Giving your child an early start in the performing arts has so many benefits – greater confidence, better self-expression and increased discipline are just a few. Top schools here incorporate these artistic disciplines in into their performing arts curriculum. We hear from some students about their experiences with musicals, orchestras and speech and drama programme at some international schools in Singapore.
Dulwich College (Singapore) – a focus on performing arts and music
All Dulwich students are encouraged to take to the stage, whether it’s joining in celebrations for festive holidays or performing in College events. From the age of four, specialist music lessons are provided within the curriculum while specialist lessons in drama and dance start in Year 3. Every Junior School student is taught how to read music and is given an instrument to take home. The arts continues to feature through the curriculum with options to study drama, dance, film and theatre at IGCSE and in the IBDP.
In August 2022, Dulwich introduced the IBCP (International Baccalaureate Career-related Programme) in performing arts in partnership with UAL (University Arts London), a unique offering for Singapore’s international students. The College’s resources create opportunities for students to experience all areas of the arts. These include a professional 750-seat performing arts theatre, a 400-seat multipurpose auditorium, three film studios, three dance studios and four drama studios. The aim is to create an atmosphere that replicates the stages of Broadway or the West End.
The College’s performance development programme, Ignite!, fosters development in students who are particularly committed to aspirations of becoming performers, creators, directors, designers or choreographers. It gives them the opportunity to take on larger and more challenging roles in smaller case performances; participate in specialised workshops such as make-up artistry, radio drama, musical theatre workshops and set design classes that aren’t in the curriculum; attend master classes in audition technique, and receive support in creating a performing arts portfolio. Dulwich partners with the Royal Shakespeare Company, International School Theatre Association, Auckland Dance and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art offer students the chance to collaborate with experienced professionals from the performing arts.
A student’s thoughts
“Studying in the production and performing arts programme at Dulwich has played a pivotal role in my skill development, especially as a performer. Through a structured curriculum intertwined with endless experiences and opportunities, I developed essential performance techniques and gained valuable stage experience. My journey as an actor has been supported by my teachers, helping me refine my craft and fostering a deep passion as I continue my pursuit into my career as a performer.” – Charlotte Scott, Year 13
Tanglin Trust School – new spaces for drama programmes
Drama is widely embraced by students throughout Tanglin, with an increasing number choosing the subject for GCSE, IB, and A-levels. The school hosts numerous CCA performances and says that everyone from students to parents agree that Drama nurtures creativity and also instils crucial skills in collaboration and communication.
The focus of the Junior School Drama curriculum is centred on the ensemble. It provides experiences and opportunities to develop communication skills. Senior students are encouraged to develop their interest and enjoyment in drama and theatre, both as participants and as informed members of an audience.
Tanglin has recently invested in a range of new drama teaching spaces. These include a White Studio, a new Black Box drama studio and the Chandran Theatre, which can seat an audience of 140.
The drama programme provides specialist teaching, along with visits from international theatre companies, theatre practitioners and regular opportunities to perform in both intimate and large-scale performances. Last year, Tanglin performed 24 drama productions as part of the 2023 creative arts CCA programme. Performance highlights include a whole school production of West Side Story.
A student’s thoughts
“The Drama department has given me so many creative opportunities to develop and build my singing, acting and dancing skills. Last year’s musical, West Side Story, holds unforgettable memories for me. The chance to play Maria and perform with a live, professional orchestra in front of a big audience was an amazing experience.” – Olivia M, Year 12
Marlborough College Malaysia – music and drama programme
Marlborough College Malaysia (MCM) believes in providing a rich and varied performing arts programme to inspire pupils to be creative, develop their confidence and enhance their performance skills. The performing arts programme at MCM is fully inclusive of all ages and abilities. It creates a space where pupils can express themselves in a fun, supportive and sociable environment through music and speech and drama.
In Preparatory School, dedicated Music and Drama lessons as well as the co-curricular programme involve pupils in a wide variety of performance styles showcased in musicals, melodrama, competitions and concerts. Recently, Year 8 pupils explored Greek Theatre and Tragedy while pupils in Year 5 and 6 rehearsed for a musical production of Moana. The Senior School programme builds on skills acquired in the Prep school. It further develops their knowledge and passion, enabling them to pursue multiple pathways throughout their education.
The school’s Music and Drama Scholarships provide pupils with tools needed to pursue their passions in further education or careers. MCM offers IGCSE Drama, Music, IB Music, IB Literature and Performance and IB Theatre. These provide a holistic approach to the performing arts, allowing pupils to explore the techniques of different theatre practitioners. This helps in developing their skills in creativity, communication and teamwork.
A student’s thoughts
“Over my years at MCM, I’ve been lucky enough to take part in various performances, which have pushed me to become a more confident performer. MCM’s diverse range of ensembles have also allowed me to try new musical genres and advance my abilities as a musician.” – Juliette, Year 13
XCL World Academy – fulfilling student potential through performing arts curriculum
XCL World Academy (XWA) aims to equip students with a strong foundation in the performing arts. By offering students a diverse and enriching experience, it enhances their creative abilities and fosters self-expression. The school’s performing arts programme includes a comprehensive drama and theatre curriculum. The diverse opportunities and supportive environment at XWA enable students to stimulate young imaginations and unlock their full potential.
Each year, XWA hosts full-scale Primary and Secondary Years theatrical productions. These emphasise the importance of individual and collaborative work as part of an ensemble. This immersive experience allows students to actively engage in the creative process, whether as creators, designers, directors or performers. They learn to turn their ideas into action. In the process, they become inquisitive and productive artists who gain a deeper understanding of themselves, their community and the world.
The school’s state-of-the-art arts facilities include a 750-seat grand auditorium, a fully equipped drama room, visual art studios and a comprehensive suite of music and practice rooms. These empower students to create, compose and record their artistic work.
Through XWA’s Performing Arts programme, the school has witnessed remarkable student growth and development. Students gain confidence, improve their public speaking skills and enhance their ability to express themselves effectively. These provide students with a wealth of skills and qualities that are transferable to other subjects. They’re empowered to unlock their full potential and succeed in all areas of their lives.
A student’s thoughts
“The Performing Arts programme at XWA is a passionate and supportive community that has allowed my peers and me to flourish and become well-rounded artists and individuals. The Arts programme provides students with a wide range of artistic opportunities including visual arts, theatre, music and an array of creative avenues, such as the annual theatre production. I love being a part of this community and constantly growing as a performer.” – Carmen Ines Jaranilla, Grade 11
Chatsworth International School – fostering an arts culture
The Arts is integral to the holistic education at Chatsworth International School. Chatsworth offers music, drama and visual art within the academic programme and a variety of arts-themed co-curricular activities. Primary school students from Kindergarten to Year 6 attend separate lesson each a week in Music, Performance and Visual Art. Secondary students in Years 7 to 9 take three Arts disciplines – Visual Arts, Music, Drama – with three lessons in each cycle. In Years 10 and 11, students choose one Arts discipline to focus on, with a mind to proceed to the Visual Arts, Music or Theatre Studies courses in the IB Diploma.
The school also promotes collaborative learning across primary and secondary sections, where music-related CCAs such as choir and string ensemble are whole school CCAs comprising both primary and secondary students. The passionate arts teachers contribute greatly to the arts culture at Chatsworth; they consistently inspire students and create opportunities for learning from creative artists.
Chatsworth students are encouraged to partake in performance arts at the school. These can be performances in festive or holiday celebrations, school musicals, Arts Night or Primary Expresstival, which is a week-long event where primary students express themselves in wide-ranging activities. The school’s renovated drama room/ black box, music room, music practice rooms and the main hall are some of the venues where students develop their creative pursuits. To provide opportunities for students to learn from the best and connect their knowledge to the real world, Chatsworth organises workshops and masterclasses helmed by subject matter experts such as Mr Neil Farrelly, an international producer and actor who has been invited to teach Chatsworth secondary students in theatre skills.
A student’s thoughts
“The Performing Arts/Music programme at Chatsworth has granted me and my bandmates incredible opportunities such as performing one of our original songs at SOTA for our Class of 2023 graduates, performing at Secondary Arts Night and a variety of school events. Our band is very passionate about performing in front of big audiences – we can express ourselves, hone our musicianship and share our love for music with the school community.” – Myah Ferraro, Year 12
Nexus International School – a centre for the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art
Nexus believes that the performing arts are an opportunity for learners to develop new skills and try new activities. The Music, Art and Drama classes at Nexus are an integral part of the curriculum and they encourage creativity while creating a well-rounded learner. To help each individual achieve their personal bests, the school also offers lessons with specialists to reach the next level. Learners can participate in the Instrumental Music Programme, where highly skilled musicians teach music classes for a variety of Western and Chinese instruments from piano to violin, erhu, pipa and more.
Nexus also facilitates more than 25 ensembles and music-related extracurricular activities. These include choirs, orchestras, composition clubs and podcast clubs. Approximately 40 percent of learners at Nexus actively participate in ensembles across the school. As one of five London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) centres in Singapore, Nexus remains committed to providing an internationally recognised programme that goes beyond acting by emphasising essential skills such as communication, diction and speech.
The school actively seeks out new productions and concerts across Singapore to bring to its learners and broaden their experiences. Each year, Nexus organises a theatre trip to London, which explores the world of theatrical performance. Throughout the week, learners engage in world-renowned workshops and gain behind-the-scenes insights into multiple venues. Nexus also hosts workshops with international providers and artists. They share their real-world experiences and teach new techniques through exciting activities.
There’s also the opportunity to take LAMDA, ABRSM and Trinity music examinations at Nexus. These can serve as a valuable asset in college applications. Facilities at the school include a two-tiered auditorium with an LED screen, two black boxes and a recording studio.
A student’s thoughts
“My two favourite subjects are drama and music! I’ve been doing drama for a while now, and it’s truly my passion. Last year, I participated in the whole school production because I wanted to dedicate myself to something and it was absolutely worth it. It allowed me to make lots of friends and connect with those from different year groups who have the same interests as me. I signed up to be in the play again this year and I’m really looking forward to it. Another subject I really enjoy is music. Nexus has a unique way of teaching music as we get to experiment with new instruments every year and try new things. This year, I started to learn the saxophone through the Nexus Instrumental Programme. I’ve really enjoyed understanding how to put the instrument together as well as learning the different techniques.” – Ruby, Year 8
St. Joseph Institution International – involving all students in music, drama and art
The performing arts curriculum at SJI International is vibrant and engaging, fostering student development and achievement. The dedicated music educators and a robust curriculum in Elementary School foster a deep appreciation of music in SJI International students. They have opportunities to participate in various ensembles. These include choirs, orchestras and chamber groups or the beginner string and woodwind ensembles. The music department’s commitment to inclusivity ensures that every child can explore their musical talents in the classroom or through the instrumental teaching programme. Regular performances, recitals and music festivals showcase the remarkable progress and talent of the school’s budding musicians.
In SJI International High School, there’s a state-of-the-art, flexible performance space as well as a diverse array of events. This gives students abundant opportunities to express and develop their creative talents in music, art, drama, design and dance, including the exciting MADDD (Music, Art, Dance, Drama, Design) Week. For example, students recently performed a production of Rock of Ages to a sell-out audience at the Drama Centre at the National Library. The school often welcomes both local and international artists as guest speakers, and the choir recently collaborated with other overseas international schools. Via the school’s student-led arts councils, students are encouraged to develop and hone their skills when initiating, leading and participating in events.
A student’s thoughts
“SJI International has expanded my artistic horizons. With various events, performances and supportive teachers, I’ve become a more well-rounded theatre student. Rock of Ages allowed me to make new friends and connect with the theatre community in school. Being part of this diverse arts community is a true honour.” – Nina, Grade 9
UWC South East Asia – a space for music, speech and drama, dance and film
UWCSEA has an extensive Performing Arts offering that includes music, dance, drama, film and visual art. Students in Grades 9 to 12 can choose to specialise in any of these pursuits through their course choices. Flagship events such as UWCSEA Dover’s United Nations Evening and UWCSEA East’s CultuRama set the stage for the various speech and drama and dance productions in the year ahead. These bring to life the numerous performance and gallery spaces on both campuses. Visual arts and design opportunities are open to all students who wish to explore their creative passions in crew and stage management, costume design, and set design and build.
A highlight of the school is specialist workshops by Visiting Artists-in-Residence that extend student learning. Primary School students have collaborated with Singaporean ceramics artists like Shayne Phua and Iskander Jalil, the latter a renowned Cultural Medallion recipient. Middle School students learned traditional Malay martial arts from local actor and movement coordinator Lian Sutton. High School students were trained in the classical Indian performance art of Kathakali by Mr Biju from Bhaskar Arts Academy.
In a recent stage adaptation of Michael Morpurgo’s novel, Running Wild, Middle and High School students delivered an immersive theatrical experience, exploring UWCSEA mission-aligned themes such as environmental stewardship and peacebuilding as well as human empathy and the power of language. A student Gamelan ensemble provided the auditory backdrop of jungle sounds as well as the musical score, composed and performed by students under the guidance of visiting Artist-in-Residence and Gamelan specialist, Faezan Redwan.
In addition UWCSEA’s extensive Activities Programme has a variety of artistic and creative pursuits, including the Instrumental Teaching Programme (ITP), for students across all grades.
A student’s thoughts
“Learning about the construction of Gamelan pieces fascinated me and I was very grateful to have a Gamelan expert mentor me as I navigated a new area of music. This was my first experience writing music for theatre. I learned that it’s a two-way relationship between the cast on stage and the supporting music because although the actions on stage tell the story, music pulls an audience in to listen. Being able to learn about and compose for Gamelan at UWCSEA was an enriching experience that I’ll always cherish – it opened my eyes to new ideas and changed the way that I approach music in general.” – Bryan Carmichael, Grade 12
Stamford American International School – dramatic and performing arts opportunities from Kindergarten on
Stamford American International School blends a passion for theatrical arts with world-class facilities, aiming to foster an optimal setting for aspiring thespians to realise and maximise their innate potential. The school offers the International Baccalaureate Diploma in Theater and the BTEC Performing Arts (Acting) Diploma. Both are meticulously tailored to prepare ambitious students for an illustrious career in the dramatic arts.
From early exposure in Kindergarten to advanced exploration up to Grade 10, students partake in exclusive weekly speech and drama classes conducted in fully-equipped, state-of-the-art studios. Furthermore, the school presents an impressive repertoire of eight grand-scale theatre productions each year within the renowned Reagan Theater. Distinguished as the only school theatre in Singapore with a cutting-edge LED backdrop screen, this 500-seat creative haven is the perfect stage for students to rehearse, exhibit their talents and captivate audiences.
A student’s thoughts
“Theatre at Stamford is a unique combination of high-level performance, amazing facilities, and an amazing family of castmates and directors. It has kept me coming back for eight shows, most recently as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde. The annual musical is what everyone looks forward to, bringing kids and adults together to laugh and connect with the characters we play on stage. Growing up in this community of excellence has enabled me to improve as a performer and fostered the responsibility to encourage excellence from my lowerclassmen.” – Ishita, Grade 12