Within most state schools in Western countries, Music is taught as a separate subject. However, Performing Arts entails a much wider range of study from music composition and performance to dance and drama. The overall benefits of this fully rounded study sometimes go unnoticed. However, the inner transformation within Performing Arts students can start very early and shape a child’s academic performance and ability to interact in a social setting.
Beth Kerzee, a Performing Arts Teacher for 27 years within American state schools and for the last five years at Yew Chung International School of Beijing (YCIS Beijing) has noticed several differences between how Performing Arts is taught, “At YCIS Beijing, we focus on World Music as opposed to an American school where the focus would be on national American Music. We teach songs in many languages in order to incorporate different cultures into our lessons. One interesting factor we also focus on is what system of music reading to use. Asian students use a very different system of reading music compared to the western system which can be a challenge when you have a very diverse classroom. However, through accommodating these styles of music reading within the class, students have a great opportunity to learn both styles and expand their music knowledge as opposed to only learning one style.”
Year 13 International student Lawrence Williams from the U.K is currently studying Performing Arts within the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme (IB) and feels the course allows for a more international focus, “Within the IB Diploma, we have to write a 2000 word investigation comparing two different cultures and draw links between the two. We also have performance assignments in which we must give a live demonstration of a piece we have composed. I previously studied at an Italian school where music and performing arts were separate so I believe the IB Performing Arts course provides a more fully rounded study of all aspects associated with music, composition, analysis and performance.”
The cultural side of Performing Arts at an International School is incredibly important, especially if the school philosophy believes in the importance of language. Year 12 International student Sarah Quan from USA has been studying violin from a very young age and feels that studying the performing Arts from a young age has a hugely positive impact on the academic skills of a student, “Studying music helps you to be more analytical, recognise patterns and memorise. A lot of students who study music have great mathematical and language ability because of these skills they have learnt and the earlier you start the better.”
However, it is not just the academic advantages that are developed through studying Performing Arts. The social skills of these students are often enhanced as Kerzee explains, “Many studies have been conducted researching this link between arts and student development. Reasons for this link has been said to be attributed to brain function development after participating in some kind of arts activity. The arts seem to make students smarter. This could be the result of the confidence a student gains after being able to perform that difficult piece of music or performing that rigorous dance move. Another reason could be the high feeling of self-esteem a student achieves when they successfully participate within a group of their peers in a school production. All research carried out to this date has concluded that the arts do contribute to the better development of students.
Year 12 international school student Patriceia Yu from Canada is a fine example of a student who believes that studying Performing Arts has given her more confidence and self-belief. “When I was younger, I was a very shy student and struggled a little with public speaking. However, the performance component of my study has helped me to grow as a person. I enjoy performing but the composition has also been very beneficial in terms of my creativity. There is certainly a link between the Arts so often I can put some of my creative ideas from music into my Art study and vice versa.”
It is very clear that students who study the Performing Arts have an increased ability to build confidence, conquer fears and overcome anxiety through performing individual musical pieces, dance and theatrical productions. In addition to these personal advantages, the many positive academic impacts that help students to flourish within subjects such as maths and language study heighten the importance of such study and are of even greater significance within the diverse student population of an international school.