In the late ‘90s, SP was designated as a Focus School for the Creative Arts, and extra funding was provided for resources, including specialist teachers. This enabled the school to develop and expand the Music (both instrumental and vocal), Drama, Dance and Visual Arts Departments. We have been fortunate to have had the services of many highly qualified specialists in their various fields, including many ex-students who return to teach a particular instrument on a part-time basis, under the leadership of Subject Head Ms Dianne Gordon.
Since this initiative, however, the funding from the WCED has diminished substantially but this has not deterred SP from continuing to support and develop the arts further. In addition to the Dance Studio (converted from the old Hall – the combined 9A and 9B rooms of days gone by) and Drama Studio (above the Dance Studio), our latest expansions included another Dance Studio, as well as a Visual Arts Studio. Although we now also have a Band Room and a Drumming Room, ironically the one room that has been in existence before any others in the Creative Arts Department, the Music Room, seems to have been left behind in terms of expansion. Dubbed with great fanfare as an Apple Music Lab thanks to the supply by the WCED of Apple computers with appropriate software more than a decade ago, the room is now crying out for upgrades!
Students at Grade 8 level select two disciplines from the options mentioned above and focus on those two areas for the first year of Creative Arts. The Grade 9 year encourages the students to select only one of the two choices they took in Grade 8, therefore streamlining their pathway better. From Grade 10 onwards, students may opt to study any of the above areas as a seventh subject. In addition, we do enrol students who are interested in learning piano, recorder, guitar, drumkit, flute, bass guitar, saxophone, violin and trumpet, and these instrumental students learn their instrument separately from the Creative Arts programme, so are able to have a solo lesson with a teacher once a week to develop a proficiency on an instrument.
We strive at all times to have both our Grade 8 and Grade 9 students performance ready for an annual Open Day of performance to an external audience.
Our jazz band and senior students have been taken to the Grahamstown Jazz festival full week programme annually for years where students have had the opportunity to audition for big bands which they do not get the opportunity to be part of at our school base. Our students generally do well and are successful in the auditions to get into the top bands at these festivals. We have also been included for a number of years to be part of the Cape Town Jazz festival mentorship programme where our students have regularly been selected to be part of the “All Star Band” which performs in Greenmarket square Jazz Concerts. Perhaps the crowning moment of the Creative Arts Department was when, in 2019, the SP jazz band appeared on the stage at the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Under the direction of educator Mr Lenrick Boesack, the band impressed audiences with its quality and professionalism.
Our school has also been invited to participate in the very popular High School Jam competition, where schools have to stage a production incorporating all aspects of the Arts.
Many products of the Focus School programme have gone on to achieve varying degrees of success, especially in the Music Field. At the risk of offending those whose names I might have omitted, some of these alumni and alumnae include performers such as singer Candice Thornton, dancer Crystal Finck (who has appeared in Marc Lottering productions), former Drama student Hayden Bagley (acoustician, who has also worked with Marc Lottering), guitarist Bradley Prince (The Pedestrians), drummer Matthew Fischer (also with the Pedestrians), drummer Keano Carelse, keyboardist Kirsten Skippers (currently making waves on the local jazz circuit), multi-instrumentalist (but specializing in the saxophone) Duncan Johnson (a member of Little Giants, but who has performed with a number of other artists, including alumnus Hilton Schilder) and producer Daniel Williams, who has recently released his first single.
Despite the obvious pride in the achievements of our some exceptionally talented individuals, the aim of the department is to help all students to discover their talents and to develop their skills via the full programme in Grade 8 and 9. During the course of the year, as mentioned earlier, the students showcase their talents at a Creative Arts Open Day, and new ground was broken in the fourth term of 2021 when the Open Day was held for the first time ever in our open-air amphitheatre.
May the Arts Department go from strength to strength as they continue to contribute to the holistic development of our students.