A New Experience for Canterbury Artists

By Ranae Butler
Artistic Director and Fine Arts Department Chair

It’s happening! The very first group of students has been accepted into the inaugural cadre of the Academy of the Arts at Canterbury School. We couldn’t be more excited about partnering with them as they develop their skills, explore their artistic passions, and grow as human beings. Interest from the students exceeded expectations, and we have a full cadre for the fall of 2021.

Designed for students who intend to pursue the Arts in college, as well as for those who want to keep their creative juices flowing in preparation for other academic aspirations, the Academy program promises to be a challenging and rewarding addition to the Canterbury High School experience. Working with a faculty mentor, students will build an individualized course of study designed to nurture their creativity, cultivate enthusiasm, and inspire curiosity.

“I’m especially looking forward to the comprehensive approach to the mentoring program and to preparing students for college auditions,” says Dr. Joyce Lazier, Theatre Director. “At the end of the four-year Academy program, theatre students will have 16 monologues prepared for the audition process! “

In addition to solitary artistic pursuits, students will work jointly with classmates on projects and presentations. Collaboration is considered one of the most important skills for the 21st Century and is a valuable skill for all students.

“The Academy as a whole is going to be an amazing peer community for our student artists. They will support each other, push each other, and build even more arts into our Canterbury lives. Academy members will be a resource for all of our Arts students, and I’m looking forward to learning from them, too!” says Orchestra Director, Colleen Tan.

“The Arts, especially the Performing Arts, are one of the last frontiers for building community in person.  After over a year of quarantine, online learning, and social distancing, the collaborative elements of the Arts are more critical than ever.  We need people.  We need community.  We need connection,” adds Beth Patterson, Vocal Music Director.

In addition to curricular requirements, our young artists will be required to perform (theatre and music) or present (visual art and design) their work once a semester to a public audience during the High School mid-day activity period.  Janet Galbraith, Band Director, explains the importance of a public presentation, “Being comfortable presenting in public is a skill that will carry over into all aspects of adult life.  Recitals are an opportunity to dive into some of the most beautiful music written for solo instruments or small ensembles. They allow the audience to provide real-time positive feedback and for the musicians to share the culmination of their hard work and dedication.  It’s a symbiotic relationship between the performers and the audience.”

Tan agrees, “I love the fact that students will constructively critique each other’s recitals with journaling and feedback. Deep listening provokes deep learning for the critiquing Academy student: they become more focused on the elements of music than they would as a casual listener.”

Patterson sums it up by saying, “The more you perform in front of people, the easier it gets. That’s the honest truth.”

Theatre students will analyze, rehearse and perform scenes and monologues from contemporary and classical plays for their presentations. Actors develop empathy when they portray the lives of others which is one of the many important personal skills developed while building the discipline necessary to succeed as a theatre artist. We are excited about how our new theatre classes - Production Team and Advanced Acting - will move our students forward in their artistic endeavors.

“It is important for students to learn how to present themselves, their interests and their passions,” agrees Vicki Junk-Wright, Visual Arts teacher. “Being able to articulate an artistic vision and the process one is taking to achieve that vision is a challenge we expect our students to really embrace and with the guidance of their Arts mentor, we expect them to succeed beyond measure.

Photography teacher Stephen Perfect looks forward to working with his students over the course of several years to construct an impressive portfolio for the Scholastic Competition and AP Visual Art.

“I can be a bit more demanding of their work, as if they were one of my college art majors,” Perfect says.

High standards and expectations will create a culture in which the Arts are taken seriously. Mutual respect will be developed in an arena in which we take the time to attend to the work of our peers, admire their courage and creativity, and love the art within each artist. Working in an environment of trust and care, our goal is for the students to take creative risks, experience failure, and then try again. All for the sake of reaching across the divide to connect with another human being through a piece of art.

“The Arts are so much more than developing skills,” says Junk-Wright, “They are intricate ways we contribute and weave our society together.”

To the brand new students of the Academy of the Arts - let’s begin!