What you need to know about performing arts schools
Performing arts high schools provide a vibrant and creative environment for students who are passionate about their craft in music, dance or theater. Even if a student does not anticipate a career in the performing arts, an arts education is closely linked to gains in math, reading and cognitive ability.
Top performing arts high schools do a great job of offering serious academics while providing the flexibility for students to invest the considerable time required for practice and rehearsal. World class instructors offer classes and coaching on campus as part of the school schedule. Best performing arts schools foster a culture of creativity and offer many opportunities for students to perform. Students can plan to still experience all the “typical” high school events such as prom and voting for class president. But frankly with many hours devoted to rehearsal, practice, memorizing lines and doing homework, there is little time left for extracurricular activities.
Performing arts high schools have a competitive admissions process. First, check the admissions timeline as deadlines are firm and sometimes applications are due one year in advance. Students need to provide a grades transcript and complete a math and English assessment. An essay is usually required so plan to think clearly about why the candidate wants to attend. Teacher recommendations and letters of reference should come from a current voice teacher, a recent director, or monologue coach. Most often there is also an audition. If one is not required, you should be asking why. The low acceptance rates can make students and parents very nervous. There is keen competition. Some candidates are coming from performing arts middle schools. The performing arts industry is exclusive and competitive. Best advice is to prepare, dive in a try one’s best.
There are performing arts high schools in public and private school settings. Most performing arts schools are public magnet programs, paid for by tax revenue. Generally these are open to enrollment for any qualified student residing within the school district. Some famous examples are LaGuardia Arts in New York City and Doral Performing Arts and Entertainment Academy in Miami. There are also performing arts boarding schools. Tuition-based schools like Interlochen or The Thacher School have the advantage of higher quality teachers, better facilities, and are not required to conform to public school district policies. Tuition is high and may not include additional fees for books and room and board.
Finally, can performing arts high schools help students get into a superior university or conservatory? Colleges are interested in grades, SAT scores and extracurricular activities. However, it is the faculty who conduct the auditions and evaluate and make the decisions regarding prospective students. So have a performing arts high school on your resume is a benefit. It reassures the university that the student has already been successful in a similar environment and will likely succeed in their program, too.