When I attended our high school football games this past fall, I was equally drawn in by the halftime marching band shows as I was the game itself.
The band is precise, making exact moves and counts all while looking up to the stands (not down at their feet like I surely would have). There is trust that each member knows his or her part, that there will be no crashing into each other because the audience demands a certain level of quality. In the band, there is family.
Two weeks ago, when I attended our choral department’s “Spooktacular” – a series of choral songs with choreography from middle school through high school including piano duets, handbell performance and boom sticks. The students worked hard on choreography, brought in their own costumes, committed to a non-school day of practice, memorized their music. In the choir, there is commitment.
Just this past weekend, I was an audience member in the auditorium for Spring Lake’s adaptation of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” It was outstanding. Lead roles had gobs to memorize, ensemble characters had seemingly endless choreography, stage lights created mood, props were on point, the cast and crew seemed especially connected as they worked three months all for three performances. In the theater, there is work ethic.
The visual arts gallery, the small one just outside the art room, is exploding with creativity. From the minds of these teenagers and the paint brushes they use come deep considerations on social events. There are sculptures in which time and patience seem to be at the core. And I always think: This came straight from the brain. Unlike theater, where at least the cast is given a script; unlike choir, where at least the choir is given lyrics; unlike band, where at least the musicians are given bars and notes, in the art department there is endless creativity.
All of this – all of this time management, skill development, mental preparation, motivation, empathy, work ethic, creativity – is directed by the teachers. These powerful, dedicated, motivated, inspirational (and exhausted) teachers.
Now, I love sports. I mean I love sports, and I know how much coaches work in order to develop the exact same skills the arts teachers do, but there is an additional level of support that athletics has, provided through an athletic director and an administrative assistant. I get it. They’re needed. There are facilities to coordinate. There are schedules to coordinate. There are officials to coordinate. There are bus schedules to coordinate. It’s a full-time job. It’s necessary.
But could you even imagine a world in which there was an artistic director for high schools? An artistic director could coordinate facilities, allowing them to be used even more by the community, tapping into the beautiful spaces we have in our schools. An artistic director could bring all the arts together for big shows or could encourage neighboring schools to interact on large projects. An artistic director and his or her administrative assistant could make programs, fundraise, create youth opportunities around the community. Currently, these tasks are all made possible by the energy of the individual teacher or their parent groups, of which they must lead. To be an “arts coach” is grueling, and to have another layer of support could benefit the way we view arts in our communities.
Of course, budgets being what they are, as well as space and schedules and on and on, this is purely a pipe dream. It will continue to be up to the individual teachers, their parent groups and the students themselves to make, create and share with the rest of the community.
So, community, we must do our parts. We must attend. We have to show up at the concert band’s holiday concert. We must show up at the choral festival in the spring. We must show up to the spring musical and we must show up at art walks provided by the schools. It’s the only way to tell our wildly inventive, hard-working artistic students that we respect and value them.
These artistic students have so much to offer. All we have to do, community, is to show up and accept it.