Meet Our Members
One of the things Loren LoMastro Specht credits with keeping enrollment strong at her studio, LoMastro Performing Arts Academy in Lake Forest, Illinois, is pop culture. “So You Think You Can Dance and Dancing with the Stars have been good for business,” she says. “Parents realize the value of doing more and different forms of dance.”
The studio does have a diverse curriculum—from the standards of ballet, tap, modern and jazz to jumps and turns class, musical theater and private voice and dance lessons. She also supports a song and dance troupe she calls “Glee-esque” that performs a showcase twice a year.
All of her dancers are required to take ballet after Level Three (her studio is structured with eight different levels) and she prefers students who take a wide variety of classes. “We try to be sure we’re well-rounded,” she explains. “We don’t have kids that are just ballet students or tap students. I want my students to have training in voice and acting too.”
LoMastro Specht’s teaching career began at the tender age of nine, when she became an assistant teacher. Later, as a senior in high school, she was given her own classes. She then danced professionally and taught for 12 years before going out on her own; she became a CNADM Member in 2006 and founded her studio in 2007. “I wanted to have my own school where I could set the direction,” she says. “We’re able to make sure there’s a real consistency from classroom to classroom.”
Today, the studio boasts more than 400 students and 18+ faculty members. Luckily, LoMastro Specht doesn’t have to spend a lot of time recruiting quality faculty members—they come to her. “We have a lot of people who send us their resumes asking to be on our faculty,” she explains. “The kids’ training really draws them in.”
Like many things at her studio, LoMastro Specht focuses on quality and consistency with her faculty. “I get to make sure that the students are having the highest-quality instructors,” she says. “I like keeping the faculty dancing to the same beat.”
In recent years, the Performing Arts Academy has branched out to become an official USA Gymnastics Member Club featuring a curriculum in tumbling and acrobatics—“Tumble Tots” gets little ones started as soon as they can walk—as well as a growing poms program that teams up with local high schools. The “Mommy & Me” program introduces infants as young as one month to the joy of music and movement, while “Tiny Tots” ballet class caters to kids as young as two-and-a-half years. LoMastro’s studio even offers mother/child fitness classes to help new parents bond with their babies while getting back into shape.
At the end of the day, LoMastro Specht is all about training well-rounded performers who are prepared to further their education or performance opportunities in the “real“ world. “My biggest satisfaction is watching a kid go from a beginner to getting a college scholarship in dance.”
During times of economic downturn, LoMastro Specht feels fortunate by virtue of geography—her location in the northern suburbs of Chicago isn’t as easily impacted as other areas of the state—and by her quality product. “We’ve seen consistent enrollment,” she remarks. “And we’ve continued to attract new students.”
Another advantage LoMastro Specht has in running her own operation is recognizing her weaknesses. Her best advice to anyone considering or just starting out with their own studio is: “Know what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are, and hire people to help you with the areas where you’re weak.”
She also credits active parents with supporting her and her program since she opened. “They’re well-educated consumers,” she says. With highly involved parents, she’s found a few tricks to keep everyone on the same page. “We try to give our parents as much information as possible in advance, and we have everything in writing so they know the rules beforehand,” she explains. Parents actually sign off on the rules before classes begin, and she makes sure all of the faculty members follow those rules, too.
“My parents are the type of people who like to follow rules,” she concludes. “They know what to expect at my studio—and we deliver on their expectations.”
Dee Dee Johnson, MDE
Studio Owner and Director,
Bataille Academie of the Danse, Barrington, IL
Jenny Kehl Hiltbrand
Studio Owner, Kehl School of Dance, Madison Wisconsin
Laurel Soderstrom-Davis, MDE
Owner and Director, Laurel School of Dance, Danville Illinois
Kristina Crane, MDE
Dance Instructor & Community Outreach Director, Debra Collier's School of Dance, Warsaw Ind.
Cheri Lindell, MDE
Founder and Director,