Starting Arts welcomes lead of Billy Elliot-The Musical!


Kelly Velasquez                                      Ann Watts

Media Relations, Starting Arts               Executive Director, Starting Arts
(408) 655-7539                                      (408) 492-9022               



J.P. Viernes Shares His Talent and Knowledge with Aspiring Dream Team Talent



SANTA CLARA, Calif.—September 18, 2011—This weekend, Starting Arts (

hosted an exclusive Dream Team workshop with 15 year old John Peter (J.P) Viernes, one of the original Billys in the Chicago, Toronto, and San Francisco productions of Billy Elliot the Musical!

In a studio filled with approximately 60 Dream Teamers, Viernes shared his knowledge and experience in an informal two-hour workshop on Saturday evening.  During the workshop, he displayed his talent with a ballet demonstration, gave an insightful Q & A session, taught the students tap choreography from Billy Elliot the Musical!, and delighted the audience by joining in on a ukulele jam session guided by a few older Dream Team members.

This workshop is an example of the Starting Arts program mission to provide professional training and unique opportunities to the members of their elite Dream Team and DT2, led by Program and Music Director, Amy Baker.

“It’s wonderful for our students to be given the opportunity to chat with a professional actor who is also one of their peers,” said Stephanie Maysonave, Dream Team and DT2 Theater Director.  “This workshop has made our students even more determined to challenge themselves as actors, singers, and dancers.” 


Viernes is one of five Billys in the touring company.  According to Vierness, he was selected out of “approximately one thousand boys”.  Viernes performs on stage as Billy once or twice a week and is currently getting ready for the American tour, which opens in St. Louis, Missouri on November 1.

During Q & A, Viernes admitted that the most difficult challenge about performing each night is “keeping it fresh” and “keeping the whole body involved and focused”.  His favorite part of the show is the finale, “because it is one of the happy numbers and the entire cast is on stage.” 

When he is not working or doing school work, Viernes shared, “I like to hang out and chat with my friends.  I also like to read.”  As far as his future, he is not making commitments and maturely claimed, “I want to keep my options open.”

Viernes and his three siblings were born and raised by his parents in Half Moon Bay.  He credits his family, teachers, cast members, and friends for his success.   Inspired by his sister, J.P. began dancing at the age of seven with the Shely Pack Dancers in Half Moon Bay.

For information on Starting Arts and the Dream Team programs, visit

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About Starting Arts (
Starting Arts is a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is the promotion and preservation of quality arts education in public schools. Since 2001, Starting Arts has partnered with school communities and districts in the San Francisco Bay area to provide both during and after school programs in visual and performing arts for children in grades K through 12. Starting Arts actively promotes all four arts disciplines: Dance, Theatre, Music, Visual Arts, and now Film. Starting Arts receives and solicits operating funds from individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies. Contributors not only help educate the next generation of artists and audiences – they help teach creative thinking skills to the future innovators and leaders of our world.