On 4 October, Epworth School opened a new Performing Arts Centre, which is a substantial investment in the school’s continued growth of the Performing Arts – music, dance and drama – and their role in connecting with the broader community.
A festival-style event, Fusion: Under African Skies, which showcased the centre’s performance spaces and the diversity of cultural talent in the school, marked the occasion. Art, drama, dance, marimba playing, the musical ensembles and the school choirs were part of the programme.
Speaking at the opening ceremony, Head of School Laura Bekker expressed her excitement about the new centre and the opportunities it will present: “This new facility not only allows for the growth and advancement of the subjects and activities that will be taught and performed in the venues, it also allows for further development in other areas of the school.” she said.
Chairman of Epworth’s Board, Peter Keyworth, said the Performing Arts Centre is the realisation of a dream that has been incubating for many years. He marvelled at how well the new centre blends in with the rest of the school and congratulated the architects, FGG, on their vision and the preservation of the architectural integrity.
He also thanked the Epworth parents for their contributions to the school’s Development Levy, the source of funding for this new facility.
The centre is located centrally on campus and is in easy reach of both the Preparatory and High Schools. It includes a renovated and enlarged school hall that will accommodate the annual theatrical productions. Adjacent to the hall is a magnificent double-volume dance and drama studio with a sprung floor, which houses the school’s three dance companies.
Five marimba bands have found their home in a well-insulated percussion room, alongside which is a 100-metre square ensemble room that comfortably seats 100 people for chamber concerts. It also provides a raked rehearsal space for the school’s choirs and ensembles. There is a further music studio on the upper level along with 10 sizeable music rooms for teaching and instrumental practice.
Modern classrooms and offices complement the performance spaces, providing an ideal environment for teaching and learning.
At Epworth, every pupil in the pre-primary and primary section is involved in cultural activities. Pupils in Grades R to 7 attend weekly drama and subject music classes. Music is also taught at the Grade RR level. A comprehensive instrumental programme has every pupil in Grades 2 to 4 learning the recorder, violin and clarinet, respectively. A recent development is the introduction of piano lessons in the pre-primary grades.
There are numerous opportunities for cultural involvement in the High School, including participation in one of three dance companies, the marimba bands, a jazz band, string ensemble, and two choirs. All pupils may audition for the annual theatrical productions. Music and dramatic arts are offered as subjects to Grade 12 level along with visual art.
An inspiring new visual art studio, which will benefit all High School pupils, forms part of the next phase of cultural development at the school.
“Epworth recognises the powerful role the Visual and Performing Arts play educationally in nurturing creativity, critical thinking, self-understanding and an appreciation of different cultures. An ever-evolving and diverse cultural curriculum in South African schools adds profound value to our pupils’ development,” said Epworth Head of Music and High School Head of Culture, Mr David Orr.