Local dance studio, Elower-Sicilia Productions (ESP) Dance and Music, LLC is celebrating 50 years of business this year.
Owner Linda Elower Sicilia started the studio back in 1969 in the basement of her parents’ Thurmont home. Within a year, she was able to move the studio to the Thurmont Guardian Hose Company Meeting Room, renting a room there one night a week to teach dance lessons. Within the next couple of years, Linda married her husband, Pete Sicilia, and moved the studio to the front room of their home on Main Street, while she and Pete lived upstairs. In 1972, Pete secured a loan from the Thurmont Bank and remodeled the basement himself to make a small studio space for Linda to continue teaching lessons. Quickly outgrowing the basement studio space, Pete designed and built the Pool House (which was originally planned to be his shop and garage) to accommodate the growing studio. Linda continued teaching lessons in both the basement and the Pool House studios for the next few years. But as the studio continued to grow, it was moved to a variety of locations throughout Thurmont over the years, eventually ending up in the Old Mill building on Water Street, where it is today.
Regardless of what the studio space was like, over the past 50 years Linda has taught so many young people to love dance. Some students may have stayed for just a year or two, or only took a couple of classes. While others stayed for their entire childhood, taking every class that was offered. Either way, countless young people were shaped by their time with Linda at ESP.
When asked to reflect on the past 50 years, Linda said the one thing that comes to her mind is the life-long friendships of parents and students that she has gained over the years that have made her life so much richer. Generations of families have gone through ESP, including Linda’s own three daughters, who were all ESP students and remain a part of the studio. Now, they have their own children dancing there. Linda’s oldest granddaughter is the director of the ESP Performing Company. There are many parents who were ESP students themselves, who are now bringing their own children to dance at ESP.
ESP parent Megan Claggett shares “My fondest memories of my childhood are dancing for Linda. I still have all of my costumes, recital t-shirts, and recital VHS tapes! I couldn’t wait to have a little girl of my own to send to ESP, and now I have two. ESP truly is a big family, and I’m so proud to have my family be a part of it!” Megan’s daughter Jordyn said, “Dancing at ESP makes me so happy! I think it is so cool that most of my teachers also taught my mom and will teach my baby sister, too!”
Many families share Megan’s sentiment, as do many alumni. Most of the current instructors at the studio are former ESP dancers. It is a true testament to the bonds students form with the studio when they want to send their own children to the studio or come back to teach classes there themselves. What makes ESP so special is that Linda sees the potential in each and every student that walks through the door. There is no set mold that ESP dancers must fit into, and every dancer can find a forever home at ESP.
In addition to the quality dance technique and training that dancers receive at ESP, they also gain self-confidence, perseverance, and learn teamwork and dedication. And they make some of the best and most lasting friendships of their lives in the dance studio.
Current high school senior Lucy Estep, who has danced at ESP since she was two years old, sums it up perfectly by saying, “Miss Linda has created such an incredible family; they will forever be special to me. I have had countless laughs and memories made at the studio, and none of it would be possible without Miss Linda. I am beyond thankful for everything she gives the community, as well as her dancers. I can’t wait to watch the legacy continue on for plenty more years.”
After 50 years, Miss Linda has impacted thousands of lives, and continues to make a difference every day. Although ESP is what some may call a “small town studio,” it has a huge heart and a reach far beyond the town of Thurmont. ESP alumni and former Frederick County Public Schools teacher and counselor Beth Myers said it best when she said, “There’s so much to be said about a wonderful woman who was a second mom to most of the kids, including my two sisters and me. Through dance, she also taught us kindness, teamwork, cooperation, the power of commitment, and building confidence. She created a welcoming space that expanded our small-town life with the diversity and creativity of the world of dance and life outside of Thurmont. I cherish her trust and faith in my sisters and I to become student teachers for her studio, assisting other kids to enjoy the passion and fun of being in the dance family. In fact, it was my first teaching job. What I learned from Linda, I carried with me in my heart and implemented in my teaching career, paying those gifts forward.” Fifty years ago, Linda Elower Sicilia had a dream to teach children to love the art of dance. And through hard work, dedication, and the love and support from her family and friends, that dream is a reality. Thank you, Linda, for being a part of the Thurmont community for 50 years! We are so proud!
Come see the annual ESP Recital “ESP Visits Wonderland,” on June 15, 2019, at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick. There will be two showings: 1:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. Tickets are available through the Weinberg Center Box Office.
Pictured from left are Kyra Fry, Kara Weedy, Rose Weedy, Maria Fry, Linda Sicilia, Pete Sicilia, Kela Marceron, and Toni Marceron.