Why the Arts are Essential for a Well-Rounded High School Education
Looking for a high school in the USA? Make sure they offer arts education!
Did you know that an arts education is vital to the development of the brain?
From many studies devoted to the connection between the arts and teen development, we know that:
- Students who study the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement.
- Students who take four years of arts classes score an average of over 150 points higher on the SAT.
- Students who are highly engaged in the arts are twice as likely to graduate from college.
- Sustained learning in the arts correlates strongly with higher achievement in both math and reading.
- 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they look for when hiring.
For developing precision and accuracy there are few practices more demanding than learning a musical instrument and performing in a band or orchestra. From gesturing onstage to intricately fingering a string instrument to moving limbs and torso in a dance ensemble, arts engage the body as well as the brain.
The practice of failure and recovery is another valuable learning experience provided through the arts — especially visual art.
In this increasingly technical world, students are spending a lot of time sitting in front of screens, making it more imperative to offer arts experiences.
An arts foundation at The Northwest School
The Northwest School requires that, along with math, science, and the humanities, all students take two arts classes year-round, ensuring that no one graduates without having danced, made music, acted onstage, and created something of their own vision.
This rich program allows for experimentation as much as it encourages high achievement, according to The Northwest School Art Department chair and orchestra teacher Jo Nardolillo. “We allow students to really focus in and do expert work in one area while also trying out other forms of expression in other areas. That is a huge and defining thing about our school,” says Jo, who is a violinist and holds a doctorate in musical arts from the Eastman School of Music.
Fundamental is the school’s belief that the arts require as much focus and discipline as academic subjects, and in many ways demand more from students. according to Jo.
“If you are performing in an academic field at 94 percent accuracy, that’s considered really good work, but if you’re doing that in music, it is a disaster,” testifies Jo. “You cannot have six percent error in music and have it be anything other than chaos.”
Belonging to something powerful
Few experiences challenge and transform a student more than performing in front of an audience. According to Jo Nardolillo, students feel a deep personal connection both to themselves and to the people who are watching and listening.
“Performing is an internal emotional journey,” confirms Jo. “The first moment students perform for an audience and the audience responds, there is this profound connection — it is a very big moment.”
One of those “biggest moments” occurs at the school’s annual Arts Gala in the spring. All music students are joined on stage by adult members of the community — alumni, faculty, parents — to form one enormous ensemble.
At The Northwest School, an arts education is a vital component in preparing young people for a fulfilling life and is intimately connected to their academic success. Requiring critical thinking, discipline, self-reflection — and often courage to step out of one’s comfort zone — art offers students fundamental experiences.
The Northwest School
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