by Cori Hilsgen
At a time when many schools are cutting art and music programs, St. John’s Prep School is expanding its programs.
Principal Matthew Reichert said each year the school has more students who want to participate in music, visual arts and theater. SJP plans to increase the number of art classes students are required to take in order to graduate. It’s also planning on expanding the music-lessons program.
Currently, all SJP students qualify for weekly lessons. SJP wants to increase the availability of instructors for students in all grade levels.
The SJP music department has already added a course in music theory and analysis, and the art department has added high-level visual-art classes with the International Baccalaureate Diploma program. Theatre classes will be reintroduced.
Reichert said the studio space for visual arts will be remodeled during the next year or two, and some new equipment and a digital photography lab will be added. He said there has been an increase in digital photography and film production in art classes and also for use in other courses and departments.
Document cameras, projectors and smart-board technology for more dynamic music instruction will be added to the music classroom and rehearsal halls. The use of an iPad application named “Smart Music,” which will increase individualized music lessons and music theory, will be added. All SJP students will be using iPads beginning next year.
Because of the increased need for music lessons, SJP is considering adding hourly staff to help with instruction. After taking a leave to cover the vocations director position, Br. Paul-Vincent Niebauer, OSB, is returning as the director of the school musical program. Br. Richard Crawford, OSB, has been hired for a new theater position to coordinate sets, lights, sound and other technical production. Crawford has many years of experience in fine-arts programming at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University.
“Students are required to take two years (four semesters) of art classes – music, visual art and/or theater,” Reichert said. ”We are looking to increase this requirement to be more in keeping with other content areas. The majority of our students in the upper school participate in at least one school music ensemble, and dozens of students each year participate in one of our theater productions.
Reichert believes the arts are an important component of any well-rounded academic program.
“It’s impossible to be truly college preparatory, or to really fulfill our mission as a school, without high-quality arts programs,” Reichert said. “A strong background in, and experience of, the arts changes the way students learn and come to understand other subject areas (such as) physics, mathematics, literature and history.”
Reichert said it’s important SJP invest in all of their programs in order to keep them strong, dynamic and growing.
“While this might be an unusual step for other schools, even other private schools, it’s a natural and necessary step for Prep,” Reichert said.