Our History

The Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy is Michael Jones’ brainchild. As a young student and later as a performer Michael learned firsthand that access to opportunity often depended on where you lived, who you knew or even what you looked like.  Michael himself was blessed to grow up in a loving supportive home, surrounded by the communities of his church and the culturally rich South Side of Chicago.  After receiving his BA in Musical Theatre, Michael found his way to the Young Americans organization, which helped him polish his unique combination of faith, talent and positive spirit.

Michael spent many years performing nationally and internationally to wide acclaim.  But, he never lost sight of his real dream:  to build a performing arts education program for the young people of Chicago.  Over the years, Michael built skills in teaching, outreach, choreography and production.  Over the same time, the outlook for youth growing up in many urban neighborhoods in Chicago worsened and the need for that positive spirit grew. 

Today, communities are coming together to plan “promise zones,” build community centers, plan charter schools and collaborate with service providers.  Michael is very much a part of that conversation.  His recent experience building a music and dance program in Woodlawn, working through the Chicago Public School System at Marshall and continuing to test various education models in Oak Park have readied him to realize his vision.

While working in Woodlawn, Michael began collaborating with Ahava Silkey.  Also a trained dancer and educator, Ahava has focused her life’s work on Chicago’s youth – touching lives and fostering pride and hope through music and dance.  Michael and Ahava are a natural partnership with skill sets that fit together like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle.

Another important piece of the puzzle fell into place when Michael and Ahava joined forces with Cathy Yen, a business woman and parent from Oak Park.  Cathy’s children were blessed to know Michael and Ahava through the middle school BRAVO! program.  There, the Yens and other families in Oak Park were moved and amazed by what talented instructors can do for youth.  Cathy fell in love with the programming, the work ethic and the possibilities.  She felt so strongly about what she had seen – and aware of the impact PTDYA could have in Chicago -  that she volunteered her time to help Michael and Ahava with the business end of their efforts, such as creating a business model and strategic plan that eventually became PTDYA.

Today, the Professional Theatre and Dance Youth Academy is incorporated in the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit company with a 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue Service. We have assembled an impressive Board of Directors.  We are building a business model to ensure that all Chicago-area youth have the opportunity to find safety, self-esteem, hope and joy through the wonders of music and dance expression.