VAPA, where art thou?
When we typically think of high school education, our thoughts almost always go directly to academics. The image of students huddled over a textbook, frantically cramming for an exam comes to mind all too readily. But there’s a lot more to a complete and fulfilling high school experience than just academics. High school is an ideal time for bright young minds to both explore existing interests and develop new passions, something that many students choose to do through participation in the Visual and Performing Arts (VAPA). However, the arts today are often undervalued in the perception of their importance to a student’s high school experience and brushed off as an “extracurricular” activity.
According to instrumental music director Benjamin Case, 74 percent of Northwood students have chosen to enhance their high school experience by enrolling in at least one of Northwood’s 48 VAPA classes. A large factor of this incredibly high participation rate is the fact that Northwood is able to offer all students the necessary resources and opportunities to cultivate their creative passions. Rooted in the spirit of inclusion, Northwood VAPA programs offer experiences ranging from exploratory to extremely sophisticated levels.
“Our theatre program is like a professional company,” junior Nitya Parthasarathy said. “We are so fortunate to have a program that surpasses all expectations for a high school and allows everyone in the department to get real-world experience. Our actors learn how to put on stage make-up and work with acting and voice coaches. Northwood Drama helps to prepare some for a future in the industry and gives others the opportunity to broaden their horizons and excel at their passion.”
Even though many of these students choose not to pursue a professional career in the arts, the experiences and the skills developed through these programs continue to benefit them long past graduation. In VAPA classes, students are constantly encouraged to work collaboratively, think creatively and problem solve through difficult situations, all of which are universally valued skills that can be applied to any field of work—arts-related or not.
“For me, participating in VAPA is a creative outlet in which I can express myself,” sophomore Ainsley Chu said. “Whether it’s art, music or yearbook, my experience in these programs has taught me what my academic classes couldn’t: the ability to be creative and find inspiration in everyday life. VAPA has helped change my perspective of the world for the better.”
Those involved in the Visual and Performing Arts do not see them as just “extracurricular” activities. For those who dedicate countless hours and pour their hearts and souls into a single performance, the arts aren’t just the frosting on the cake. To them, their involvement in VAPA is as integral a part of their high school experience as any academic class.
“We are not on the fringe,” Case said. “Even going back to No Child Left Behind, the arts are listed as a core subject. And one of the things we do in these arts classes is take subject matter from other core classes like English, History, and Science— and we see it in a different way. We fuse it into our lessons so students can view it through a different lens. Rather than supplant these other classes, arts classes actually enhance them. They enhance the student experience.”
Perhaps the greatest part of the Northwood VAPA department is that to many students, these programs serve as a second home. The Visual and Performing Arts at Northwood are, for all intents and purposes, a big community: one that offers unconditional support, endless opportunities and memories that will last a lifetime.