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» BREAKING NEWS, Featured » COMEDIAN ‘BLACKA’ ELLIS-BACKED PERFORMING ARTS SCHOOL TO BE OPENED IN SEPTEMBER!

COMEDIAN ‘BLACKA’ ELLIS-BACKED PERFORMING ARTS SCHOOL TO BE OPENED IN SEPTEMBER!

BY JAVENE SKYERS
Staff reporter
skyersj@jamaicaobserver.com

 

Jamaica’s first performing arts high school is all set to open come September. But unlike its secondary counterparts, its focus will be on traditionally extra-curricular activities such as theatre arts, dance and music which, along with other academic subjects, will form the core curriculum.

Owen 'Blakka' Ellis

Owen ‘Blakka’ Ellis

The New Approach School of Performing Arts (NASPA) is the brainchild of local comedian and performing artist Owen “Blakka” Ellis and Managing Director of New Approach Learning and Resource Centre Tamar McKenzie.

According to Ellis, the idea for the model of the private high school and its program came from a school his own son attended in Toronto, Canada.

“So the aim of the program is to really create a balance between the academics for the kids as well as performing arts, so we are not doing it as extra-curricular activities. I think usually when people think of performing arts they think of drumming or probably dance. We are taking it to another level by looking at theatre arts, technically theatre stage management, audio visual, the whole mock up where the students can actually see a fulsome picture of what theatre arts or performing arts is about ,” McKenzie explained.

Bello and Blakka in 'Blouse and Skirt'

Bello and Blakka in ‘Blouse and Skirt’

She said that another aspect of the program will facilitate training and certification for established performing artists as well as those interested in getting into that field.

As a precursor to the curriculum being introduced in September, there is now a program ongoing called “Summer Beat: Where the Arts Meet”, which is an interim summer school for students 6 to 18, which Mckenzie said will allow parents to experience a trial of the program.

She explained that for September, however, students will be offered a choice where they can do a ratio of subjects, such as three academics to two performing arts subjects, which will determine their schedule of programs from grades seven to 11.

According to Ellis, the school has designed a full-time performing arts program where students and staff will have to audition to gain entry.

“People get thrown into the arts because they are not bright or they not behaving or so on. It encourages persons to see the arts as valuable and not just something you get sent to when you not bright. The aim is Edna Manley College (of the Visual and Performing Arts) will want to have students coming from this school because they will enter the college prepared,” Ellis stated.

He added that students can also leave the school and go straight into the field to hold jobs such as entertainment directors within the hotel industry.

McKenzie noted that, based on registration so far, they are looking at starting out with approximately 25 students between grades seven to nine, and that their market is mainly home-schooled students.

“There is a large group of parents in Jamaica who have removed their kids from the traditional school system because of the unmet needs, so one of the aims of NASPA is to target those unmet needs and fulfill them in a healthy balance between parents, students and administration,” she explained.

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