High school is more than just academics. It’s a place for students to not only find their passion but also interact with other like-minded students and form a community. That’s why electives matter. In the Visual & Performing Arts department, several teachers felt the need to diversify the classes already offered. Lucky for some students, Maclay will add several electives to the upper school curriculum to expand the scope of experiences offered to students.
“It’s really great to have new electives each year to give students more choices of things that they may be interested in or wanting to learn more about,” Upper School Academic Dean Angela Croston said. “It’s always great to have new things to offer them so that they can explore some interests.”
One of the new classes that will be offered is Dance Technique. After director of Glee Club Adia Seckel came to Maclay, she felt the need to create a dance program, which is offered in most other schools in town. This inspired her to become the first individual to create a dance class in the upper school. In terms of the course content, Dance Technique will cover the origins, definitions, and movements of dance works as well as proper stretching techniques, basics of the ballet positions versus the jazz positions, different styles of dance and different choreographers within those styles. By encouraging students to explore both conceptual and physical aspects of dance ensemble, the class will allow students to get a taste of a variety of elements in the dance field and deepen their understanding for professional careers.
“[I’m excited about] learning the different styles of dance and seeing what I like more than others,” freshman Peyton Price said. “I do not have any previous experience [with dance], so I just want to do something new.”
While teaching students in an afterschool club Glee, Seckel also wanted to design another class, Vocal Ensemble, to focus on the choral side of performing arts. Vocal Ensemble will cover six foundations of singing, including breath support, proper posture, diction and expression. In the beginning of the course, students will learn how to read music so that they will be able to get a sheet of music and be able to sing it on the spot by the end of the course. Just like most other performing arts classes, Vocal Ensemble will present a performance at the end of each semester. One of Seckel’s plans is to combine Vocal Ensemble and Dance technique to present a winter showcase with students from both of her classes.
“The fact that we will be going through so many different styles that you get a taste of everything is unique about [my classes],” Seckel said. “I love variety, and I love bringing that into classroom settings.”
The arts department will add classes not only for dancing and singing but also for acting. Musical Theater, which diverges from theater, will be offered by upper school theater teacher Millie Seckel. While theater focuses strictly on drama, Musical Theater will emphasize every aspect of stage: singing, dancing and acting. In class, students will study monologues, act scenes and participate in group activities. Outside of class, students will receive assignments that will help them interpret texts and scenes better to put themselves in the characters’ position. Throughout the first semester, students will focus on learning about each other, themselves and their limits, which is important to pick a piece of a play and succeed at state competitions.
“Last year, I took the Theater class with Mrs. Seckel, and I was in the Spring Musical 2023, Into the Woods, so I’m very excited to be in another class with her,” freshman Isla Welge said. I’m excited because of the music aspect. Music is my favorite part of theater.”
Even though the new performing arts classes mainly teach students about performance on stage, students in these classes will learn more than just technical skills; they will learn to become confident. Performing in front of a crowd can be nerve-wracking for anyone. Especially at Maclay where performance has not been prevalent in recent years, the judgment that performing arts students receive is harsher than they are at other places. However, as students practice and present performances, they not only become confident in themselves but also help erase the negative stigma of performing arts that often exists in high school. Moreover, being in a class with a group of people with the same passion allows students to trust their classmates to give them constructive criticism, and as students work on the feedback, they build their self-esteem.
“[Students] are afraid of being judged and picked at, and that’s something that I’m trying to nip,” M. Seckel said. “Everybody is going to be nervous to stand up in front of a crowd, and my goal is to ease that and make them more comfortable. While you’re doing this is to have fun because if you’re having fun, you enjoy it, and if you enjoy it, you’re going to achieve it.”