New academy taking shape

Published 9:54 pm Wednesday, December 29, 2021

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Work on the new Center for Performing and Production Arts at Lakeland High School is taking shape, as it has begun buying equipment and upgrading the school’s band and chorus rooms in preparation for its opening for the start of the next school year.

The program will emphasize music technology and vocal and instrumental music, which will begin at the start of the next school year, along with theater performance and production and digital and visual arts, which will begin in future years. All areas have a performance and production path.

The School Board, which received an update at its Dec. 9 meeting, approved the new program in May.

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The division held an open house Dec. 14 at King’s Fork High School for it and its other high school specialty programs — the Project Lead the Way engineering program at Nansemond River High School, the Project Lead the Way biomedical science program at Lakeland and the International Baccalaureate program at King’s Fork.

After the holidays, there will be a separate open house at Lakeland, “but we want to have things a little further (along) so we can show off a little bit,” said Dr. Joleen Neighbours, supervisor of fine and performing arts with Suffolk Public Schools.

The application period for the new Center for Performing and Production Arts and other specialty programs began Dec. 13 and continues through Jan. 14. The first classes to be offered in the new program will be pathways into musical performance, including instrumental and vocal, and music technology.

Eighth-grade students received a presentation on the new program prior to the opening of the application process, which is a joint application with Project Lead the Way and IB. As part of the application process to all of the specialty programs, a joint essay will be shared across all of them, as well as teacher recommendations and a 3.0 grade point average in any fine and performing arts classes, if enrolled.

Auditions for performers will be taken via video from Feb. 25 through March 4, and will be held in person Feb. 28 through March 4 at each middle school.

“The audition piece is rigorous but also very inclusive,” Neighbours said. “It’s probably one of the best ways I can describe it.”

Division Director of Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Maria Davenport said the program would focus on hands-on application of skills, cross-discipline collaboration, creating and promoting content, preparing for college and future careers, performing in public and marketing and entrepreneurship.

Davenport said the division is currently upgrading band and chorus rooms at Lakeland and has designed and updated classrooms for the program’s first year. It has begun buying equipment and publicizing the program. It is also preparing to hire a coordinator for the new center.

She said the teachers for the program would be hired in spring and summer 2022, specifically for the music technology classes, and expects to have Phase I and II upgrades to the classrooms at Lakeland complete in this time frame. Curriculum work on the classes will take place over the summer, and then it will begin design work to upgrade auditorium facilities. The first group of 100 students — 50 vocal/instrumental students and 50 music production students — will kick off the program at Lakeland next fall.

Neighbours showed renderings of what the music technology and the piano lab/music theory classrooms will look like. The music technology class will have sound booths integrated into the rooms. Each workstation in the classroom will have a digital/audio workstation with a mix board, mini keyboard and computer to learn hands-on music production applications. They will be able to do their work at their workstation before going into the booth to record.

“This is also going to be very important for our music performance element,” Neighbours said, “with the instrumental and the vocal because we want those students that are in that program to be working closely with the students in this program so that Suffolk is truly creating and producing original works.”

One of the computer labs at Lakeland is being converted into a piano lab and music theory classroom that will have 88 keyboards along with other equipment to learn piano, which she noted is a solid foundation for songwriting and composition. It also teaches them music theory, and students can go from there to learning most other instruments. Piano labs, Neighbours noted, are also a part of a college music program’s curriculum.

Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said this would be a phased-in program due to the needed upgrades at Lakeland, which is the only high school, as of now, which will host two specialty programs. He said he is excited for the opportunity the new specialty program will provide students while also mitigating lower enrollment at Lakeland, and higher enrollments at King’s Fork and Nansemond River.
“We figure that doing this will also help us to be able to increase the enrollment there,” Gordon said.

Previously, he and Davenport differentiated between the new program and the Governor’s School for the Arts, which has more of a performance focus instead of that and production. He said the goal is not to compete with the Governor’s School.

Neighbours said the IB program currently has a creative component. Those in the biomedical program at Lakeland also would be able to take classes in the new specialty program depending on enrollment.

“One of the things that we’re looking for is the student that may not be good at school,” Neighbours said, “but they’re good at music or they come to school for music. This is a very inclusive program, so I don’t think that it will eat into those numbers all that much because we’re going to be targeting a much bigger net of students for this, so where you maybe have a fear about the loss of numbers in that element, it’s going to actually counterbalance because it’s a more equitable, inclusivity program.”

Program of Study — Year One

Sample Student Schedule: Music Technology and Production

Standard Diploma: English 9, World History I, Algebra I, Biology, Health and PE 9, Music Theory, Technology and Electronic Music I

Advanced Diploma: English 9, World History I, Geometry, Biology, Health and PE 9, French II, Technology and Electronic Music I

** Students on Advanced Diploma could have the option to take Health and PE in summer school to take Music Theory.

Sample Student Schedule: Vocal or Instrumental Performance

Standard Diploma: English 9, World History I, Algebra I, Biology, Health and PE 9, Music Theory, Small Vocal or Instrumental Ensemble

Advanced Diploma: English 9, World History I, Geometry, Biology, Health and PE 9, French II, Small Vocal or Instrumental Ensemble

** Students on Advanced Diploma could have the option to take Health and PE 9 in summer school to take Music Theory.