These are not just acting and dancing classes for talented performers.
They are career preparation programs for a booming industry.
“There are great jobs in the entertainment industry, like choreography, writing, directing, stage managing, lighting design, sound engineering, technical theater, production and costume and set design,” said Dr. Scott Rubin, principal of Union County’s Academy for Performing Arts, established in 2008.
“Performing arts programs give students an understanding of these career opportunities and the preparation they need to move forward, either with a technical degree, a fine arts degree, or the skills to enter the industry directly,” Dr. Rubin said.
“But the added beauty of an arts education is that these students are prepared to enter any field. Their abilities are transferable. They are confident, self-disciplined, and poised, and they have an understanding of the world around them. These are the kinds of skills that all employers are looking for in new hires,” he said.
The two newest county vocational-technical school performing arts programs are the Academy for Performing Arts at Atlantic County Institute of Technology and the Theater Arts major at Sussex Tech.
“Being so close to Atlantic City, it was just a natural fit for us as we transition to a full-time school. Parents and students, along with our business partners in Atlantic City and our local colleges enthusiastically endorsed the idea,” said Dr. Philip Guenther, the Superintendent of ACIT.
“And we have received a great deal of support from professionals in the industry who have already agreed to offer our students apprenticeships and internships as they progress in their studies,” he said.
Auditions were held during the summer for an initial class of 20 grade nine students for the class of 2017. In 2014 and beyond, approximately 50 students will be admitted to the new Academy every year.
During their first year, students will participate in an exploratory program to gain a better understanding of different aspects of the performing arts industry, such as dance, drama and technical theater. In their sophomore year, they will choose a specific field of concentration.
ACIT is also pursuing articulation agreements that will allow Academy seniors to earn college credits at Richard Stockton College and Atlantic Cape Community College.
Postsecondary credits are a major element of Sussex Tech’s new theater arts program as well. “Eligible students who complete this program can enter Sussex County Community College with six college credits, and as we continue to refine our curriculum, we’ll be looking for even more opportunities,” said Sussex Tech Superintendent Gus Modla.
“The college has an excellent theater arts program, so this is a great opportunity to collaborate and transition our students into college. We already have an amazing auditorium that we rent out to community groups, and it will be a great venue for our newest program,” Modla said.
Twelve ninth grade students are enrolled in the theater arts program this year. The goal is to eventually enroll a total of 50 students, who will study set design and painting, lighting design, sound effects, theater acoustics, property management, costume design and technical direction, as well as play production, voice and diction, theater history and acting.
Paper Mill Playhouse in Milburn, a premier regional theater, has selected the musical theater majors at Hudson County Schools of Technology’s High Tech High School to participate in Paper Mill’s unique “Adopt-A-School” program.
For the next four years, the theater will provide artists in residence, classes with master teachers and celebrity guests, trips to Paper Mill productions with talkback sessions, and instruction in writing, production and musical theater performance. The students will also enter group playwriting festivals that will premiere on the Paper Mill stage.
High Tech students in this program delve into the history of musical theater and pay special attention to the art of auditioning, acting technique, theatre skills, and movement, under the guidance of instructor Alex Perez. Emphasis is placed upon the staging and production of a full-length musical during the spring semester.
“Paper Mill has been a supporter of our performing arts programs for a number of years, but this ‘Adopt-A-School’ concept is an incredible new opportunity for our students,” said HCST Superintendent Frank Gargiulo.
Paper Mill’s “Adopt-A-School” program was established in 1989. It has been honored by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as a model arts-in-education program.