Colorado Children’s Theater
With former students such as Brie Larson and Joseph Gordon Levitt, it’s safe to say Karen Tobey knows how to bring out the best in young children, cultivating their talent and expanding upon their passion everyday with the Colorado Children’s Theater. She shares with Denver Vibe about how she got her own start in the industry and how her renowned theater began.
Along with running CCT in Evergreen, I teach private voice students all around the Denver metro area. My favorite private students are the kids I teach in Cory-Merrill, they are so smart and well-educated. They listen well and are confident in their abilities to learn new things, yet they’re humble and respectful. I enjoy every minute I spend with my students here and their growth has been outstanding. Plus, the parents I’ve met in this neighborhood are great people; the are totally invested in their children, but they listen carefully to what the child’s interests might be and they base their child’s extra curricular activities on passion and not their own interests. When we decided to expand our school, there was no question where I wanted it to be and that was in the Cory-Merrill neighborhood. Colorado Children’s Theatre in Denver is everything I wanted it to be, because the children from this area are so wonderful. We have a Junior Company class with 5-9 year olds and a Company class with 9-15 year olds. The younger children have been working so hard on their smaller version of Beauty and the Beast in April, so they can all have a lead part, and then on June 4 they will join the Company kids in performing the full musical. The Company kids are going to put on quite a show as they have been doing exceptional work all year!
What about the neighborhood jives with your business culture or your lifestyle?
I’ve always believed that “If you’re going to do it, do it right.” I put my heart and soul into everything I do with our CCT kids and the kids at our Cory-Merrill school are exactly the same way, which is very important to me. I have had a very successful career training students to be their best and many of them are now successful working actors and singers and performers, but a lot of them are also very successful doctors, lawyers, scientists, and teachers. Teaching voice and acting to children who have the same driven philosophy is a whole different atmosphere, as opposed to just having fun putting on a musical with friends. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. I think it’s wonderful kids can do that. I want much more for them than just that, and it makes me proud the kids really step up!
Why are you passionate about your business or your community? What’s the story?
I started out as a music teacher on Lookout Mountain a long time ago, then I moved to Los Angeles to work on a record deal, with two small children at the time. The more I worked toward becoming a recording artist, the more time it took away from being with my children and I was a single mom by then as well. I took my daughter to a music class where the parents participated and the owner saw me in class and asked me if I wanted to teach for him and then he later offered me a school of my own in LA. I eventually turned that school into the largest Performing Arts after school program in the country. As my students became more talented, many of them started working in the business. I am lucky to have seen 105 of my students go into show business throughout my career, and some of them are now at the top of their field, including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brie Larson. My eldest daughter, Kerri, moved here when she got married and started the CCT school in Evergreen and when my youngest daughter graduated from high school in California, I came here to work with her. I teach because I want children to be able to excel in what they love and to experience what it’s like to nail a song or a scene and have people be astonished with what a great job you did. Most importantly, I want them to feel that amazing sense of accomplishment from doing a great job for themselves. I get just as excited watching a child learn how to hit a hit note correctly, as I do watching them nail a scene on a movie screen. Every day has a new joy!
What inspired the look of your business?
CCT rents space from Kirk of the Bonnie Brae church, which is a cute little mid-century church in the middle of the neighborhood. It is a perfect space for us, including a large room with loft ceilings for great acoustics, a small stage on which we present our scenes and songs, and lots of light flowing through the patterned stained glass.The energy at Kirk is wonderful! You walk in and feel like it’s a warm, inviting place and that’s a perfect type of vibe for children to want to learn. I couldn’t be happier there. I am grateful to have found the right spot for our students.
A huge thank you to Melissa with Live Urban Real Estate for her interview with Karen Tobey. Melissa lives & sells in Cory-Merrill and knows it better than anyone. If you have any neighborhood questions reach out to Melissa!