Unlimited Talent at Talent Unlimited HS
Bearing violins, sheet music, scripts, ballet shoes and their voices, students from all over the city come to Talent Unlimited High School on 68th Street and 2nd Avenue in New York. For four days each December and January, the line of hopeful eighth graders winds around the Julia Richman Educational Complex, which houses Talent Unlimited. They audition for one of five arts programs: dance (ballet and modern), drama, musical theater, vocal music and instrumental music. Those who are chosen are in for a lot of fun—and a lot of work.
Ten years ago, when the Julia Richman building was divided into several smaller schools, Talent Unlimited was developed into a full-fledged high school that offers intensive training in the arts in addition to a regular Regents academic education. Each day, students take two to four periods in their area of talent, depending on their grade and program. Regents scores are high: 90% passing in English, 96% in history. After graduation, some of the students enter conservatories, but most follow their teachers’ advice and go to four-year liberal arts colleges in order to keep their options open. Some go on to careers in the performing arts; others return as teachers.
According to Deena Forman, the principal of Talent Unlimited, almost all of the school’s teachers have been or still are performers. “There’s an open-mindedness in artistic communities that draws people,” said Forman, explaining the appeal of her school. With only four hundred students and twenty-seven teachers, the school thinks of itself as a family. Forman holds planning meetings for teachers, although, she said, collaboration occurs naturally because of the school’s size and interdisciplinary approach. The arts are written into the curriculum across the board. There are frequent visits to museums and other cultural institutions in New York. Sometimes several departments undertake a large-scale project, such as the school’s recent modern-day version of the Greek tragedy, Antigone.
“MTV is our corporate sponsor,” said Forman. “They award scholarships to seniors. They helped to renovate our auditorium. Now we have a $100,000 sound system as well as the old style architecture.” The company also provides internship and work opportunities. Forman mentioned the most recent example: a Talent Unlimited jazz band has a summer gig on a beach in the Hamptons playing for a karaoke television show. The school also has affiliations with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Epic Theater, Limon Dance Company, and the Sundance Film Festival.
“We’re reflecting and perfecting,” said Forman. She would like to see continued growth of the musical theater department, the latest lighting and staging technology, and advanced courses in technical theater. She encourages the public to attend the school’s productions, which are feats of teamwork. For a recent staging of Stepping Out, a play about a tap-dancing class, the actors learned to tap-dance. For a fine education with an emphasis on the arts, tap-dance your way to an audition at Talent Unlimited.#
For more information, visit www.talentunlimited.org.