What Are High Schools for Performing Arts?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 01 September 2019
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High schools for performing arts are educational institutions which combine a traditional high school academic experience with the intensive study of one or more performing arts disciplines. Usually, students at high schools for performing arts choose a specialization in drama, dance, or music. They generally must audition before being admitted to a school. The aim of high schools for performing arts is to nurture individuals’ talent from an early age, thereby preparing them for further performing arts studies or for careers in the arts.

In some ways, high schools for performing arts resemble traditional secondary schools. They adhere to the curriculum requirements of their state or national government, meaning that their students spend time studying subjects like math, science, foreign languages, and history. In most cases, these students also take the same standardized tests, such as the SAT, as their traditional school counterparts.

Yet high schools for performing arts differ from traditional secondary schools in one significant respect: performing arts schools combine a traditional curriculum with the intensive study of one or more performance disciplines. Commonly, these schools offer concentrations in drama, dance, and music. Students choose to specialize in one of these disciplines, and their school days are divided between study of traditional academic subjects and immersion in their chosen discipline. In most of these schools, students are required to participate in performances or recitals showcasing their progress in their discipline throughout the academic year.


Generally, prospective students must audition to secure admission to a high school for performing arts. Some feel that this audition process may subject adolescents to feelings of stress or rejection which they are not emotionally mature enough to handle. Conversely, some believe that exposing creative individuals to the audition process from an early age may help them develop the emotional resilience necessary for a career in which a certain amount of rejection is more or less inevitable.

Along with instilling students with the knowledge gained at traditional secondary schools, the purpose of high schools for performing arts is to nurture adolescent talent. Graduates of these schools who wish to proceed to college-level performing arts studies may find that their background gives them an advantage over applicants who have participated in the arts only at an extracurricular level. Those who do not wish to pursue further academic training in the performing arts may find that their high school experience qualifies them to enter the job market in their discipline of specialization.


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