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Insights | How arts education prepares our pupils for the future

19 October 2020

Michael Larsen-Disney

Director of Arts

Our modern economy places a high premium on STEM and traditional core subject education, sometimes, in education, that comes at the expense of the arts. But make no mistake: the arts are essential to a well-rounded education. Education in the arts can open the door to an array of industries worth billions of dollars, and it goes well beyond television and movies. Even pupils who are not artistically inclined stand to benefit from studying the arts. It teaches them creativity, communication and collaboration, or what I like to call 'future skills'. These are highly transferrable skills that will be an asset regardless of the career path they choose.

Creativity is not just the impetus for beautiful paintings, dance or songs. Creativity is finding new ways of thinking about things. It drives problem solving and innovation. Likewise, the ability to communicate clearly is essential in any modern workplace, be it a classroom, a briefing room or a boardroom. Naturally, communication skills go hand-in-hand with one's ability to collaborate effectively on a team, too. Whether it is Google or Goldman Sachs, there is not a single company out there that does not value 'future skills'. And there is no successful person out there that does not excel in at least two of them.

But it is not just about 'future skills'. The arts also provide a lens through which we can examine and gain a deeper understanding of our world. There is also a powerful component of personal improvement in studying the arts. All subjects within the arts instil in our pupils the values of self-reflection, hard work and discipline, which are critical to building self-confidence.

Wellington has grown over the years to roughly 1400 pupils. The arts department, in turn, has updated its provision to match this growth, and our area of the College is truly extraordinary. The teachers we bring on board are from professional backgrounds, which means they have real industry understanding in addition to extensive teaching experience. They know how to nurture children and nurture talent. But they also know how to lift and inspire those who may not be so artistically inclined.

In our drama department, for instance, our new head of academic drama, Mr Samuel Jones, comes to us by way of the John Lyon School, Harrow in the UK. He is an examiner in drama and a former professional actor and director as well. Our new head of performance music, Dr Paul Tkachenko is an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has performed on a number one record and BBC Radio 1, 2, 3 and 4. He brings experience in the full gamut of musical genres, from American bluegrass to Greek rebetiko. Our new head of academic music, Ms Vera Mitford-Beran joins us from Dulwich Seoul. A graduate of Bela Bartok Conservatory in Budapest, Hungary, she is a cello teacher and performing chamber musician. We also welcome our new head of art, Mr Donald Short. Mr Short is an experienced artist who also gives lectures on many art-related subjects, including architecture in Shanghai. I am excited to see the fresh perspective they will all bring to the arts department this year.

We have started the 2020-21 academic year with a lot of momentum. We are eager to provide more opportunities—particularly in the prep school—to perform, to experience, to watch, to partake in the Arts. To that end, this year will see lots of musical, dramatic and dance performances, as well as art exhibitions, popping up around the school. There is so much great talent in this College. We want to showcase it wherever we can and cultivate a College-wide enthusiasm for the Arts. The long-term benefits for our pupils’ demand that we do.