|About the presenter: Taro Alexander is the Founder/Director of Our Time and Camp Our Time. He is an accomplished performer, teacher, and director who has stuttered since the age of five. Taro has been recognized for his work with people who stutter and has led workshops, master classes, and performances around the world. In 2002, he was honored by the National Council on Communicative Disorders at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, with the Charles Van Riper Award. In 2005, he gave the keynote address at the National Association of Young People Who Stutter (Friends) Conference in Cleveland. Married to the amazing Leigh Pennebaker, they are proud parents of two sons and one daughter.|
My artistic impulses were encouraged by my parents at an early age and my interest in contributing to social change was influenced greatly by the work of my father, the late Bobby Alexander, who founded the legendary Living Stage Theatre Company in Washington, DC. After graduating from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts I was cast in my first professional role at the age of nineteen in the National Tour of Neil Simon's Lost in Yonkers. After years of building a successful performing career, including four years in the cast of the Off-Broadway smash STOMP and appearances on NBC's Law & Order, I decided that it was time to realize a lifelong dream of utilizing art to transform the lives of young people who stutter and founded Our Time in the fall of 2001. Our Time has been featured on NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams, CBS Sunday Morning, NPR's All Things Considered, The Today Show, WNBC, as well as in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and Washington Post.
At Our Time, we give kids the chance to express how they feel without the fear of being put down, interrupted, or ridiculed. It is amazing and empowering to see what these young people have to say. We have many different programs at Our Time: we have a summer camp called Camp Our Time where around 100 kids who stutter (as well as their young family members and friends who do not stutter) come for two weeks from around the United States and abroad to improve their communication skills and confidence, and make lifelong friends; we offer speech therapy in New York City where kids work one-on-one with Caryn Herring, our resident Speech Language Pathologist; and we offer various artistic programming in New York City where kids who stutter write and perform their own plays, songs, and more.
Last year around 50 kids who stutter from the New York Tri-State area participated in our Music Video program. These three videos, which were Directed by J.J. Shebesta and Produced by Justin Matley, feature three original songs written by young people who stutter. Watch the videos below from YouTube by clicking on the title below each picture.
Put Your Hand Up was written by Julianna Padilla, age 14, under the guidance of Everett Bradley, Gregg Parratto and Noah Cornman. The vocals are by Julianna Padilla. Julianna has been in Our Time since she was 7 years old and she attended Camp Our Time for the first time this summer. Julianna wrote this song to inspire people who stutter, and all people, to never give up on your dreams, even when life throws challenges your way. Put Your Hand Up not only applies to kids who stutter having the courage to raise their hand in class, but for everyone to "put your hand up" and fully participate in life, even when things are tough.
All I Want Is Love was written by Andre Gillyard, age 16, under the guidance of Everett Bradley. The vocals are by Holly Brook, Duncan Sheik, cast members from the Broadway hit, Spring Awakening, and the Our Time kids. The video features Victoria Perlman, Omari Fabor, and other Our Time kids. The title of the song says it all...when all is said and done, no matter who we are and how we talk, we all want the same thing, love.
Perfect Place was written by Keith Russell, age 16, under the guidance of Everett Bradley. The vocals are by Adam Pascal, John Forte, Carly Simon, Ramona Dunlap, and the Our Time kids. The video features Tim Short, Ezra Knight, Gilmar Hidalgo, Keon Lee, Klanell Lee, Isabella Negron, and the Our Time kids. This song was written for a One-Act Play that Keith wrote and directed at Our Time. The play starred Paul Rudd who played a teenager who stutters that was getting bullied because he stuttered. Keith dreams of a perfect place where everyone is respected and accepted for who they are.