Often, when Mariah Snow’s students arrive at her home studio for their after-school voice lessons, they have to spend a while on the couch before they are ready to sing.
“My students spend a lot of time there,” she said, pointing to the squashy brown couch next to the keyboard in her Stafford studio, Mariah’s Music and Arts. “They deal with a lot. I do a lot of counseling.”
Singing is an effort of the body and the mind. Snow says her students can’t sing well until they are free from the burdens of their day, which they share with her.
“A lot of them—including my own daughter—are dealing with bullying,” she said. “It seems to be rampant. There has to be a change in the tide.”
Snow, who has performed lead roles at Riverside Center and has taught privately and in Stafford County classrooms since 2007, decided she would try to change the tide through one of her greatest loves—musical theater.
Her students perform recitals for the public twice a year. For this year’s fall production, Snow decided she would stage the new anti-bullying musical, “It’s Easy!”
The show, which just completed its first professional run in New York, was written by Jennifer Jo Young and January Akselrad. The two are co-founders of See The Wish, a company that publishes educational books, plays, music and musicals and gives motivational presentations on anti-bullying around the country.
“It’s Easy!” takes place at a fictional middle school where “bullies make life miserable, bystanders ‘look the other way’ and victims are many.” With the help of a wise custodian and a magic app, one sixth-grader learns how simple words and actions can change the world.
“Words matter, choices matter, everything we say and do,” Snow said, quoting one of the songs in the musical.
Snow’s production of “It’s Easy!”, which is the first licensed production of the show outside New York, will take place at Mountain View High School Thursday through Saturday.
The writers, Young and Akselrad, will attend one of the productions to professionally film it for their company’s promotional materials, Snow said.
“I never thought they would respond to little old me in Stafford, but they did,” Snow said. “These ladies are so exuberant and so passionate.”
Snow teaches students ages 6 through 70. Because “It’s Easy!” shows the effects bullying can have decades after a person has left school, it has roles for both youth and adults, so Snow will be able to feature students of all ages.
She said she began the first rehearsal by asking the cast members to go around and share their own bullying stories. Everyone had something to share, even the adults.
“Some even confessed to doing the bullying and regretting it,” Snow said.
She said the show does touch on what causes a person to bully by revealing some of the difficulties a character experiences at home. And though it is not mentioned explicitly, there is an implied suicide.
“[The show] hits straight home with what could have happened without that one small change,” she said.
Through a lifetime spent in the choral department at school and then as a performer and a music teacher, Snow knows the power of music can build bonds between students and be a safe place for them.
To support music in public schools, she said all proceeds from the production of “It’s Easy!” will be donated to the fine arts department at Mountain View High School.
Another of See the Wish’s programs is the Be-a-Friend project, which selects a bullying victim and invites other kids to send letters of support, caring and encouragement to him or her.
The project’s most recent featured student is Bailey, from Washington, D.C., who was bullied for her petite size to the point that her parents removed her from school.
Snow said the cast members of “It’s Easy!” wrote cards to Bailey and because she lives locally, she has been invited to be a guest of honor at the performance in September.
“We’re really just hoping to pack the theater with everyone,” Snow said. “We want to inspire people to speak up and reach out.”