Monday, November 7, 2016

It's Showtime!

When I first arrived at Houston Academy in 2012 someone told me, “We’re not an arts school.” First of all, that wasn’t true. We already had an incredible band, a fine chorus, a vibrant lower school music program, an award-winning visual arts program, and a talented dance team. What we lacked was a theater program. Secondly, though, that statement angered me. Why wouldn’t we want to be known as an “arts school”? Very few offerings in a school can more positively impact students’ competency in the 6 Cs[1] than participation in the arts. Moreover, people acted like it was a zero-sum game – that we could be good at the arts or we could be good in athletics, but you couldn’t do both. Frankly, that’s nonsense.  Given the caliber of our student body, we can and should be good at everything we do, and our students should have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of activities.

Well, my message to you today is that we have reached a point where our theater program is first rate. This year, we have already put on our 4th – 6th grade play. If you missed our production of Aladdin, you really missed an outstanding performance. It was not just “cute;” it was excellent. Plus, it’s worth pointing out that each performance we have done in each of the the last three years has been more difficult and has had a higher production value than the previous one. Additionally, our participation rate has been consistently high. This year, 44 students participated in the play, which constitutes 43% of the student body in grades 4-6.

Tomorrow night, (Tuesday, November 8th) at 6:30 PM in Dunning Hall, the Arts Department will be presenting its Fall Showcase. Admission is free, and you will get a chance to hear our jazz band, chorus, and the extracurricular chorus. Furthermore, the drama class will be putting on Café Murder, a family-friendly murder mystery that only YOU can help solve. Admission is free, and having seen the rehearsals, it’s going to be a lot of fun.

Finally, the 7th -12th grade students will be putting on a performance of Singin’ In the Rain. This will be an endeavor the likes of which we have never attempted at Houston Academy. It is full of intricate choreography and difficult numbers. From what I’ve seen in rehearsals, it should be outstanding. Singin’ in the Rain is a really entertaining and funny show, and it would be well worth your time to come see it. It will be performed in Dunning Hall at 7:00 PM from Tuesday, November 15th to Thursday, November 17th.

In short, in just three years, we have gone from having no drama program, to having one in which approximately 90 students are participating. Moreover, our program is of high quality, despite our lack of a facility. I should also note that our band has 54 members, our show choir has 13 members, our upper school chorus has 20 members, our extracurricular chorus has 20 members, and our dance team has 17 members. These students are not only doing outstanding work, but they are collaborating and learning in ways they would not do in any other environment. When we talk about 21st Century Learning, this is what it’s all about.

See you on Tuesday!

[1] Much attention has been paid in the educational literature and in the media to what has been termed “21st Century Education.” Generally speaking, educators and business leaders have identified the competencies that our students will have to master to be successful in the workplace. Pat Bassett, former head of the National Association of Independent schools referred to these skills as the “5C’s plus 1.”[1] I’ve just started calling them the “6 Cs.” These 6 Cs are:

1.     Collaboration,
2.     Communication,
3.     Creativity,
4.     Critical thinking,
5.     Cross-cultural competence, and
6.     Character.