Students Should Not Have to Take Both Studio and Performing Arts

Digital illustration by Nava Mach.

I love singing, so I was thrilled when I heard about TOLV, a selective twelve-voice choir offered as a performing arts class. I have already taken Chamber Choir this year, and I would love to take TOLV for the next three years to continue pursuing my passion. However, I would also have to take a visual arts course junior or senior year to fulfill the current requirement of one year of studio art and one year of performing art. Taking both choir and a visual art class simultaneously would be a stressful time commitment, making it more difficult to continue developing my skill at and passion for singing.

To accommodate students who share my love of the arts, I propose a revision to the art requirement: A student should be required to take two years of any art, visual or performing. If students are particularly passionate about one art, they should have the freedom to follow their passion for as long as they desire without the stress of taking two arts simultaneously.

According to Studio Arts Department Chair Michelle Cobb and studio arts teacher Nick Ryan, the current art requirement is intended to expose students to a wider variety of arts. “There are students who come into our classes who have never had an art class before in their entire lives,” Ryan said.

While such students may exist, all of the 14 students I interviewed had taken arts before high school. Out of those students, eight went to the GDS lower/middle school. The lower/middle school requires students to take both core art, encompassing different mediums of art, from music to drawing and painting, and enrichment art, in which students choose the art they want to focus on.

Many of the students who took art classes in middle school had already developed a passion for a certain art that they wanted to pursue, and they did not want to take another art class at the same time. Freshman Paul Smith said he would like to take jazz courses all four years and does not want to take visual art in high school. “If you’re into different types of arts, then you go with that and you fully commit to that” art, he said.

While Smith thought that the requirement to take performing and visual arts would make sense in middle school when students are still exploring their interests, “in high school, I feel like kids are starting to make up their mind.”

While students can take one art all four years, a student would have to take two arts in one year to fulfill the requirement of taking one performing and one visual art. However, taking two arts at once places undue stress on students, especially on those who seek to take other, advanced classes. As a STEM-oriented student, I plan to take advanced science classes, which often have a double lab period, in my junior and senior years. The extra art class would remove a free period, taking away time I could spend studying for my advanced classes.

Senior Wesley Brubaker, who took both Foundations in 3D Modeling & Design and Introduction to Ballet his sophomore year, agreed. Taking two art classes at once “adds a higher level of stress,” he said.

Because of the current art requirement, students who are passionate about one art form may still skip a year of that art to make time for other classes and to have a manageable schedule. Junior Joshua Reynolds, for example, signed up to take Foundations in Digital Photography this school year to fulfill the art requirement. He wanted to also take TOLV, but he was already taking two science classes and did not want to sacrifice a free period that he could use to study or to take a break from classes.

By skipping a year of art, students may lose the opportunity to continue developing their skills.

“I have to improve each year,” said freshman Aron Moldabek-Machado, who sings in the Chamber Choir and plans to sing in TOLV next school year. “I have to fix my mistakes.”   Moldabek-Machado said that singing regularly has helped him improve, and a year without taking a singing class would hinder his progress.

Students at GDS only have to take one foreign language, concentrating on expanding their knowledge of a specific language. Similarly, students should be able to focus their effort and time on one art.

Additionally, by abandoning their preferred art for a year, a student “may lose sight of their passion and not return to it,” lower/middle school Arts Department Chair Keith Hudspeth said.

As high schoolers, we are so busy with school and extracurriculars. Often, we cannot afford the time or energy to pursue our passion outside of school, be it music, painting or dancing. The art requirement should not restrict our ability to study the arts that we love at school.