Stage lights, sheet music, dance steps. While these might not be the first thoughts that come to mind when someone thinks of a high school, they are as essential to education as any other class, according to studies done by the New England Center for the Performing Arts.
According to 2011 research from Americans for the Arts, an organization that supports arts programs in schools and communities in the United States, students who participate in performing arts programs for at least a year are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement in their schools. They are also three times more likely to be elected as class officers or receive an award for school attendance and four times more likely to participate in a math or science fair or receive an award for an essay or poem.
Young artists are likely to attend music, art and dance classes three times more frequently than their peers. They participate in youth groups and perform community service four times as frequently and read for pleasure twice as frequently. And to top it all off, performing arts and music participants score between 40 and 60 points higher on the SAT tests on average.
Despite all these benefits, the percentage of students in U.S. public schools with access to music and performing arts programs has been on the decline in the past five years. The loss of support and funding for these programs can have a negative effect on the students as well as the schools who participate in them. This can deprive schools of elements essential to a high school atmosphere, such as school productions, choir and orchestra concerts and pep band performances at school sporting events.
CHS has an extensive performing arts program that benefits the faculty and students such as Jenna Wiegand, tech theatre and concert band participant and sophomore.
“I started playing trumpet in fourth grade in Pittsburgh and I’ve played it ever since,” Wiegand said.
CHS has not only four concert bands and a tech theatre department, but also an extensive choir program, drama department, jazz band, orchestra, show choir and marching band.
Principal John Williams said, “We emphasize all areas that serve our kids.”
Not all schools are so lucky. Forty percent of responders to a survey conducted by the California Department of Education
cut music and art classes. According to Williams, Carmel would never let budget cuts get in the way of pursuing the students’ interests and passions. “(Even if there were budget cuts) we’d still be trying to do what we do,” Williams said.
Performing arts programs have inspired some students to branch out and try new things.
“(I got involved in tech theatre because) my sister was a lead in her eighth grade musical when I was in fifth grade and I was always fascinated by how things mysteriously moved themselves,” Weigand said. “Once my sister explained it to me, I realized that it sounded super fun and I wanted to try it. I fell in love with it and I’m still doing it today.”
That inspiration doesn’t stop with high school. With some, it even leads to a career.
Richard Saucedo, performing arts chair and head band director at this school, said, “I’ve been a band director at Carmel for 29 years. I’ve always loved music. I got into band at junior high, and the director gave me a chance to get up in front of the class and conduct and I was hooked.”
Another benefit of performing arts programs is that they provide a special relationship between the different aspects of school activities, from football to concert band, basketball to dance class show choir to tech theatre.
“It’s a family, and families support each other. One of the things I’m most proud of is that our programs support each other. We’re all Carmel Greyhounds, and we’re all proud of what each other accomplishes,” Williams said.
Music and art classes can help maintain that feeling of family, especially for the students who participate in them.
“(Performing arts programs) bring a sense of belonging; it makes people feel more at home. That’s one of the special things about Carmel. They give students an opportunity to develop their full potential, to counterbalance academics so they are developing their academic self and emotional self,” Saucedo said.
Perhaps one of the reasons that CHS places a strong emphasis on performing arts programs because Williams said that they add much to the school academically and on a creative basis.
“(The performing arts) add so much to education academically, the kids who are involved in performing arts cognitively aid the learning process,” Williams said. “On top of that, all the discipline, add that to the whole person and then add the person to your school and look at the success that you have. Our school takes pride in our performing arts programs.”
Wiegand said that she agrees with Williams’ stance. “I don’t know where I would be without them.”