After school special

RN&R Family Guide 2019

Wildhorse Theater staged a production of Junie B. Jones Jr. The Musical in 2018.

Wildhorse Theater staged a production of Junie B. Jones Jr. The Musical in 2018.

Courtesy/wild horse children’s theater

From arts of all stripes to alternative sports and opportunities for volunteering, the RN&R’s annual Fall Family Guide takes a look at all the best ways to keep the kids busy, engaged and excited after that final school bell rings.


Do your kids want to dip a toe into the world of music, dance and theater, or maybe even begin their journey to become a professional performer? The Truckee Meadows has options for both.

Wild Horse Children’s Theater


Carol Scott has been teaching theater skills to children for over 30 years, and her observations seem to support the long-held stereotype of “theater kids” being outliers. As director of Wild Horse Children’s Theatre in Carson City, she’s worked with countless young actors in private classes and public schools.

“Most of our kids are the kids that don’t fit in,” she said. Some are shy. Some aren’t popular. Some have been bullied. Some LGBTQ kids are shunned for their orientation. But in Scott’s eyes, every child is welcome in the world of acting.

“They find a home in theater,” she said. And a lot of the time, the entryway to that home is so natural and so familiar to kids that it might not even feel like they’re learning acting skills.

“We do a summer camp in collaboration with Carson City School District,” Scott said. “A lot of those children are not ’theater kids.’ They’re just learning about theater.” In one popular exercise, elementary school students stand in a circle, and one child pantomimes an action—digging a hole, for example. The others guess what the action is.

“It’s kind of, like, sneaky,” Scott said. “To them it’s this fun game. They don’t realize they’re developing a character. They’re doing what they love the most, and they don’t realize they’re learning theatercraft. … It’s building these little building blocks. … All the sudden you see them blossom.”

Wild Horse’s sense of inclusiveness extends to its community theater programming, too. When children audition for a play that will be performed for the public, Scott said, “We don’t turn anyone away.” She figures that anyone who has the nerve to get onstage to audition deserves a role in the production. Having a cast of 100 or more is a normal occurrence for this company.

For families with children who’d rather watch a play than act in one, Wild Horse stages popular teen-themed stories such as Heathers, in March 2020, and shortened “Jr.” versions of productions such as Frozen, opening Dec. 6, and Moana, opening in late 2020.

Reno Little Theater

147 E. Pueblo St.


For kids ages 5 and up who want a low-commitment introduction to acting, Reno Little Theater offers a one-hour, once-a-week after-school session. The next one starts Oct. 19. For those who get hooked on the medium—which is easy—acting veteran LaRonda Etheridge leads Broadway Our Way, a week-long school break program for ages 7-12. The program stresses skills like choreography, vocal techniques and teamwork and culminates in a staged production. The next session is during Spring Break 2020.

AVA Ballet Theatre

100 S. Virginia St.


For many—both audience members and performers—The Nutcracker is a gateway to the world of professional dance. For AVA Ballet Theatre, staging this century-old classic is an annual tradition. If your family catches a performance in December at the Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts and it makes your little ones want to run away with the ballet, well, they can. AVA works with Nevada Dance Academy, 1790 W. 4th St., to train and maintain a community of performing artists. Aspiring dancers can start with jazz, ballet, hip hop or musical theater, and a full list of their classes is available online at If your little ones want to strive for a place on the Pioneer stage—or AVA’s annual summer rock ballet—this is the place to start.

Sierra School of Performing Arts

1380 Greg St., Sparks


A few local parents started Sierra School of Performing Arts in 2005, with the goal of providing an outlet where kids could perform in a professional context. Over the years, the group has gained a reputation as a go-to resource that professional companies call when they’re looking for young actors. The company’s annual highlight is the summer musical at Robert Z. Hawkins Amphitheater—always a popular production you’ll recognize, like Guys and Dolls, Legally Blonde or The Wizard of Oz. During the rest of the year, students ages 5 and up can choose from a range of classes and camps to learn acting, singing and dance skills.

TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada

315 Spokane St.


TheatreWorks of Northern Nevada uses games and improvisation to teach kids about all things theater. In classes and camps, students ages 3-18 learn skills that help them onstage, like problem solving, working with groups and emotional awareness. Some learn skills that help behind the stage, like lighting, costume and set design. Advanced teen actors get to learn about stage combat. And TheatreWorks students learn skills that prep them to be audience members, like theater etiquette. As performing arts companies vie to appeal to Gen Z audiences, this is a much discussed topic among theater managers—especially since Broadway legend Patti LuPone stopped in mid-show to deliver a scathing “Who-do-you-think-you-are” lecture to a cell phone user.

TheaterWorks’ says it wants to bring the joy of theater to everyone. In an effort to make that happen, the group also provides free theater education for children at The Volunteers of America Family Shelter, Kids Kottage and Boys & Girls Club.


Filling up your child’s time with the power of music is a great way for them to spend their after school hours, not to mention maybe teaching them some skills that go beyond knowing a G chord. According to a recent story in Parents Magazine, experts believe that learning a musical instrument helps with math comprehension, coordination and motor skills, stronger peer interaction and boost s self-esteem, among other benefits.

Mountain Music Parlor offers music lessons for kids who want to learn the basics.

photo/matt bieker

Below are a few suggestions for after-school music classes, places where your son or daughter can figure out one of the great mysteries of the arts (and maybe impress some of their friends, too). Unless otherwise listed, all classes cater to ages 6 and up.

Mountain Music Parlor

735 S. Center St.


Mountain Music Parlor is one place that also teaches about the cultural history of American music, as well as the nuts-and-bolts of playing an instrument. Located in midtown, among the instruments they teach are guitar, fiddle, banjo, accordion and harmonica, as well as voice lessons. Their ukulele classes are also popular ones, and possibly ideal for little hands just learning their way around a fretboard.

JamPro Music Factory

9300 Prototype Drive


Musical diversity and the art of performance are highlights of the lessons offered at JamPro Music Factory. This business offers voice, piano and guitar lessons, along with bass, drums and even DJ instruction. JamPro’s building also includes a full-on stage with concert-level production so your kids can learn stage presence along with those crucial chord changes.

Absolute Music

8175 S. Virginia St.


Music stores can also be hot spots to learn how to navigate different keys and modes. One such store is Absolute Music, which touts itself as the go-to place for orchestral string, woodwind and brass instruments. For instruction that goes beyond the classroom, they offer private lessons for hectic schedules.

Music Fuze

4690 Longley Lane


Another store that flies a bit under the radar is Muzic Fuze. Cello, violin and mandolin lessons are a part of their repertoire, along with the usual guitar-bass-drum-voice combos.

Blue Note B’s Horn Shop

multiple locations

As the name implies, Blue Note B’s Horn Shop specializes in brass and woodwind instruments such as saxophones, trumpets and trombones. Besides sales and repairs, they also rebuild tarnished instruments and offer lessons in those three listed above, along with French horn, clarinet, flute and viola, among others. There are also two locations: 1155 West Fourth St., Suite 118, in Reno, 453-9219; and 1525 Oddie Blvd. in Sparks, 360-5775.

One Stop Guitar

730 Tahoe St.


If the six-string is the definite route your young musician wants to go, private teachers can also be great resources. One of the best in town is One Stop Guitar, run by longtime local musician Eric Stangeland. Accepting new students from ages 11 and up, One Stop Guitar tailors lessons to the skill level of a student, and contemporary rock and pop songs are prominently used. There are also online courses to try out if you can’t make it to the studio.

Anne Roos


For something a little more esoteric, there are Anne Roos’ lesson plans exclusively for the Celtic harp. Based in South Lake Tahoe, she teaches children ages 7 and up all about this lilting stringed instrument, including reading sheet music if that’s a skill not currently in your child’s arsenal. Roos also rents harps to students taking lessons from her, meaning your child can explore a potential passion without the huge start-up costs of hauling their own harp.


Sports can play a major part in many children’s lives, but some kids might have a desire for athletic programs that don’t fit the typical norms like football, basketball or baseball. Sports such as lacrosse, skiing or snowboarding and softball are all popular alternatives in Reno, but a wider array of interests can be difficult for busy parents to meet. Some local programs offer choices that make this task much simpler for parents who have a hard time finding a sport their child can enjoy.

Sky Tavern

Kids ages 8 and up can volunteer at the SPCA.

courtesy/spca of northern nevada

21130 Sky Tavern Road


For one of the most popular activities in a mountain town, Sky Tavern provides early lessons for young kids who are looking to learn how to ski and snowboard. Located on Mt. Rose, Sky Tavern offers a junior ski program that was established in 1948 and has been run by dedicated volunteers and parents since 1991. Parents offer their time to help train children on the beginning stages of skiing and snowboarding before they hit the slopes. Even if the parent is unable to help as an instructor, there are still transportation services offered to ensure your child makes it to the program easily and safely. Classes are offered on weekends, so the hassle of getting your child to practice on time while also worrying about school and work are absent with the Sky Tavern program.

“Kids don’t go outside and play anymore, they are quitting sports at a younger age. Sky Tavern counters that,” Executive Director Bill Henderson said. “The Sierra mountains are a huge playground, and we want kids to play and not miss out on some of the best skiing and snowboarding in the world, but we want to ensure they do it right.” Having the ability to learn with your child or teach them yourself can also be a valuable family experience, and Sky Tavern’s lessons have allowed generations of children to successfully take advantage of one of Northern Nevada’s premiere pastimes.

High Sierra Lacrosse League

However, skiing and snowboarding aren’t the only alternative sports offered after school in Reno, as lacrosse has become increasingly popular in the community as well. High Sierra Lacrosse League, run by president Taylor Simmers, a former player himself, gives children of all ages the capabilities to learn about the sport and join a league where they can play and make some friends with similar interests. The league is committed to helping the development of lacrosse skills and techniques, as well organizing matches in a safe atmosphere for all. Children can begin playing around age 6 all the way up to the high school level, maintaining relationships with coaches and trainers they began with.

“The High Sierra Lacrosse League is a grassroots organization that helps young people enjoy playing lacrosse and be physically active from youth through high school,” Simmers said. “We are also committed to providing access to families by keeping costs as low as possible. As a group of volunteers, we do not rely on the monies generated by our programs for our income or livelihood, which is unlike many of the club programs out there.”

While some independent programs—and the associated gear—can be pricey, High Sierra Lacrosse combines fun, physical activity for children while also keeping prices low for the parents.

Nevada Lightning Fastpitch Softball

Finally, The Nevada Lightning Fastpitch Softball league is a great option for kids looking to become involved in softball for girls ages 8 to 18. The organization is also run by volunteers who focus on enhancing player’s skills and putting attention on team development.

According to their website, the Nevada Lightning are “dedicated to instilling a sense of good sportsmanship as well as creating an environment to enhance player development and inspire a positive self-image in young women ages eight through eighteen.” Since their founding in 1990, the Nevada Lightning has catered to parents with young girls looking to join an organization that helps them keep active, improve confidence and make friendships for life.


Volunteering is a great way for children and adolescents to give back to their community, boost self-esteem, learn new skills and find life purpose. Many organizations in Northern Nevada recognize the value of volunteering at an early age by providing opportunities for kids to get involved, and below are several local organizations welcoming volunteers under the age of 18.

SPCA of Northern Nevada

4950 Spectrum Blvd.


After filling out an application, children can volunteer alongside a parent or guardian at the SPCA of Northern Nevada. A child must be at least 8 years old and must complete a one-hour training to volunteer with cats and must be at least 12 years old and must have completed a two-hour training to volunteer with dogs.

After completing the designated trainings and orientation, children and parents can begin participating in some of the more common volunteer roles, including reading to and walking dogs, playing laser pointer with cats and reading in the cat rooms, feeding treats to cats and dogs, assisting with cleaning and organizing the facility and representing the SPCA during special outreach events in the community.

According to the SPCA’s community outreach and volunteer manager, Nayla Garcia, children who volunteer at the SPCA learn valuable skills like how to observe and read animal behavior, time management, patience, how to treat others with kindness and compassion and self-motivation.

According to Garcia, volunteers, no matter what age, are the key to what the SPCA does. “Volunteers go home knowing they helped make a homeless animal feel loved and important, that they haven’t been forgotten about,” said Garcia. “These animals are often disoriented and feel lonely, and any time they get to spend with a volunteer means so much to them.”

In addition to the volunteer opportunities available for children, the SPCA also hosts a kids’ camp during fall, spring and summer breaks where kids get to learn about the adoption process, how to keep animals safe, how the veterinary clinic works and how to make treats for pets.

Walker Basin Conservancy

615 Riverside Dr.


For children and teens interested in learning more about ecosystems in the Great Basin and who want to develop an understanding of the desert habitat they live in, the Walker Basin Conservancy has volunteer opportunities available to kids of all ages.

According to outreach and communications coordinator Caroline Ackerman, the conservancy is currently restoring 15,000 acres of land in the Walker Basin. Volunteers will work alongside Walker Basin’s staff to learn how to collect seeds from native plants, how to properly plant young sage shrubs and how to be stewards for the high desert.

Walker Basin also recently built a greenhouse in Yerington, Nevada, that is open for tours. Ackerman said worksheets and hands-on activities suitable for elementary school children are available during these.

For older teens, Ackerman said volunteers will have the opportunity to learn from seasoned professionals. “High school-aged volunteers have the opportunity to learn more about job opportunities and future careers in environmental science,” she said. “We have an AmeriCorps program that has a variety of term-lengths and accepts members 17 years and older.”

No prior knowledge is needed to volunteer and day-of training is provided. Volunteer days are scheduled when there is a high volume of interest. Applications to volunteer can be filled out by visiting

Renown Health

Multiple locations

Children 14 years of age and older interested in exploring a medical career can apply for a number of volunteer opportunities and Renown Health’s high school program by visiting

Once a candidate’s application is processed, he or she must then attend an informational session, complete a medical clearance, attend an orientation and pass a background check. Upon approval, volunteers will then practice valuable skills like learning to greet patients at the hospital welcome desk, escorting patients around the hospital, interacting with patients and family visitors alike and assisting with clerical errands like delivering mail.

For teens interested in working in the medical field after high school, volunteering at a hospital will not only help them boost their college application, but volunteering also holds the power to help them make a difference in someone’s life.