Movie and TV’s Top Five Performing Arts Schools
By Jessica Men
It all started in 2006 with High School Musical. Yes, you can make the case that our love affair with talented youth has been around since a tiny Michael Jackson strutted his stuff to “I Want You Back,” or at least since 1980’s Fame. Perhaps it was further along, beginning with the Mickey Mouse club; the breeding ground for today’s pop stars. And Bieber has how many Twitter followers now?
Valid. All Valid. Still, the arrival of Troy Bolton and Gabriella Montez on the Disney Channel’s Original Movie stage marked the beginning of something fresh. Our obsession with kids in the performing arts and gushing over the personal lives of a few young’uns combined into a seamless blend of talent and drama. Being privy to the highs and lows of a tight-knit clique that also sings and dances adds layers of entertainment. It’s why we haven’t looked away from American Idol in a decade and why Glee! seduced us by surprise.
The young bucks in KoldCast’s new series TAG! – an acronym for That Awesome Gig! - are every bit as gifted as HSM’s Troy and Gabriella or Glee’s Finn and Rachel but with a twist: they’re about ten years younger. The show follows an international primary school’s students as they strive to hone their musical talents. Even in their pre-pubescence they undergo the perennial struggles: becoming the star pupil, stepping over others to achieve their goals and, of course, falling in love with the popular hottie.
You are watching Episode 1 of TAG!
TAG! is developed and produced by Kids Republic who, since its formation in Spring 2011, have performed with ABBA The Show, Roger Waters THE WALL Concert/Tour, Superstars (Idol) Live TV Broadcast and Opera Ball 2012. Kids Republic is a non-profit group and is open to all musically talented children from any nation. It is self-funded by the series creator and friends.
MJ was homeschooled, authoritatively to say the least. The original Fame gang graduated the school of hard knocks on the streets of NYC. And Beiber had mentor Usher and a Swagger Coach. As for the stars of Disney Channel, Nick, and PG-13 3D dance movies everywhere, how do their fictional academies rank? We did our research.
#5. Maryland School for the Arts – Step Up
As part of the Baltimore public school system, Maryland School for the Arts sets itself apart from the pricey private schools. The curriculum is specifically tailored to four disciplines: vocal or instrumental music, visual arts, theatre, and dance. Given the intensely creative environment, the atmosphere may overwhelm, as it did Tyler Gage (Channing Tatum), a delinquent who was initially assigned to the school for community service. That same delinquent went on to become one of MSA’s most dedicated dancers and success stories; Gage and recent graduate Nora Clark (Jenna Dewan) stole the show in the school’s latest annual showcase – a true testament to the Maryland School spirit! Channing and Jenna stepped it up in real life and got married three years after working together on the movie.
Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Student Performance: The Final Showcase
Sample Curriculum: Hip-Hop, Ballet, Orchestra, Concert Band
#4. Bristol Hillman Music Conservatory – Raise Your Voice
Often proclaimed “the best summer music program on the West Coast,” Bristol Hillman Music Conservatory is located in the vibrant city of downtown Los Angeles. Students like small town girl Tori Fletcher, an aspiring singer played by Hilary Duff, are expected to hone their craft under a staff of some of LA’s most talented musicians. At the end of each summer, there is a school-wide talent show, culminating in a $10,000 music study scholarship. It’s no wonder the atmosphere at Bristol is charged with competitive devotion!
Location: Los Angeles, California
Student Performance: Final Scholarship Show
School Motto: “Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”
#3. Camp Rock – Camp Rock
For anyone looking for a future on stage, there’s only one place to spend the summer! Located on a lake with a private beach and rustic accommodations, Camp Rock is the aspiring musician’s haven. The summer camp is legendary for producing famous alumni; Pop phenomenon Shane Grey, the aptly cast Joe Jonas, is a camp counselor. Like any good summer camp, it’s also where the fairy tale romance of Grey and Mitchie Torres (Demi Levato) blossomed. It all started at the dance workshop that led to their duet at Camp Rock’s Final Jam Talent Show, which went viral on YouTube shortly afterwards.
Location: Ontario, Canada
Student Performance: Camp Rock Jams & Final Jam
Sample Curriculum: Jazz Dance, Editing and Producing, Pitch Management, Songwriting
School Motto: “Don’t fit in. Stand out.”
#2. NYC High School for the Performing Arts – Fame (2009)
Founded in 1936, New York City High School for the Performing Arts had one mission: to provide artistic education for young musicians, dancers, and actors preparing for professional careers. But this focused mission doesn’t stop NYC High’s students from having fun with their passions. After witnessing lunchroom-wide dances and the free-spirited nature of the classes, junior pianist Denise Dupree told the school paper, “My uptight parents would die if they knew that the school wasn’t just people sitting around, practicing cello all day.” The creative and competitive atmosphere makes New York City High the perfect place for gifted young performers to achieve their dreams.
Location: New York City, New York
Student Performance: Annual Graduation Recital
Sample Curriculum: Acting, Theater, Dance, Performance Training
#1. Hollywood Arts High School – Victorious
Nestled in the heart of Tinseltown, Hollywood Arts is the premier performing arts high school in Southern California. Every year, students from around the country undergo a rigorous audition process in hopes of getting accepted. One incoming freshman class featured the likes of Victoria Justice’s aspiring singer Tori Vega. Hollywood Arts is a school rich with tradition, requiring each student to design their own distinctive locker, and maintain a blog on the school’s self-run news site, TheSlap. A worthy alternative to run-of-the-mill public education, Hollywood Arts is the perfect school for any talented youth to shine.
Location: Hollywood, California
Student Performance: The Annual Showcase
Sample Curriculum: Modeling, R&B Vocal, Theatrical Make-up, Bowling
School Motto: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”
Click to watch Episode 2 of TAG!
Jessica Men is a floundering USC postgrad who lives in Los Angeles. She has BS degree in biology, which is trumped by a passion for writing.