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Stage Right Alumni

Caden Bunch

In 2019, I graduated from Independence High School and began attending The University of
Tennessee at Chattanooga. I studied business until fall of 2021 when I transferred to Middle
Tennessee State University to study Music Business. I enjoy being close to Nashville while
learning from my experienced professors.

Throughout my time in college, I was in many clubs and groups. I was in the Student Alumni
Council where I assisted with fundraisers and events involving alumni back on campus. I was
also on UTC’s Women's Ultimate Frisbee Team. Both of these I continued until my transfer from
Chattanooga. Once I arrived at MTSU, I was able to come back to the studio and teach dance.
Dance has always been a passion of mine. Being able to study in college and continue my
passion for dance has been a blessing.

I have been dancing since I was 3 years old. My favorite style of dance is hip hop, but I love
them all. My favorite memories are not always from winning awards or being on stage. The
dance atmosphere allowed me to create lifelong friendships. My favorite memories from dance
are time spent with my friends and our experience dancing together.

My advice to dancers is to continue to grow your passion. I explored several styles of dance and
found myself liking styles I had never thought I would. If you push yourself out of your comfort
zone, you may find yourself enjoying things you never thought you would. You’re never too old
to stop learning.

Sabrina Smith

In the spring of 2016 I graduated from Independence High School. I started classes at Belmont University in the fall of the same year, and I have been loving it ever since. I am majoring in Biology and minoring in dance; with my degree I hope to become a midwife and care for women in all aspects of life.

Besides my work in the Biology department at Belmont, I enjoy taking part in the dance program and everything they have to offer. I have taken classes in jazz, ballet, and modern so far, and I will be participating in the Belmont Dance Company beginning in the fall of 2018. I am so very excited to cultivate another community centered around dance!

I did not begin dancing until I was ten years old, which many would consider a very late start. Though I started far longer after many of my peers, I did not let that discourage me from working to be the best I could be. The hard work and long hours I spent at the studio immensely improved my dancing as well as my interpersonal skills. By being an active member of the studio I learned invaluable skills in leadership and teamwork. It was not always easy, but the effort I gave cultivated results I am very proud to claim. The teachers who gave so much of their wisdom to me will be appreciated forever, and the friends I’ve made have become my family.

A piece of advice to current dancers at Stage Right would be to fully engage in everything your class and studio has to offer you. It is so important to make a personal connection to your experiences in order to develop passion and close relationships with your peers and instructors. The opportunity you have right now is a unique experience you will not find anywhere else in the world, so give all you can to each individual moment. I promise you will not regret it!

Jesse Bunch

I graduated from Independence High School in 2016 and began attending the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the fall of 2016. I was accepted into the School of Nursing and began studies in the fall of 2017. I love the clinical rotations and I am excited for all I am learning.

In the fall of 2017, I co-founded the UTC Dance Company. This group meets weekly to study technique and learn choreography. The company has been invited to perform in May as part of the recital of a local Chattanooga dance studio.  We are very excited about our first group performance.

My time at the studio allowed me to grow as not only a dancer but also as a person. The accumulation of skills and experiences from my years there allow me to share my knowledge and passion for dance through my new company at college. It also taught me the value of putting in effort in order to see improvement and results, which I use everyday working toward my academic goals. I also made so many valued friendships through my dance family that I still treasure to this day. Abbi Glenn and I began competing duets together when I was 12 years old.  Our friendship has grown over the years, and I could not have taken on the challenge of co-founding a Dance Company without her.

And finally to all the dancers at Stage Right School of Performing Arts, I would say to enjoy every moment of learning and growing as a dancer and to take every opportunity given to you to dance because it is much more difficult to find dance opportunities after high school graduation. However, I would also say that dance is something that you can take with you for the rest of your life. It can be integrated into your life no matter where you are; you don’t have to be a professional to use your talents and passions to enjoy dancing.

Shannon Tester

When I graduated from Independence High School in 2014 and danced in my final recital at Stegmann's School of Performing Arts (now Stage Right), I was excited to see what my future would hold and see where life would take me. I decided to attend the University of Tennessee in Knoxville (Go Vols!) to pursue my life long dream to become an elementary school art teacher. With graduation coming around the corner this upcoming May, it's bittersweet to look back on these past four years of my college journey involving making so many new friends and cherishable memories.

I wanted to continue dancing throughout my college experience, so my freshman year I auditioned and became a member of the BOSS Dance Company, which is an organization on UT's campus that was founded in 2010 when UT decided to cut out their dance program in 2009. Joining this company has been one of the best decisions I've ever made as I get to perform alongside my best friends each year at our Spring Showcase all while advancing to bring back the dance major/minor at UT. 

Reflecting back on my time in the dance studio, I will always treasure the many hours spent in my "second home" with my dance family. I would say to the current and future Stage Right School of Performing Arts dancers to always strive to be the best you can be, both as a dancer and person and continue building friendships among your peers. Time will fly by so quickly, so take in every moment you can!


Crystal Shaffer

I graduated from Independence High School in 2010 and then went on to graduate from Belmont University with a B.A. in English and minors in Dance and Education in 2014. I decided to join Teach For America and began teaching English while pursing my Masters of Education in 2015. 

Throughout my journey in school, the dance studio acted as an anchor in my life. I was provided the unique opportunity to teach and nurture others while I was also being invested in during my own schooling and studio experiences. Being able to play a small role in the lives of others with a mutural passion for dance and the arts truly helped instill a culture and community that I have found to be unmatched anywhere else.  The studio experiences have taught me so many things that are not taught on other platforms and have truly reinforced the idea that the best teachers are first and foremost always students. 

With the support of the studio I am humbled by the experiences and opportunities I have gained. I am able to pursue my love for dance and have been able to share the love of this art with so many incredible people from all walks of life. I stand firm in the fact that dance is for everyone and is always there to welcome you home.

My hope and wish for all current/ potential students is that they feel the unconditional love of not only the art form, but the community that surrounds it. I encourage every student to embrace different perspectives, work hard, hunger for knowledge, ask questions, and embark on a journey that best fits your incomparable and remarkable self. Also, remember that you have an extended family in your corner cheering you on wherever life takes you and will welcome you home anytime you stop in for a visit. 

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