Governor’s School for the Fine Arts

By Selena Shifflett
March 3rd, 2015

Out of the fifteen students at Monticello who applied for the esteemed Governor’s School for the fine arts, only nine are moving forward to the state level of adjudications.

Governor’s School is an exclusive summer program run by the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE). The School is for talented students who wish to further their education in various subjects, including dance, theatre, and foreign language. Students applying to the Governor’s school in the fine arts in particular go to the adjudications, where examiners judge a piece the student has prepared for them. Students applying to the Governor’s School in academics fill out a ten-page application and send it to the Governor’s School.

Here at Monticello, Mr. Baran, the Gifted Resource teacher, is the main coordinator behind the application process at Monticello High School.

“I sort of handle everything,” said Mr. Baran. “99% of it goes through me, minus the art products that the students produce.”

There are Governor’s Schools for academic areas such as science, technology, and medicine. Several programs for foreign languages are offered at the School: German, French, and Spanish total immersion, and Latin and Japanese partial-immersion. There are also programs for the fine arts. This category includes dance, theatre, vocal music, instrumental music, and visual arts.

In order to find students who may be interested in Governor’s school, Mr. Baran asks the teachers to propose the idea to students they feel would benefit from Governor’s School. Ms. Lockwood, art teacher at Monticello, has several deciding factors when deciding who would enjoy the program.

“I look first for heart,” said Ms. Lockwood, “someone who really loves art, so it’s really in their heart and they’ve shown a real dedication. That kind of dedication almost always results in fine craftsmanship, which is the next thing I look for.”

The application process for Governor’s School is complicated. Students who apply for the academic programs have to write an essay and prepare a résumè. Those who applied for the fine arts had to go to local adjudications for all applicants in Albemarle County, where they displayed their talents in front of judges. The judges scored them and decided which students should move forward onto the state adjudications. Scores were sent off to the Governor’s School in January, along with the applications and portfolios. Students find out in April whether they made it into the program or not.

For those who do get into Governor’s School, it provides a great opportunity for students to enrich their knowledge on their particular interest, whether it be dance or the French language.

Alex Espinosa (‘15) went to Governor’s School in the summer of 2014, and the experience has opened up many doors for him.

“It was a really good experience at Governor’s School,” said Espinosa. “My knowledge expanded on dance.”

While Governor’s School is an excellent opportunity, it has been said that the system can end up favoring wealthier kids who can afford private lessons in an aspect of the arts, like piano lessons or dance lessons. Ms. Michel, the drama teacher at Monticello, would like to change this.

“I’m trying to turn things around,” said Ms. Michel. “Governor’s School is supposed to be for everybody. The rest of the world favors wealthy people but at school, kids should have a level playing field.”

This year, several fine arts students will be moving forward to the state adjudications in January, including Ny-jhee Jones (‘16).

Jones applied to the Governor’s School for theatre.

“I’ve had a passion for theatre for the past few years,” said Jones, “and I’d like to learn more and take it further.”

An article featuring the other Governor’s Schools, including language and academics, will be coming soon.

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