Education & Artistry
Visual and Perfoming Arts Program Transforms Learning
By Monica Lander
Committed to both education and artistry, the Visual and Performing Arts Department (VAPA) at Moreau Catholic is thriving and worthy of a standing ovation.
Whether to act, sing, paint, dance or make music, students are coming to Moreau Catholic specifically for the arts programs, says VAPA Department Chair Angela Demmel. As a result, enrollment in the five disciplines is up and performances are continually sold out.
The intent of VAPA is “to prepare students to go into college arts programs regardless of their major and to continue to create quality artists and scholars…and students who are consistently questioning and seeing the world beyond a test score, but are articulate men and women,” adds Demmel.
The upsurge in enrollment and interest in the arts at Moreau Catholic has resulted in a jam-packed performance schedule and a calendar that bursts with three dance performances, an additional Pops Choir performance, and Frosh Theater Extravaganza, to name a few additions to the full repertoire.
“Our students are doing such incredible work,” says Demmel and their work is becoming more public and gaining visibility outside the school.
The VAPA faculty works equally hard to not only practice scholarly work but to produce high quality productions. “This is due to us all being professionals and specialists in our fields,” she adds. All the disciplines from visual arts, instrumental, music, choral music, dance and theater have won numerous awards in addition to outstanding achievements by individual students.
A professional dancer and choreographer, Demmel’s work is deeply rooted in the Bay Area dance community. She developed and teaches a four-tiered dance program that has been honored by the University of California Regents and the Association of Holy Cross Educators.
Visual Art teachers Brooke Nelson and Karen Thomas are working artists continually exhibiting their works throughout Bay Area galleries and contributing to art education. Nelson is a guest speaker for KQED’s teacher workshop and guest lecturer at Zeum, San Francisco’s Multi Media Arts and Technology Children’s Museum
An important part of art education is its interdisciplinary nature,” says Nelson. Visual art provides students with an outlet to represent what they have learned in other subjects.
Nelson adds, “Art can connect to maath (pattern and architecture), history (a visual track of history), language arts (references of literature), and science (trial and error, properties of paint).”
“Art allows me to use my brain in a way that most other subjects don’t,” says Manisha Sahai ’11. “It challenges me to be creative, to find beauty in the ordinary, to think liberally, and to take what I am taught and what I observe and translate it into something I can call my own learning, imagination, and production.”
For more than 25 years as director of the Moreau Catholic Band and Orchestra Program, Ted Newton has extensive experience as an adjudicator and clinician at student music festivals throughout California. A practicing jazz musician in his own right, Newton has developed an instrumental music program that is highly regarded and well known in the Bay area and throughout California.
Newton has grown his program to six classes, including Honors Wind Ensemble, Honors String Orchestra, Jazz Ensemble, String Orchestra, Symphonic Band, and Instrumental Music. In addition to winter and spring concerts, Newton brings a nationally-recognized jazz musician to campus each year as a guest artist who both performs with and educates student jazz musicians. His students regularly perform at each home football game, a Mariner tradition for decades. Each touchdown by Moreau is rewarded with a spirited rendition of the Mariner Fight Song.
Director of Choral and Vocal Activities, G. Scott Barton is an avid choral musician and lyric baritone. He is one of 222 music teachers from 208 cities across 41 states who have been announced as quarterfinalists for the second annual Music Educator Award presented by The Recording Academy and the GRAMMY Foundation.
“Choral music education increases not only personal skill in music, but also advances social relations, historical understanding, emotional development and critical thinking skills,” says Barton. “An understanding of music gives the individual a means to relate to experiences and historical differences across many cultures,” he adds.
“I discovered long ago that I really don’t teach theatre. I teach the elements of humanity through the guise of theatre,” says Arlene Hood, theatre arts director. “I hope that when students study the arts, they arrive at a better understanding of themselves and of the world around them.”
Hood has been transforming high school dramtatic and musical theater at Moreau since 1987. Many of her former students have continued in the performing arts and cite her dedication and passion for theatre as their inspiration.
VAPA at Moreau Catholic began its ascent to new levels of achievement with the addition of the University of California (f) requirement for one year of arts back in 1999. Before they knew it, all five disciplines were vying for a finite number of students to choose their elective and they began convincing the administration about the necessity for new VAPA classes and attracting students to stay in the discipline beyond the one “required” year. Fifteen years later there are more than 41 courses in the VAPA department including several honors level and advanced placement classes.
The Curtain Rises and the Show Goes On!