An original opportunity: the importance of creative arts at MSJ

“High school is one of the greatest times in your life where you can explore your passions,” stated Mr. Bianco, the director of student life here at Mount Saint Joe, about the importance of student original creative work. High school is, in fact, the opportunity for students to find themselves and the passion that rests inside them. Many students have options to try out for sports, study specific topics, and be involved with extracurricular activities that follow their interests. But what about creative arts? Does high school give students who want to explore the creative arts the chance for student-produced work? I interviewed some of MSJ’s creative and leading teachers for their take on the importance of creative arts at MSJ.

MSJ’s Drama Club’s “Peter and the Star Catcher” cast and crew during rehearsal.

One essential aspect of creative arts is the first word of the study, “creative.” Students find themselves intrigued by the area of study due to the availability to express themselves through creating and producing their own work. That chance for students at MSJ to work on and showcase original work allows them to explore that possible career path. The Carpenter, MSJ’s literary magazine, gives students the chance to publish their pieces of writing. The drama department allows students to act and be a part of the plays and musicals put on in the Knott Fine Arts Auditorium. But other than those two outlets, which are somewhat limited, do students have chances for showcasing original work? The Drama Club at MSJ is currently working on expanding its horizons and giving students more opportunities for showcasing original work. The club is hoping to host a winter cabaret to show original creative projects.

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Mr. Hartsfield, an English teacher and director of the theater department, states that “it’d be great if students could produce their own (creative) work.” Other than the art show here at the Mount, Mr. Hartsfield does not believe we see enough student-driven work. He would like to see students “create their own content like plays, film or singing…I don’t think we see a lot of that now”. He also claims that “there should be more of an opportunity for that to happen.”

Mr. Stromberg, a new theology teacher at MSJ.

Mr. Bianco commented on the idea of giving students the opportunity for an original creative project, “I think if we give students those opportunities, to figure that (project) out along the way, that’s a high school’s responsibility. That’s especially a Xaverian Catholic high school’s responsibility.” Mr. Bianco relates to the importance of the arts due to his “side hustle” of playing the guitar. He explained how, in college, he was in a band that really helped him through that time in his life. He explained how ”those things matter to us because that’s how we express ourselves.”

Mr. Stromberg, a new Theology teacher at the Mount, is also connected with the arts in the way of musical theatre. He received a Bachelor of Music in Musical Theatre from the Catholic University of America. When asked if he felt prepared by MSJ for that area of study, he said, “I would say yes…(MSJ) taught me how to have a certain work ethic.” He continued to explain his creative opportunities at the Mount, “It did prepare me…the way it taught me to approach education.” Still, he detailed how he did not get the specific chance to find that creative work opportunity. He did not find that passion for musical theatre until he went to college at CUA. But as he now begins his teaching career here at the Mount, he wants to support students who have a passion for creative arts and make sure they have that opportunity.

Other than the shows and the literary magazine at MSJ, students do not have a strong outlet for their original creative work to be shown to the school community. Hopefully, the Drama Club will sponsor and host a cabaret for students to explore, create, and showcase their original work for Gaels, friends, and families to see on the stage.

Ethan Webber is a senior member of the Quill and the Multimedia Journalism class.