SOMETHING TO CONSIDER: Arts classes instrumental in any life endeavor | Lifestyles

Dress rehearsal. Everyone on stage, backstage, and looking up at the stage is exhausted. Months of preparation on the part of both teacher and student alike has led to this last rehearsal before opening night.

But something isn’t clicking. It’s late, everyone wants to go home, but they know the show must go on. Perhaps it’s a certain line one can’t quite get down, or the blocking for the scene just doesn’t look right. Then it clicks. The student remembers what she learned in theater class and tries to deliver the line a different way. Another remembers what his teacher taught him from art and music class about the rule of thirds and translates the rhythm and movement of music and suggests setting the scene a little bit differently. It works. Dozens of young students taking what they learned and using it to work together for a common end.

Though that specific scene was fiction, similar stories of their students’ imagination and determination were shared by the theater arts teachers of Greenville Christian when we sat down to discuss the nature of teaching music, art, and theater to the students at GC.

Annee Helmreich, GC middle and high school art yeacher, explained how she enjoys watching her students grow from the beginning of the semester to the end, and from middle school into high school.

After teaching her students myriad of techniques, Helmreich said it is rewarding to “see them finding their niche,” as she helps them find the right way for them to develop their ideas. She said she teaches them the basics, shows them the rules, then gives them “wiggle room” to grow.

After getting to know her students and taking the time to find and develop their individual talents, she said her students are then able to find “they can do more art than they think they could.”

GC theater and math teacher Jen Brown said her experience teaching seventh through 12th grade students is much the same.

Brown said she gets to watch how her students have learned in her class when she sees them using techniques in class and translating it from the classroom onto the stage when they perform their class plays.

Brown said the students become a little community as they learn to work together to make the play come together.

Being a small Christian school, Brown said they have a lot of siblings who come through here. She said it’s enjoyable to watch brothers and sisters learning to get along.

Becky Shasteen, music and choir teacher at GC, agrees.

“They’re having fun while working hard,” she said, adding that music and art and theater helps instill discipline, attention to detail, and a desire for excellence that her students can take into other areas of life beyond graduation.

Although stressful, Brown said her students learn skills that translate off the stage, “They learn how to be leaders.”

She noted that it’s not only leadership training, in learning to work together toward a common goal, and implementing what they learned in math, English, or any other class, but they learn that as long as one is willing to work, her students can use the skills learned in the theater arts in many different jobs.

Heilmreich used her experience as an example. She said neither of her two degrees of her slow themselves toward specific career paths. However, she said she has been able to apply the creativity and visual principles she learned to translate into the different positions she has held. The arts, Helmreich said, help teach one to have “visual fluency,” and develops the ability to “come up with an idea and follow it through.”

Although the theater arts teaches these skills that can easily translate into the workforce, Shasteen said it goes deeper than getting a paycheck.

“Fine arts is the soul of a school,” Shasteen said, adding that it affects her students’ spiritual growth and “helps us to glorify God.”

The other two agreed. I would add my voice in agreement as well.

Is it any wonder that both David and Jeremiah, during the deepest, darkest moments of their lives, turned to poetry to repent and lament of their own sin and the sins of Israel when Jerusalem fell?

Or Christ, when dying on the cross, to fulfill prophesy, quoted from the poetic Psalm 22: “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani,” “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

Poetry became their prayer.

There is, as has been shown by the teachers and students at GC, more to the arts than painting and acting and singing and playing music. These mediums give us the ability to speak to ourselves, and to God. They are more than ornaments that can be taken or left at our leisure. They give words and images and actions to our longings. They are, as Shasteen said, “the soul of a school.” And teachers like Brown and Heilmreich and Shasteen, instruct their students how to harness their emotions and shape them into something more.

The arts can do more than and serve as an emotional outlet. With good teachers, art can help youths learn how to moderate their desires and emotions, and train them to cultivate the right emotions through discipline and teamwork to create something bigger than themselves.

It prepares them not only for the world beyond the classroom walls, but also prepares them to find joy in life at work, at home, at church, in the nursing home, and at death’s door.

While I sat waiting for the interview, I was able to watch Shasteen teaching a young GC student how to play piano. She sat and watched him play the notes, encouraging him where he did well and guiding his hands to the right notes to play better. That snippet of her teaching by Ella is a microcosm of the theater arts teachers at GC, and it gave me assurance that students at GC are in good hands.

Joseph Hamrick is a semi-professional writer and sometimes thinker. He lives in Commerce and serves as a deacon at Commerce Community Church C3).

He can be reached [email protected]

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