Performing arts focus fuels creativity

Issue: Volume 97, Number 13

Posted: 30 July 2018
Reference #: 1H9jj3

Students at Rotorua’s Western Heights High School are learning how to collaborate with different faculties in the performing arts sector in order to become entirely self-sufficient which will then translate to whatever career path they choose.

Learning how to collaborate with different faculties in the performing arts sector

Those who dedicate their lives to music do so because they are passionate about it. However, becoming successful in any of the performing arts can be tough because these industries are often over-subscribed and hard to break into. It’s well known that very few young people ‘make it’ – at least to the point of visible success.

Western Heights High School Head of Music Adam Hague wants to give students the tools they need to experience that joy of creativity and take it as far as they can. He is helping them to understand that being able to wow crowds with musical prowess is great, but being able to set up their own gigs, get the sound right both on stage and off, mix instruments so that they don’t overtake one another, and create a lighting experience to match, will give them a huge advantage.

“I started working here at ‘Heights’ in 2008, and at that time the course was called ‘music technology’,” says Adam. “I taught that for a couple of years before I made the decision to change it to ‘music industry’, and the reason for that is, it wasn’t just about the technology itself.”

“I wanted the course to better encapsulate the idea of forming a group, band or work as an individual artist, and be able to work as a professional musician. So, not just being able to perform and write your own music, but also to be able to set up your own show, whether that be a music show or a performing arts show, incorporating the setup of sound system, recording, as well as lights.”

Creating a course that can produce creative technicians wasn’t as easy as combining several streams of learning, says Adam. The main challenge he’s faced has been a lack of learning resources.

“There’s been a lot of work done on the music side of things, in terms of live sound and recording and different software that we can use. But as far as lighting and production, there are not many – if any – resources out there that are readily available.

“We here at Heights have had to make it up as we go along, based on our interpretation of the standards themselves, which are all covered under the performing arts technology domain. So it’s been a big learning curve – not only having to learn about the gear itself, but how to incorporate it into a classroom setting.”

Creating his own resources was helped by a clear focus on learning outcomes, says Adam.

“Even if they don’t go into that specific field, the idea of collaboration between different faculties is a big part of what we do. That should then translate to whatever career path they choose – the ability to work with others is key.”

By way of an example, Adam talks about a recent former student who has gone on to start up a successful lighting business. This student has also been keen to visit his former school from time to time, to talk to current students about what it’s like ‘out there’.

Making sure the wheels don’t come off.

At the end of every year, the school stages a talent quest that is entirely student run. Adam’s music industry students are heavily involved in all aspects of the production, which is a great chance for them to put theory into practice, under real deadlines, real pressures, and the real need to pool resources and work with people of different skill sets.

“I come from a collaborative background in terms of music and the wider performing arts, so collaboration is a big passion of mine,” says Adam. “I also believe that students learn, or are more invested, if they’re part of a bigger, wider project.

“The talent quest is not only cross-curricular, between different departments in the arts, but it’s also cross-level. For example, Year 13s oversee and design the show, and underneath them Level 2 students are in charge of a specific area, like backstage or lighting or sound set-up. Underneath that, Level 1 students have supporting roles – so stage hands, and that kind of thing. There are three levels of reporting, and teachers merely make sure the ‘wheels don’t come off’.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 9:00 am, 30 July 2018

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