Town Hall Lab
Stimulates Arts Ed
& Career Training in Schools
In a climate where too few
high school students are learning to appreciate the arts both for their own
sake as well as for a career path, The Town Hall, a New York City landmark
concert venue, has recognized the need to fill the gap created by budgetary
starvation. Since 1999, the institution has contributed its knowledge, resources
and personnel through its educational outreach program, The Town Hall Lab.
Today, a determined effort is underway by the Department of Education to emphasize
an arts curriculum, and the Lab program will prove invaluable to teachers and
students more than ever.
The Town Hall instructors go
to selected schools and give students hands-on experience in lighting, sound,
set design, construction, costuming and props. Students learn to resolve technical
problems by applying scientific and mathematical principles and most classes
make visits to observe professional productions. The program also includes
guest artist lectures and professional development for teachers.
delivers more than just development of technical skills, positive values
and new levels of teamwork and responsibility; it builds a new self-confidence
that has encouraged students to improve their communication with both fellow
students and authority figures. According to school administrators, overall
grades and attendance have noticeably improved and the Lab has served as
a catalyst for many students who would otherwise not graduate. One success
story includes a student who was failing until he joined the stagecraft class;
the following year he was inspired enough to achieve straight A’s.
Another student pushed himself to learn to read for the first time in order
to memorize lines for a play.
The program has become an accepted
and integral part of the school community at several schools. Instructors are
increasing the level of cooperative education, asking veteran students to serve
as mentors for first-year participants. Moreover, the staff development has
been strengthened this year, with classroom teachers assuming increasing responsibility
as they team-teach with Lab instructors. Staff development is particularly
important in the new Bronx High School for Performance and Stagecraft, where
teachers will be trained to incorporate the arts into their regular curriculum
even as they prepare students for the Regents exams.
The Town Hall Lab offers summer
internships, giving students a chance to continue the school-to-career experience.
Students are placed from school projects into reputable theaters, dance companies
and production facilities. There, they gain skills that will help them in the
job market, even if their interests lay outside of theater. The internship
is designed to provide them with a taste of the working world, and the opportunity
to present themselves in a professional manner, learn teamwork and take on
individual tasks. For this they gain valuable resume credit and are paid for
Approximately one-third of
the program costs are covered by a contract for educational services with the
New York City Department of Education. Contributions from foundations and corporations
provide the remaining two thirds of the cost.#
Marvin Leffler is President
of The Town Hall Foundation.