Julissa Nunez’s to-do list for August includes learning how to ride a bicycle and begin writing her first novel.
The 12-year-old shared her goals last month while sitting in a circle with two dozen other seventh-grade girls at the Young Women’s Leadership School, a Harlem public school. They’re headed for Camp BroaderWay, a Lenox, Massachusetts, performing arts experiment run primarily by a close-knit crew of mothers who work in theater and finance.
“It’s important to identify what your dreams are so you can map out how to get there,” Jeanine Tesori, the composer of the musicals “Caroline, or Change” and “Shrek,” told the girls. Tesori is the camp’s music director and resident composer.
Held free of charge to the girls, BroaderWay is based at a camp called Belvoir Terrace. It runs 12 days beginning Aug. 8, the day after Belvoir Terrace’s $10,700-six-and-a-half-week summer session ends.
Idina Menzel, who originated the roles of Maureen in “Rent” and Elphaba in “Wicked” on Broadway, conceived the camp two years ago with her husband, actor Taye Diggs, and their friend Heather Zuckerman, chief administrative officer of the money manager Neuberger Berman LLC. Zuckerman roomed with Menzel when they were undergraduates at New York University.
“I thought I would change the world and the reality of $120,000 of student loans kicked in,” said Zuckerman, an urban studies major who also attended law school at NYU. “We realized we were finally in a position to do something.”
Among the volunteer recruits are Mindy Gabler, who works in private equity at JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM:US) and who has a daughter at the Ethical Culture School with Zuckerman’s kids. The 31 girls at the first BroaderWay session last August are scheduled to return, with no newcomers and no boys.
“Girls are more likely to make themselves vulnerable and explore their own issues if they’re not trying to impress boys,” said Menzel, who credits six summers at Camp Olympus in the Catskill Mountains with nurturing her passion for the arts.
At the reunion and planning session last month, many of the girls said they hope to become more assertive at the camp.
“My goal is to be more confident and not be scared of my fears,” said a girl named Jennifer.
“My goal is to come out of my shell,” said Katherine.
“My goal is to be more active and not be so shy,” said Jazmin.
Julissa said staff members at the camp, including professional dancers and choreographers, encouraged the girls to be creative and spontaneous. For many, it was their first trip away from home and the city. Activities ranged from swimming and tennis lessons to sculpture classes and rehearsals for a concert they wrote and performed at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre the day they returned.
“Before you go onstage,” Julissa said she was instructed, “breathe, relax and just try to have fun and express yourself. Don’t be afraid to make a mistake. And if you make a mistake, don’t make it obvious.”
Two Manhattan power couples recently held fundraisers for the camp: Ann Rubenstein Tisch, who founded the Harlem school, and Andrew Tisch, co-chairman of Loews Corp. (L:US); and Thomas H. Lee, the private equity manager, and his wife, Ann Tenenbaum. There’s ambition to grow, within limits.
“We have philanthropy friends who want to see numbers,” Menzel said. “That’s how you get money. But that doesn’t seem true to us.
“What makes it special now,” added Menzel, who performs tonight in San Antonio, Texas, as part of a North American concert tour, “is the intimacy -- the boutique nature.”
Muse highlights include Richard Vines on dining and James S. Russell on architecture.
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