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By Matt DeLong: Arts Director Devereux Glenholme School

The Performing Arts program at The Glenholme School allows student to express themselves in creative ways while stimulating and strengthening social relationships with their peers.

As in any school, acting, singing, dancing, playing a musical instrument, drawing, painting and taking photographs are wonderful ways for students to come together for a common goal. But the arts plays a greater role for students with special needs who may struggle socially or with the inability to plan ahead. For them, creativity is developed though peer-led brainstorming and problem solving. As a team, they strive to produce a product they are happy with and work with staff to facilitate that plan, whether it be a play, musical number, or talent show. With creative arts, participation is always maximized when the stakeholders can each add to the outcome.

As one might imagine, creative differences will often arise and the challenge is for the staff to guide the project by inserting problem-solving measures. Staff insist that all student voices are heard and shared in order to keep the morale of all participants high. Sometimes the vision students have for a project is too broad and just not achievable. In those cases, staff help to redirect students back to the problem and to brainstorm as a group to resolve the problem. These situations help to strengthen leadership and team-building skills.

Restrictions the past year due to COVID-19 have been a challenge for the Performing Arts department and has forced staff to dramatically modify student programs. As a department we came to the realization that for the foreseeable future the school wouldn’t be able to have live audience productions. So the bold decision was made to convert theater production into video production work.

This shift still demands the same level of student engagement with a very different output. Students learned right away that they could work in pods – instead of a group of 30 – whether it be by filming scenes with video cameras, designing backdrops, building props or choosing costumes. All of these activities are of course done after students have written the script, outlined the production on a story board, and then eventually editing the final product. For others, they can still enjoy the limelight and be the characters and personalities in front of the camera.

This new format has actually increased creativity among students in the form of music videos, group interviews, and short stories based on historical events or folklore. And students are now working in groups to film their own version of a stage musical adapted into a movie.

All of this amazing work that our students have produced and shared over digital media platforms would most likely not have happened in a world without COVID-19 restrictions. In some ways, the pandemic has forced students and faculty to press harder and to equally flex their creative muscles.

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