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The importance of the performing arts

Importance of performing arts
The cast of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Elsternwick prior to Lockdown 6.0.

All the world’s a stage and in this tumultuous world, art matters. Apart from opening up the other hemisphere of the brain, performing arts is a way to celebrate individuality, resilience, creativity and build social-emotional learning. With the show moving online it has provided impetus for our students at Wesley to be actively involved in the arts, where they can respond, create and perform and share their achievements with others, through the power of technology.

Wesley College has a proud history of the performing arts, from the days of its longest-serving Headmaster, LA Adamson, to the current leadership. Wesley’s continuing support of singing, music, drama and theatre is at the core of what it means to develop the whole child. In Andrew Lemon’s book, A Great Australian School, he describes Adamson’s deep understanding of the performing arts when he wrote, ‘The headmaster produced a four-act English comedy, “The Headmaster”, with a novel conceit.’

In the time of the ancient Greeks, philosophers such as Plato recognised the inherent value of studying the arts. Theatre, music, dance and the visual arts were integral to Greek society and are still an integral component of education in our country, as well as our Wesley community today. It is a commonly held belief that involvement in the performing arts develops qualities that are valued by society. Two key qualities developed through the performing arts in a school like Wesley are building confidence and working collaboratively.

As almost all school activities have moved to remote learning, teaching performing arts online has continued at the classroom level as well as cocurricular ensembles and individual music tuition, with some fine results. In addition to the weekly teaching in timetabled classes and scheduled rehearsals, Wesley’s commitment to the performing arts has continued during the pandemic. This year, Wesley’s three metropolitan campuses have showcased music and theatre through concerts, recitals, assemblies and chapel performances. Despite very limited competition performances, there have been camps held and some key major performance highlights, such as the St Kilda Road Campus Music Festival in Hamer Hall, Glen Waverley’s Not Just Jazz evening at Leonda and Elsternwick’s choir singing (gasp!) at Wesley’s Founders Day Dinner in Myer’s stunning Mural Hall.

Elsternwick has pirouetted its Middle School production of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat to a virtual compilation of individual student recordings. At the St Kilda Road Campus, Wicked has been reorganised and replanned four times, with a view to hopefully performing at some point this year; it is also hoped that a performance of Matilda can take place. Glen Waverley’s three productions included the senior play Hellkatz, which was staged in Cato Hall over four nights with a wonderful double cast; the musical Something Wicked This Way Comes, also double-cast, was fortunate enough to get one performance per cast just before going into lockdown. The show was then live streamed for two nights, and hundreds watched on a Saturday night during lockdown. Glen Waverley’s campus musical, Matilda, The Musical, with a cast of 98, was locked down just as the show was nearing opening night, resulting in online rehearsals. The message is loud and clear: the show will definitely go on – it’s only a question of when. The ability to constantly adjust to changing circumstances demonstrates the resilience and commitment of staff and students and their families, highlighting the importance of music and the performing arts in their lives, to ensure that the show can go on.

As David Rubenstein, Chairman of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts writes, ‘The world is a complicated place, and there's a lot of division between people. The performing arts tend to unify people in a way nothing else does.’

Alexandra Cameron is the Head of Music and Producer of Middle School Productions at Elsternwick Campus.