As schools across the country begin to open up again, many parents may be re-evaluating exactly where their children are heading. For those with an obvious talent for the performing arts, a school that dedicates part of the curriculum to just that could be the perfect pathway to formal training.
Australian Performing Arts Grammar School (APGS) has a uniquely structured timetable where the standard NSW curriculum is compressed into three-and-a-half days for Year 7-10 and four days for Year 11 and 12. The school runs a Performing Arts (PA) timetable on Thursday afternoon (Year 7-10) and Friday (Year 7-12), when students choose their PA elective masterclasses. These classes are offered across four streams: dance, drama, music and visual arts, where students can choose their electives from all the streams or may decide to focus on one stream in particular.
“Our PA electives change each semester with new offerings and a rotating staff of industry professionals leading the classes,” explains Eunice Chung Lee, Head of School Operations. “These classes are designed to enrich our students’ engagement in the arts; our PA program supports the academic studies of performing arts subjects and challenges our students to extend themselves in these areas. By running our PA timetable within regular schooling hours, we give our students the freedom to continue to work with their local studios and theatres and maintain a connection with community programs. Our current PA offerings include digital music composition and arranging, solo/duo vocal skills and performance, percussion company, vocal ensemble performance, ear training and arranging, music ensemble skills, senior music company, jazz, hip hop, musical theatre dance and vocals, self-devised choreography, contemporary ballet, acro, contemporary dance, junior drama company, improvisation, speech, scripts and scene work, senior drama company, musical theatre drama and vocals, wire art jewellery, film making, digital comics, and artwork.”
APGS is located in the heart of Glebe, so students come from all across Sydney and its surrounds to study at the campus on Broadway, overlooking Victoria Park. Students attend regular academic classes alongside their electives, and teachers tailor the academic programs to capture the imagination of every student.
“Creative strategies are integrated into the curriculum to keep students engaged and actively learning,” notes Chung Lee. “On Thursday afternoons and Fridays, the Performing Arts masterclasses are led by industry professionals who guide students to create pieces for our school showcases held throughout the year. Most days, you’ll find our dance studios full of students learning choreography, our music rooms overflowing with students singing and playing instruments, our art studio full of students creating incredible works and our main hall buzzing with drama students rehearsing.”
In 2021, APGS is looking forward to more opportunities for community engagement for our students. “We are looking to participate in further well-being activities to develop great self-awareness and build a stronger school community,” says Chung Lee. “We will be introducing a new range of elective choices within the PA program and refining our performing arts courses by offering courses that cater to different levels.”
And, although COVID-19 has had a major impact on education, APGS has worked tirelessly to redesign the mode of delivering the curriculum, rolling out new resources, remote timetables and virtual classes. “In the unprecedented times of COVID-19, schools around the world responded to the unique and sudden challenges in an exceptional way,” says Chung Lee. “The driving force behind our effort was to ensure the continuity of education for our students as we worked to keep them safe and ensure the wellbeing of the most vulnerable people in our community. We understood the importance of the arts for the wellbeing of our students who often turn to acting, music, dance and art to find solace and community. In the weeks where social distancing prevented us from running our performing arts classes in person, we made the commitment to offer our full performing arts program online. The intrinsic value of the arts was undeniable; in times of great uncertainty, students could connect with their tutors and peers. Each week, they were given the time to indulge their creativity and take joy in learning a new dance or writing a piece of music, learning a monologue or creating and artwork. At a time when the arts have been so hard hit, we are reminded that we turn to performers and artists for comfort and entertainment; we turn to them to enrich our lives and tell our stories. As schools reopen and life begins to regain some normalcy, we look forward to coming together as a community once more to celebrate our students and the arts.”
It is perhaps this positivity and passion from the faculty that makes APGS such an exciting place to learn. “APGS is a truly unique place where students from all over come together to pursue their creative passions,” agrees Chung Lee. “APGS fosters a spirit of genuine comradery where our students celebrate the successes of their peers and uplift each other. Our school is a place where students are given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves creatively and are empowered to channel their interests into academic success.”
For those who are interest in attending APGS, intake for 2021 is currently open for years 7-11. “All APGS auditions are one-on-one and based on application, audition and interview,” describes Chung Lee. “Students are currently invited to submit an online audition via video submission and partake in an interview with the Head of School. Applicants are required to perform two contrasting pieces covering one or two of their chosen streams (dance, drama, music, music theatre, visual art), and visual arts students are to submit a portfolio their own work. We also require supporting documentation and payment of the application and audition fee.”
Although auditions run all throughout the year, places are filling fast, so APGS recommends applying as soon as possible to secure your audition. Visit the website here for more information and to apply, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Emily Newton-Smith of Dance Informa.