredibly hard but working and performing with these professionals on a daily basis was the most amazing master class,” recounts Robbins, an educational experience that she articulates as being transformative in her development and the opportunities to follow.
Beyond recording, TV and film work—and vocal coaching celebrity talent—one of Robbins’ greatest claims of success and reward would start in the basement of her home and grow into one of the most respected youth performing conservatories in the country.
“What I learned throughout my experiences in the industry, and what I wanted to share, were the skills and tools needed that translate training into valuable opportunities for the next generation of artists” she says. In a community where children are encouraged early on to participate in singing, public speaking and develop an appreciation for the performing arts, Robbins recognized a deep talent pool and began teaching classes out of her home. The business grew quickly and within the next few years her husband, Conor, joined her to run the business side. Shortly thereafter the Robbins teamed up with Suzie and Nathan Balser—dear friends and industry professionals with credentials ranging from Broadway shows, Master Degree, the TONY Awards and MTV. Together they continued to build Utah COPA (Utah Conservatory of the Performing Arts). Most recently, Utah COPA just opened a new site in Draper.
“This is one of my greatest joys,” Robbins gushes as she walks the marley of the dance studio. “While I love the stage, seeing these students develop confidence and realize success with every breakthrough is the ultimate reward.” Her passion for teaching is palpable as she addresses each student by name. Now entering into the 10th year of this journey, Robbins’ proverbial musical baby is no longer an infant and far from making its final curtain call. In fact, today, more than 400 students ranging from 5-18 years of age, work under not only Robbins and the Balsers but an impressive cast of faculty across dance, musical theatre, acting, contemporary voice training, and songwriting.
“We created a standard for ourselves…that we wanted every student to train with industry professionals in each discipline,” says Nathan Balser. The commitment to high quality training is evident when reviewing the experience of their faculty–all under the same roof. COPA faculty have worked with Josh Groban, Kristen Chenoweth, Celine Dion, to globally syndicated TV and film properties. COPA students are working among some of the best in the business.
Dividends reaped from their disciplined approach have resulted in invaluable opportunities for their students. “Establishing a professional team was not just about providing quality instruction in the classroom but about delivering professional opportunities and experiences in the real world,” says Suzie Balser. The professional team = professional experiences approach has resulted in Utah COPA performing companies being invited to perform multiple years at the prestigious Lincoln Center in NYC with Jason Robert Brown, Jeremy Jordan, and Sierra Boggess; dancing on the stages of Disney, and opening concerts for Rachel Platten and the American Authors.
If their greatest reward is seeing the success of their students, the results show that their model is working. Current students are regularly seen as cast members from local to international productions from stage, to TV and film. In November almost every major school production in Utah and Salt Lake Valley featured youth that train at Utah COPA. If you attended a Christmas production at PTC, Hale or the Scera, the chances are high you saw Utah COPA youth sharing the stage. It doesn’t end there. Turn on the TV or go to the movies and you are likely to see more Utah COPA students there.
“It is absolutely rewarding. We love what we do because we get to see each student grow on a daily basis…it’s an ongoing celebration of student successes,” says Robbins as she prepares to teach an energetic group of six-year-old musical theatre students. While the accolades are many for this burgeoning workshop of creativity it is clear that the heart of COPA’s mentors are elsewhere – acting as the devoted potter at the wheel – carefully shaping each child to become what they dream.
Locations in American Fork and Draper