Brian Leaf has spent countless hours parsing through Family Guy, Twilight, The 40-Year Old Virgin, and myriad other pop-culture phenomena—not for his own amusement, but to pick out SAT and ACT vocabulary words lurking in the scripts, which he's compiled in six books. A seasoned test-prep instructor, Leaf has helped thousands of students surmount standardized tests through his books and workshops, which dole out insider advice for taking the entire tests as well as specific subjects such as math, reading, and dodgeball. Students leave each session with a collection of McGraw-Hill guidebooks, tips on stress management and avoiding common avoidable mistakes, and strategies for each subject.
The nonprofit organization ETTA Art Studio splashes the Amherst community with artistic spirit flowing from the brain brushes of its experienced local artists and teachers. The master masterpiece makers pass on their creative tutelage via classes that cover clay working, drawing, puppet making, theater, and other artful subjects. On July 25–29, kids can swing by the studio for Fantastic Fairylands (ages 5–11) or Giant Puppetmaking, Improv + Movement (ages 8–12). And August 1–5, Collage, Diorama, and Painting (for ages 8–10) empowers pupils with the ability to construct fan mail for Vincent van Gogh.
Star Maker School boasts a staff full of professionals as well as alumni from all over the entertainment industry, including professional, tour, and major recording artist dancers; Broadway performers; commercial and voice-over actors. For nearly 40 years, its instructors have helped kids aged 2.5–18 accomplish transformations into these fields with positive reinforcement and confidence-building methods in dance, acting, and singing. Their philosophy prizes healthy self-image above all else, and they also help parents make educated decisions regarding breaking into showbiz.
Nicole Kristoff, director of Kokopelli School of Music and Arts, doesn't just run the show—she also draws on her 18 years of dance experience to teach evening classes such as hip-hop for kids and Piloxing for adults. As a whole, the school covers a much broader range of arts education, though, including theater, dance in styles such as ballet and hula hooping, and visual arts. Music buffs also hone their craft in private lessons, which can focus on instruments ranging from guitar to cello.