Ever thought about how Usain Bolt became the fastest man on Earth or how Adele's soulful voice managed to touch millions? Beyond their inherent talent, they were fostered in environments that understood their unique gifts and consequently nurtured it. So, as we embark on this exploration of the top performing arts high schools in the US, let's remember that the magic of creation lies not just in the artists but the ecosystem that moulds them.
Both my Maine Coon, Jupiter and Beagle, Bruno, constantly find new and intriguing ways to present their 'performances,' as I call them. Bruno once moonwalked across my hallway after observing my attempts to mimic Michael Jackson - a sight that was as triumphant as it was unexpected! It was a vivid reminder that with the right environment and encouragement, even the impossible seems within reach.
While my pets might have artistic inclinations, the process of zeroing in on the top performing arts high schools involved more than just watching talented animals. I looked at many factors such as their curriculum, faculty, alumni achievements, degree of student acceptance, student-teacher ratio, and student satisfaction levels. Having been an arts student myself, I believe there's a certain harmony that must exist in a school steeped in the performing arts. It goes beyond bricks and mortar and paints and brushes. It's the nurturing energy and creative atmosphere that catalyse talent into greatness.
Starting off with the revered Interlochen Center for the Arts in Michigan, creation here isn't a passive act but a quest. Interlochen manages to craft a nuturing environment that fosters technical proficiency while encouraging students to develop their own unique voice. When I attended a session at Interlochen during my high school years, I noticed students engrossed in their work with an unrivalled dedication that comes from doing what they love most. The faculty's reputation for expertise in their respective fields lends credibility to the already sterling reputation of this institution. And with alumni like Norah Jones and Josh Groban, you know that this school has the track record to turn potential into extraordinary success.
I do understand the notion of 'the best,' is subjective, and the US is home to many high schools that excel in nurturing performing arts students. For instance, Juilliard Pre-College in New York is a name that stands on its own in the world of performing arts. The school, renowned for its strong classical training, prides itself on its robust music curriculum, diverse dance techniques, and stringent drama studies, producing globally recognised artists.
Tantalisingly, this institution, which houses music and drama under the same roof, also hosts an annual "Juilliard Day", allowing students and faculty to exchange ideas cross-discipline. Some of the successful alums that graduated from here include Marvin Hamlisch, famous composer of 'A Chorus Line' and 'The Sting,' and renowned opera singer Leontyne Price.
On the other end of the country, bathe in balmy Californian sun is the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts (LACHSA). This institution gives a new dimension to performing arts education. With a unique blend of rigorous college preparatory academics and conservatory-style training, LACHSA had me intrigued. Actors Jenna Elfman and Anthony Anderson, musicians Josh Groban, and Corbin Bleu were all hatched here.
Similar to Interlochen, LACHSA also provides scholarship opportunities to talented students, making it more accessible to a wider range of young students. It isn't just the generous financial aid that makes LACHSA a winner. Its integration of professional training with public schooling makes it unique, and the following success stories of graduates are testament to its effectiveness.
Moving south, the North Carolina School of the Arts opens its doors to the performing arts enthusiasts. This particular school caught my attention because of its unique "living-learning” environment where students learn, work, and rehearse in the same vicinity. It creates a rhythm that pulses with creativity. Amongst their notable alumni are Chris Parnell from SNL and Mary-Louise Parker of 'Weeds.'
This institution's 'learn by doing' approach allows students to taste the kind of work they would perform in their future careers. I like the school's strong emphasis on balance with academic education along with art specialisation, increasing the success rate of its alumni in their choosen fields.
In the end, the debate about the best performing arts school will be an ongoing saga. Each of these institutions provides unequalled opportunities for aspiring artists to hone their craft. However, remember it's not just about the badge but the community, expertise, opportunities and personal development that the school offers. These schools enable talent and ambition but on their own, they are just tools and stages. It must be you who takes the leap and performs.
And as for Bruno and Jupiter, they have recently found their artistic outlet in terrorizing my shoe collection more than creating a Broadway-worthy performance. However, the love and chaos they bring into my life every day remind me that art is everywhere, even if it’s just in the simple, spontaneous acts of our furry friends.