By Denise Ortuno Neil

The newly opened Marquee Academy of Performing Arts (MAPA) will be presenting their first production of the season with the Broadway hit “Annie”. With a talented collection of young artists, the show promises to delight audiences while showcasing the schools ability to educate and nurture Coachella Valley youth.

The non-profit organization recently opened in July of this year. MAPA is the vision of local entrepreneur and music enthusiast Matthew Naylor who saw a need to assist children in the field of performing arts in the Coachella Valley, through fostering their talents in a nurturing and accepting environment. With so many schools cutting out theatre and music based programs do to state budget cutbacks; MAPA comes at a pinnacle time.

The school offers musical programs to kids 6-18 years of age. MAPA is a 6500sq.ft venue located in Palm Springs with full theatre capability. The academy teaches music classes starting with basic rhythm which can last up to 3-4 months depending on the student’s progression. After completion of the first program, the students move on to a more advanced program that encompasses instruments and has an indefinite time frame .MAPA is sensitive to their student’s financial situations and provides assistance through scholarship programs.


MAPA is excited about their first production. Naylor came up with the idea to do the musical “Annie” one day out of the blue, deciding that the beloved production would be perfect as an opening theatrical event for the school. The auditions took 2 weeks and attracted musically bound kids from all over the Coachella Valley. The cast of 28 were chosen (including Sandy the dog) and rehearsals started soon after with Executive Director of Music Programs Dena Prestininzi directing the show.

The Tony award winning musical opened in 1977 on Broadway and had a successful run through 1983. The story follows a little orphan named Annie and chronicles her life as she goes from a bleak orphanage existence, into a posh lifestyle. The musical has inspired movies and replica performances all over the world with an unforgettable heartwarming theme and musical score.
MAPA’s production of “Annie” opens on October 17th, with following performances on October 18th, 24th, 25th, 26th, and November 1st and 2nd. On October 19th the school will have an excerpt performance attached to the MAPA fundraiser. Casa de Frida will cater the fundraising event for the school and tickets are $175 per person for the gala. Tickets for the regular slated performance are $20.

The response to MAPA has been encouraging, with students who have taken part in the schools programs grateful to be part of their vision. Students such as 8 year old Yamilet Herrera stated, “I am a girl that finishes what I have started. I work hard to reach my goals every day. Sometimes when I work hard I get tired, but I never stop.” It is a pretty ambitious sentiment for a girl of that age, but that is the kind of dedication and fortitude that MAPA inspires. Naylor also spoke well of a couple of other students who travel on the bus for 2 hours from Coachella just to attend the school. It is for their love of music and performing that they do it.

Naylor is proud to establish that MAPA is a school that encourages and expands on their students talents. A child will not be turned away if he or she does not exhibit obvious ability. Rather, they will help develop the student’s capacity realizing that every child is different and possess their own special gifts. There are some schools that steer away from such progressive curriculum, but MAPA refuses to adopt such boundaries and stands firm in their goal to be a creative outlet for those kids who seek it.

The school believes that through music and performing, the youth of today will grow to be confident and successful adults, and will continue the cause of encouraging others that they touch to do their best as well, in all aspects of life. MAPA is part of the truest form of education, through confidence and talent building; they will help their student’s lead productive and joyful lives.

Marquee Academy of Performing Arts is located at 441 South Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. For tickets visit