Sunday, December 20, 2009
Fine Arts Academy!!
Darling daughter wrote an essay, filled out an application, submitted grades, auditioned with her cello and waited........
Her 'Congratulations' letter came with foil confetti stars so when she opened her letter, stars flew out! How clever! We are so excited that she got in and she will be able to go to High School with the friends she grew up with.
The Fine Arts Academy (FAA) provides a program for students across the city to pursue an accelerated arts curriculum as fine arts majors. FAA attracts a diverse student body from across the metroplex. The Academy community includes students from all AISD middle schools and many private and parochial schools. The idea for a Fine Arts high school for Austin was inspired by Ruth Denney, who founded Houston's High School for Performing and Visual Arts after retiring as a professor at UT Austin. Partly as a result of Denney's involvement, the Fine Arts Academy was embraced by UT College of Fine Arts (COFA) from its inception and a strong partnership with COFA continues today.
By creating a high school with a fine arts focus for Austin, the Academy has created mutually supportive partnerships with arts organizations and artists across the region.
It was in consultation with UT College of Fine Arts (COFA) that curriculum design of rigorous arts coursework was initially developed, incuding one of the few non drill-team based high school dance programs in the state. Here, advanced dancers study both ballet and modern dance, inviting guest choreographers to set pieces included in productions. As upperclassmen, all music majors study Piano followed by Advanced Placement Music Theory and Art majors enroll in A.P. Studio art classes as well as Advanced Placement Art History. Upper level dance majors are gaining experience choreographing and staging productions. Senior theatre majors often direct and stage productions and at the Academy, may choose to major in technical theatre. The first classical guitar studies program was established at FAA, and has since expanded with significant curriculum and coaching support of Austin Classical Guitar Society. Many other instrumentalists from wind ensemble, orchestra, and piano receive weekly professional coaching provided by the Austin Chamber Music Center. Vocal and instrumental music ensembles have each performed on the Carnegie Hall stage and there is an annual master class for chamber orchestra led by two Italian maestros and sponsored by the local chapter of the Neapolitan Music Society.
The exceptional work of FAA music faculty and students received national recognition: GRAMMY Signature School 2005 for Excellence in Music Education and Recording Arts. National recognition has also come from orchestra, choir, and band performances in Carnegie Hall. In Summer 2007, theatre students performed and participated in educational events at the Fringe Festival at Edinburg, Scotland and a summer collaborative in Costa Rica staffed by UT professors is being created for our high school musical theatre students. Three of 27 Texas Young Masters (two art majors and one classical guitarist) chosen state-wide by Texas Commission on the Arts were from McCallum and received renewable grants for summer art studies in-state, nationally, and abroad. Academy graduates in all strands are attending colleges and universities acrosss the US, and many are receiving significant scholarships.
The success of FAA is now well-known due to work of dedicated faculty and the recognitions earned by Academy students in every strand. MFAA's future is evolving as we expand our faculty, curriculum and fine arts facilities. Most recently, we have added two masters level teachers, one in classical guitar and one in dance. The recent addition of a technical theatre major to train students in "behind the scenes" theatrical world of lighting design, set-design, and robotics has added depth to the theatre arts curriculum, and adding a major in musical theatre is on the horizon.
The future is bright for FAA!
Our Orchestra program was started in 1953 with the opening of the school and has had a history of highly qualified and dynamic orchestra directors. Today the program has grown to close to 100 students participating in three performing orchestras, a double bass ensemble, and, with the support of the Austin Chamber Music Center educational outreach, numerous other quartets and ensembles. Director Ricky Pringle, who previously taught in the Houston suburb of the Woodlands, is in his seventh year with the these orchestras. Under his leadership, his string orchestras have consistently received top scores at UIL concert and sight-reading competitions. String orchestras also add wind players to compete in the UIL Full Orchestra competitions each year, where they have also been very successful over the years. When the orchestra moved into the new orchestra hall in spring of 2007, years of trophies finally had a place to be displayed along with photographs of previous orchestra dating back to the 1950’s.
One of the signature accomplishments in the past six years of Mr. Pringle’s work at the Fine Arts Academy has been wonderful collaborations of our orchestras and string ensembles with other Academy students/directors in other strands, such as dance, theatre, and vocal music. For example, Chamber Orchestra with our combined choirs have performed masterworks including Schubert’s Mass in G, Handel’s Messiah and Vivaldi’s Gloria.
Over the years, our orchestras have frequently provided live classical music for Academy dance performances, and as an outgrowth of that, some of our orchestra members have studied dance and appeared on stage in both musical theatre and dance productions (as dancers) and others have joined the choir as singers for special performances. In a recent production of the Greek tragedy, Oedipus Rex, a string ensemble performed on stage to provide significant music/dramatic support.
Two of the performance highlights were Carnegia Hall performances. The Chamber Orchestra performed at Carnegie in June, 2007 and the Fine Arts Academy choir and orchestra performed together on the Carnegie stage in June 2009.
After only a week of rehearsal with music that had not been performed for over 200 years, the Chamber Orchestra was the first student organization to perform in the Long Center’s Dell Hall. The performance, A Neapolitan Revival, the Lost Music of Italy, punctuated a weeklong master class studying the Neapolitan Masters of 18th Century Italy.
Maestro Gioacchino Longobardi and Alberto Vitolo arrived at the Fine Arts Academy a week before the concert to introduce the music students to the Sounds of Naples. The master class presented a journey that explored the instrumental repertoire of the 18th century Neapolitan School of music. The selected works represent each of the four conservatories established in Naples, beginning in the 16th century from among the greatest Neapolitan composers, Jommelli, Durante, Scarlatti, Leo, and Pergolesi.
Longobardi and Vitolo are recognized as leaders in their field for transcribing Neapolitan masterpieces for contemporary performance. Together, they transcribed the scores from original manuscripts and instructed the students on the different bow and string skills that were used 500 years ago. The students had only a week to learn the music theory and history and to rehearse the compositions before the concert. “The students were really challenged in a lot of ways because they only seven days to learn the music. It is a huge responsibility on the musicians,” said Lanier Bayliss, director of the Fine Arts Academy. “It was a really professional experience for them.”
Almost 500 people attended the lecture and concert including Dr. David Nuebert, principal bassist for the Austin Symphony, who exclaimed “what an amazing performance, the orchestra really shined tonight.” Former orchestra student Gonzalo Hernando said, “it’s hard to believe they only had a week to work on this program, they sounded really good.”