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New venture for aspiring actors, singers
Leigh Ann Cannady gives a private voice lesson to Mikayla Mummaw, left, and Maddy Ender, both rising sophomores at Forsyth Central High School, at the Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts. - photo by Crystal Ledford

If you’re going

* What: Open house for Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts

* When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. July 27

* Where: 520 Industrial Way, Suite B, Cumming

* Cost: Free

* For more information, visit

Leigh Ann Cannady took part in her first play when she was very young.

“I think my first show was in the eighth grade and it was all over from there,” she said.

In recent years, she’s brought her love of the performing arts to the Cumming Playhouse stage as she’s directed such productions as “The Marvelous Wonderettes” and “Big River.”

Soon, she’ll also be bringing that love to community students through a new business venture.

Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts, housed at 520 Industrial Way, will hold a community open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 27.

“People can just drop by, meet the teachers and see the space,” Cannady said.

The facility, which Cannady hopes to have fully up and running by the start of the school year on Aug. 8, will offer a range of classes for students in elementary, middle and high school, and even a few for adults interested in the performing arts.

“We’re going to offer classes in musical theater, movement, acting, improvisation, along with private voice instruction and hopefully some private piano as well,” she said, noting that registration has opened online at

She said every class will have some type of performance aspect and will “supplement” what local schools are doing in their theater and choral programs.

“My dream is to build a bridge between the programs,” she said. “I’ve worked in different aspects with a lot of the high schools around the area and my hope is really to supplement what they’re doing.”

There will also be opportunities for the community at large to learn more about the performance arts.

Cannady said she’ll be offering community workshops, open to anyone, about one weekend each month.

The first workshop will be Sept. 14 with Meg Gillentine, a professional actress who has performed on Broadway in shows such as “Cats” and “Fosse & the Frogs.”

“She’ll be coming in and doing an audition techniques workshop,” Cannady said. “People can come in and she’ll put them through the rigors of an actual audition and then give them feedback and do a Q-and-A session, that kind of stuff.”

Cannady said later in the fall she also hopes to offer a workshop called “Can My Kid Really Make a Living at This.”

“That’s probably the question I get asked the most,” she joked. “So I want to bring in some folks from the opera, maybe the lady who sings jazz at the Ritz, some Atlanta-based actors. That will be a fun Q-and-A for parents and kids to come to together.”

Cannady, who holds a degree in classical music and is a certified music teacher for kindergarten through 12thgrade, said the Forsyth Academy of Performing Arts has been a dream of hers for many years.

“I really started building a business plan about 10 years ago and then the economy tanked and my kids were really young, so it just wasn’t the right time,” she said.

Recently, her success providing private voice lessons out of her home lead her and husband John to get serious about the venture.

“I’d built up enough clientele just out of my house that I felt like I was starting to get full,” Cannady said.

“Finally, I just got frustrated that my students were always asking me, ‘Where can we go that’s close that we can do a show or that we can take a class? I could send them to great places that were far away, but there was no place here.”

At 3,000 square feet with several classrooms and an area with a stage that Cannady will turn into a “black box” theater for small performances, the site provides the perfect venue for students.

“My husband and I finally decided it was time to pull the trigger and we couldn’t believe we found a space that was so well suited for it,” she said.

Besides Cannady, four other instructors will also work at the academy. Among them is Becky Binion, who Cannady met several years ago through a Cumming Playhouse production.

Binion, who will be teaching movement for actors, said she’s excited about the new venture.

“I just think there’s a need for this here in Forsyth County and I think it’s going to thrive,” she said.