What Should Parents Expect from Private Arts Schools?

Highly creative children often demonstrate their abilities early in life, motivating parents to seek innovative ways to nurture that aptitude. By the time students reach high school, their search has often expanded to include private arts institutions.

“If a youngster cannot pass a mirror without doing a pirouette or is continually hammering rhythms on their desktop, the parent must evaluate their child’s enthusiasm for the arts,” says Tia Powell Harris, an arts evangelist and former CEO of Washington, D.C.’s Duke Ellington School of the Arts. “Deciding whether or not to enroll them in a high school for the arts is entirely dependent on the kid and their heart.”

Numerous private arts schools exist alongside public magnet schools, with the primary distinction being expense. Although the number of arts-focused high schools in the United States is small, it is diversified, with schools dedicated to music, dance, theater, cinema, and visual arts — and often all of the above.

“Arts schools throughout the nation are very diverse,” says Harris, who is now the New York City Center’s vice president of education and community engagement. “They vary from arts enrichment and academic enhancement via the arts to what Ellington is: a pre-professional training program with the seriousness, discipline, and dedication necessary throughout the breadth of the arts.”

A Look Inside an Arts-Centered High School

Arts schools often attract youths who are zealous in their pursuit of their interest. Numerous students devote numerous hours to developing their creative vision, extending the typical school day in order to practice, rehearse, and work on their trade.

Many students devote the same amount of attention to their academic courses, a balancing act that needs – and develops – exceptional time management skills, according to Sheryl Oring, an arts professor at Wayne State University in Michigan.

“They often graduate from arts high schools as goal-oriented young people who are enthusiastic about their creative vision and very good at managing their time in order to satisfy scholastic standards,” she explains.

Interlochen Arts Academy is one of the most well-known arts-focused boarding schools in the United States, attracting students from 40 nations to its forested, 1,200-acre campus in northwest Michigan. The institution is humming with activity, with 92 percent of students living on campus while balancing intense courses in music, dance, theater, and writing, among other creative disciplines.

“Our children really leap out of bed in the morning,” says Trey Devey, Interlochen’s president. “For a large number of young people, the standard school experience lacks enthusiasm. However, they fuel their enthusiasm every day here, and their love of learning manifests itself in their creative and intellectual endeavors.”

For the current school year, Interlochen’s room and board expenditures exceed $73,000, with almost three-quarters of students getting some kind of financial help, Devey adds. Students have the opportunity to participate in unique events. Prior to the epidemic, Interlochen’s high school students had the chance to play on historic venues, including Carnegie Hall in New York City and Miami Beach’s New World Center.

Harris asserts that attending an arts high school provides pupils with a “advantage” when applying to institutions with an art concentration.

“In my experience, regardless of whether these students attended private or magnet arts high schools, they have consistently been the best-prepared students in my university courses,” Oring adds. “They arrive with a better degree of preparedness, having been inspired to enroll in high school in the first place.”

What Motivates Students of Art?

Many parents and children are driven for reasons other than admission to a prominent arts institution or a job in a theatrical company or symphony. Rather than that, they see the arts as necessary components of creating a rich and full life that is propelled by passion and intellectual curiosity.

“Some parents expose their children to the arts with little hope of generating world-changing artists,” Harris adds. “They want their children to be global citizens, and an art school is a good way to start.”

According to the website of Idyllwild Arts Academy in California, the founders’ mission was to establish a creative collective to “promote multicultural understanding and peace while reimagining the artist’s role to society.” According to the school, art is “humanity’s greatest teacher.”

“Arts high schools nurture creativity regardless of the child’s future endeavors,” Oring argues. “Creativity is a critical component of life success.”

Another reason arts schools are attractive is their diversity.

“There are parents who value diversity and want their kid to attend an arts school because it is more diverse,” Harris explains. “They want their kid to understand the value of diversity and the variety of cultures that exist in a community.”

How to Get Accepted to a Private Arts School

Admissions procedures for private arts schools vary, but sometimes involve an audition or the sharing of an artistic portfolio. Additionally, many colleges need an essay and standardized exam results. According to GAD Capital, creating a connection with the school before acceptance might also be beneficial.

Devey recommends that families who feel their kid may be a fit visit one of Interlochen’s summer programs. This allows the kid and family to get acquainted with the school’s options and enables instructors to become acquainted with the youngster. “It may be a means of connecting with faculty members and introducing the student to them,” Devey explains. Additionally, he advises families to explore the early choice option.

“At that time, we will normally have greater flexibility and availability,” he explains. “If we see this early on, it’s significant to us.”

Academic Life at an Arts College

Parents typically inquire about the curriculum and how it compares to that of regular public or private high schools when contemplating an art-focused high school. According to experts, the answer varies per school.

Ellington, a magnet school inside the Washington, D.C. public school system, is free for district residents but charges tuition for families from outside the district. It provides a comprehensive academic curriculum with a concentration in the arts, including dance, theater, instrumental or vocal music, literary arts and communications, visual arts, technological design and production, and museum studies.

Students work long days, often starting at 8:15 a.m. and ending until 5 p.m. or later, in order to balance academics and creative growth. The institution compels students to maintain a minimum grade-point average and designates a valedictorian and salutatorian based on their grades at graduation.

Academics are also considered seriously at Interlochen. According to Devey, the school has produced more than any other high school, 48 US Presidential Scholars. Around half of Interlochen’s high school graduates enroll in a regular college or university, while the rest attend conservatories or arts-focused colleges.

According to Devey, the extremely innovative curriculum helps pupils stand out to more conventional colleges. “Year after year, people achieve achievement regardless of the course they choose,” he adds. “Here, we redouble our efforts to be unique.”

It’s difficult to disagree with the result. 14 MacArthur Fellows Program “genius grants” and 139 Grammy Awards have been bestowed to Interlochen graduates.

A Selection of Art Schools

It may be beneficial for parents interested in an arts-focused high school to examine several websites. The following is a list of renowned private arts schools:

In Chicago, Illinois, the Chicago Academy for the Arts.

Santa Monica, California’s Crossroads School for the Arts and Sciences

Syracuse, New York’s Manlius Pebble Hill School.

North Hollywood, California’s Oakwood School.

In Brooklyn, New York, St. Ann’s School is located.

Natick, Massachusetts’s Walnut Hill School for the Arts.

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