How the Performing Arts Benefits Students

Posted by Clint Williams on July 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM
Clint Williams

2019 SRTC BB v1 DPPs159At many times during our adult lives, we are asked to stand before a crowd and speak, deliver a presentation for work, or even offer a toast to a happy couple. Speaking in front of a group of people can make your palms sweaty and your heart starts to race. Without a podium to lean on, one can feel exposed and uncomfortable. Experience in the performing arts can empower students to express themselves in public forums with effectiveness, skill, and confidence for the rest of their lives.

In addition to participating in performance ensembles to get comfortable in front of audiences, I encourage students to make room for acting courses in their busy schedules. An introductory acting class, for example, teaches technique and skill and provides experience in developing excellent public speaking skills, including:

  • Body language
  • Hand gestures
  • Proper vocal inflections.

More important to students’ future success, however, such a class provides a setting in which students learn—through constant trial and error, success and failure—how to evaluate their own progress. Students learn from their bold mistakes in a safe, non-threatening, teaching environment, giving them the unique opportunity to receive immediate feedback, make adjustments, and improve on their performances. Through this rehearsal process, students gain confidence and self-understanding and learn to manage their emotions and decision-making processes.

Life frequently throws us curveballs when we have to think on our feet. Who wouldn’t want to be prepared to respond rather than be caught off guard? Improvisation skills are valuable for handling these situations, whether on or off the stage. A good improvisationalist will never be at a loss for words. I begin many of my classes sparring with students, having fun volleying conversations back and forth, to prepare them to speak and reason extemporaneously. Improvisational acting teaches them to react and engage quickly so that no matter what comes their way, there is no wrong response; they don’t get stumped, they just keep moving.

I have found many of my professional performing artist friends have found great success in the business world. Why? They know how to present themselves. Eye contact, body language, quick thinking, and tone of voice can many times win the job with a positive first impression. These are all skills honed in performing arts classrooms.

"They were interviewing several people but I got the job and started working the day I interviewed, which I believe was due in no small part to my confidence, poise, and body language gained from my training as a performer. The time I spent working in offices in New York was an extremely important step in my development and was greatly aided by the skills and experience I gained in my training as a performing musician."   Andrew Bidlack, international tenor, making his Metropolitan Opera debut February 2016

For students—or any of us—it’s often a fear of failure that keeps us from taking risks. Experience in a performing art program can help! Not a day goes by that I don’t encourage my students to take a chance on failure and to make mistakes. Big mistakes. Without apology. In the performing arts, we celebrate them! Through failure, students learn to recognize their mistakes, identify how they can be better actors, and then have the opportunity to make positive changes during each rehearsal. I also encourage my students to audition for everything they possibly can, understanding that they may not get the part. That way, they learn to handle disappointment when they don’t succeed and will feel absolutely ecstatic when they do.2019 SRTC BB v1 DPPs31

Listen To Our  Sanford Speaks Podcast About  Raising the Curtain on Performing Arts

Performing arts programs focusing on acting are not classes for great actors, or even just those involved in theater. They are for anyone who wants to become a more polished, confident, and dynamic speaker in front of people, whether in a classroom, one-on-one in a job interview, in front of hundreds at a conference, or behind the footlights of the main stage. At Sanford School, we offer a high-caliber performing arts program in which students experience music as both an academic discipline and an art form. The performing arts teachers share with students the joy of making music and performing for others. 

Clint Williams is the Chair of the Performing Arts program at Sanford School in Hockessin, DE, and Past-President of the Delaware Music Educators Association.


Topics: Arts