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 stage performance, music performance and dance into their curriculum. We hear from some students about their experiences with drama, orchestras, music classes and musicals at some international schools in Singapore.
St. Joseph Institution International – Music, drama and art
The Arts Faculty at SJI International (SJII) develops and challenges students, producing outstanding achievements across the school and in the wider community. The school strongly believes that learning should be a process of discovery where students engage with a range of practical and academic skills to develop their individuality and identity, as well as an ability to communicate authentically to build better, deeper and more connected lives.
In the SJII specialist classrooms and through various productions, shows, workshops, trips, festivals and MADDD (Music, Art, Dance, Drama, Design) Week in the High School, students are never short of opportunities to express and develop their creative talents in art, music, drama and dance. For example, students recently performed an adaptation of Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein to a sell-out audience. The school also welcomed Singaporean theatre practitioner Gey Pin Ang to deliver a workshop to SJII Drama and Theatre students. In 2023, SJII’s music students will be performing internationally in collaboration with other international schools, and their Theatre students will attend an International School Theatre Association (ISTA) festival.
A student’s thoughts
“I’m so lucky to be able to go to SJI International because of the vibrancy of the arts culture and community in our school. My arts teachers and theatre-kid friends in my IGCSE Drama class inspire me every day to continue spreading the joy of performing arts to the whole world! I’m so grateful for the mentorship and support I’ve received, and I couldn’t have been cast in The Sound of Music without them. Through school musicals and plays, Arts Week, frequent concerts of various genres, arts CCAs, multiple arts councils and subjects as options, SJII has made everyone’s love for the arts grow. I love acting, singing and the arts community at SJII!” – Gabby, Grade 9 (currently starring as Louisa on The Sound of Music Singapore)
Tanglin Trust School – Performing arts
To put on a play about regicide and witchcraft gave the Tanglin Drama department pause for thought. However, the origins of Macbeth are to flatter – Shakespeare wrote the play to find favour with the new King of England, James I, who had just published a book on witchcraft entitled Daemonologie. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known and often performed texts. Its popularity is echoed on the English Curriculum, proving its education value to all at Tanglin and around the world. King Charles III was also an admirer of the play, performing the titular role himself while at school in 1965.
A student’s thoughts
“Performing the role of Macbeth in our recent school production was a new challenge that excited me, mainly because throughout the years of doing drama in Tanglin, I had never performed the lead role throughout an entire play. It was very worth it; after doing this school production, I could genuinely imagine myself acting in theatre for the rest of my life and being happy. The main challenge I found with Macbeth was learning the abundance of lines. However, the solution was easy: repetition! It’s the simplest and best advice for getting better at anything.
Understanding that Shakespeare is known to write his characters in a way that easily allows actors to interpret his characters differently, I enjoyed creating my own version of Macbeth. From doing Drama in Tanglin, my passion for live theatre has grown. The unique immersive quality of studying drama at the school is very special.” – Vedaant, Year 13
Dulwich College (Singapore) – Performing arts and music classes
All Dulwich students are encouraged to take to the stage, whether it’s joining in celebrations for festive holidays or performing in the school play or at the MADD Festival. 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.
Arts continue 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 in performing arts in partnership with UAL (University Arts London), a unique offering for Singapore’s international students. The school’s resources create opportunities for students to experience all areas of the arts. There’s a professional 750-seat performing arts theatre, two black box theatres (with three more on the way) and a dance studio to create an environment that mirrors the experience of performing on Broadway or London’s West End.
The school’s performance development programme, “Ignite!”, fosters development for 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. This is complemented by Dulwich’s existing relationships with the Royal Shakespeare Company, International School Theatre Association, Auckland Dance and the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art, which give Dulwich students the opportunity to work with professionals from all areas of the performing arts industry.
A student’s thoughts
“I would like to follow a career in the performing arts, though what field I follow is still a mystery! What I do know is that at Dulwich I have access to the full range of the performing arts, from acting to lighting to directing. Any skills that I need or want to use within the performing arts are available to me through the wonderful team and programme at the college.” – Haydon Roberts, Senior School student
Nexus International School – London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art centre
Nexus believes that performing arts are an opportunity for its learners to develop new skills and try new activities. The Music, Art and Drama classes at the school are an integral part of the curriculum and they encourage creativity while creating a well-rounded learner. The performing arts also reinforce IB learning concepts that include reflecting upon one’s work and making positive changes to excel. As Nexus believes in helping each individual achieve their personal bests, the school also offers lessons with specialists to reach the next level. Learners of music can participate in the Instrumental Music Programme, where highly skilled musicians teach music classes for a variety of instruments from piano to violin, drums, trumpet and more. Facilities at the school include a two-tiered auditorium with an LED screen, two black boxes and a recording studio.
Nexus is one of five London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) centres in Singapore offering LAMDA classes. This internationally recognised programme teaches learners skillsets beyond acting, including skills used on a daily basis like communications, diction and speech skills. Learners can also take LAMDA examinations, which can be used as a bonus in their college applications.
A student’s thoughts
“I’ve been playing the guitar for the last eight years. It’s great that I get to play a variety of music styles in my guitar music lessons because I get to learn many different styles for both acoustic and electric guitar! My teachers are flexible to adjust to my schedule if I have a lesson in school and I can always contact my teacher for help. Through the instrumental programme, I managed to find an instrument that I thoroughly enjoy and the lessons are fun and smooth flowing. I’ve had a lot of fun experiences like playing at recitals and concerts, both inside and outside of school. Overall, learning an instrument has helped me become a more confident learner and develop good habits like daily practice, and gain team-building skills and better communication skills.” – Ayaan, Year 9
Dover Court International School – Performing arts curriculum
The performing arts curriculum at Dover Court ensures students of all ages and abilities have access to music, drama and dance. Dover Court’s curriculum has been designed with input from the Nord Anglia Juilliard Creative Classroom to provide children with a unique opportunity to access these specially designed resources. Through this, all students are able to develop in public speaking, confidence and self-expression, which the school says are soft skills that are essential for them to grow and succeed.
Dover Court’s facilities like the Black Box Theatre and new DCIS Expressive Arts Hub have specialist classrooms for drama, arts and music through a range of both practical and theoretical activities. The school provides opportunities to enrich student learning through individual instrumental and vocal music lessons and the CCA Music Programme for Primary and Secondary. During the IGCSE Music and Drama and the IB Music and Theatre courses, students will develop holistically and deepen their learning to be equipped for future performing arts studies.
A student’s thoughts
“I’ve represented the school choir at embassy balls and the Kranji war memorial. More recently, I acted as Puck in the school’s first post-pandemic production, A Midsummer Night’s Dream. My character was very fun to play and my favourite part was my introduction song, which was an explosion of energy and fun. Though the full Shakespearean language was difficult, the cast could understand what was required of them, thanks to the incredible teachers guiding us all the way. I also chose the IGCSE Drama course because it gives a better understanding of the workings behind drama like costume design or lighting, which is often overlooked in other forms of dramatic education.” – Lachlan, Year 9
UWC South East Asia – Music, drama, dance, film
UWCSEA offers music, dance, drama, film and visual art within the academic programme. All students from grades K to 8 participate in lessons that allow them to explore their artistic side. In grades 9 to 12, there are extensive subject options for students to specialise in drama, music, dance, film or visual art. Each year, a number of visiting artists-in-residence extend student learning in drama, dance, music and visual arts through workshops and classes. Building on this rich background, the school’s Activities programme then provides all students with an extensive array of options in a wide range of arts programmes. These bring the numerous performance and gallery spaces on each campus to life across the year.
A student’s thoughts
“I attended a silat martial arts workshop as part of an artist-in-residence programme with Uli Fadhli of Inspire to Greatness. It opened my eyes to the ‘art’ part of martial arts. The beauty of flow, the structure and routines, and how much detail actually contributes into the final piece of art that you’re creating. The workshop emphasised the importance of paying attention and being purposeful in every single thing that you do when you’re performing.” – Medina Ayasha Nordiawan
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 is 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 drama.
In Preparatory School, the co-curricular drama programme involves pupils in a wide variety of performance styles including showcases in musicals and melodrama. Extra-curricular drama classes are available from visiting drama school Centre Stage. These professional sessions give pupils the opportunity to work towards Trinity and LAMDA exams as well as explore Creative Theatre. The Senior School programme builds on skills acquired in the Prep school. It further develops the pupils’ knowledge and passion, enabling them to pursue multiple pathways throughout their education.
MCM offers IGCSE and IB Drama, Music and English Literature and Performance. These provide a holistic approach to the performing arts, and combine both academia and stagecraft. Through the school’s IGCSE and IB Music and Drama Scholarships and cross-college co-curricular performing arts, pupils can access support across the arts. This provides them with the tools needed to pursue their passions in further education or careers.
A student’s thoughts
“Drama has inspired me to be more confident and creative in my own thoughts. It has taught me teamwork skills and leadership, both of which have helped in many aspects outside of drama. I particularly enjoy devising and scripting as it allows me to flourish my own creativity and have fun.” – Avelyn, Year 11, Drama scholar
Singapore American School – Theatre programme
The arts are an essential part of the curriculum at the Singapore American School (SAS). For one thing, the PTA and SAS Foundation-funded academic visitors-in-residence programme brings professional musicians, illustrators, thespians and choreographers to work with students. Students and teachers also participate in international music and theatre festivals; one example is the International Thespian Festival. Many of the school’s graduates have been admitted to specialist arts institutions and selective arts programmes in universities and alumni and are thriving in various performing arts industries.
A student’s thoughts
“Singapore American School is where I first discovered my love of theatre – ever since my first production in sixth grade, where I began learning the intricate process that goes into putting a show together. Since that performance of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, I haven’t left the stage.
I’m extremely privileged to attend a school with amazing theatre facilities and equipment, and I feel prepared for a career in the performing arts. Due to the pandemic, several traditions of our Thespian Honor Society chapter were dormant. This year, however, we held our first on-campus THS Haunted House in four years, our Interscholastic Association of Southeast Asia Schools drama team is travelling to Kuala Lumpur, and Improv Club has started up again. The performing arts programme as a whole is teeming with enthusiasm, as we’re now able to bring back and improve upon old ideas while coming up with new educational experiences for SAS students.” – Ripley Craig, Grade 12, American
Stamford American International School – Performing arts
SAIS combines a passion for drama with world-class facilities, with the aim of creating ideal conditions for aspiring actors and directors to realise and maximise their potential. Weekly drama classes begin at age five and continue through to Grade 10. Students have the opportunity for personal expression while simultaneously developing invaluable presentation skills. In addition, the school offers both the IB Diploma in Theatre and the BTEC Performing Arts Diploma. These provide rigorous preparation for a career in the performing arts as an actor, dancer, musician, designer, producer or director while also developing the confidence, expression and creativity needed to excel in any career.
A students’ thoughts
“I’ve been a part of the high school productions of Clue, as the butler Wadsworth, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, as the fairy king Oberon. What I enjoyed most about these productions was the chance to explore and deeply analyse the characters that I portrayed. I also enjoyed the adrenaline and excitement I felt while being on stage, in front of an audience; very few experiences can rival such an event. My most memorable performance was A Midsummer Night’s Dream, especially my opening scene. There was so much adrenaline pumping around my body!
I think one of the most important skills in any Theatre Production is communication, especially when it comes to using multiple forms of it. Being in these productions, I’ve learned how to carry myself and speak in a way that asserts respect and confidence, and I’ve come to realise the importance of the use of body language when speaking to reinforce your message. In everyday life, I feel that my development of these skills has allowed me to perform better in class. I’ve also formed more meaningful connections with the people around me.” – Elias, Grade 11
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