Smart Arts; PAHS Fine Arts Programs

March 13, 2023

Students involved in some sort of art program are four times as likely to be recognized for their academics and three times as likely to be recognized for their attendance, yet some programs are shrinking. Here at punxsutawney, we have several different art programs with many sub programs. Over 75% of our students are involved in at least one of these programs, yet their numbers are lower than ever.

At this school we offer art classes, music classes, dramatics, theater, band, and chorus. Many of these programs have an overwhelming amount of students in them, whereas others are lacking in numbers. Compared to other schools in the area, our offerings are quite abundant. We have a large variety from classes for beginners, to advanced classes, and our staff is working to keep that variety and hopefully get more students involved. 

Unfortunately, our program, like many others in the area, took a hit after the pandemic. Our numbers have significantly decreased in all classes and clubs within this department. But, the students aren’t giving up. 

They are rebuilding their program and thriving, doing the best they can while doing the thing they love. They are putting on shows, district band, district chorus, having concerts, participating in art contests, and most importantly participating in their extracurriculars. With a little more work, we can rebuild these programs and be overly successful. 

“Since the pandemic, we are working to rebuild our choir program a bit, but that is common across other programs. I am excited to see the growth in all performing groups every year,” Erin Knepper (music teacher at Punxsutawney High School) stated. 

In hopes to expose students early, Punxsutawney High School makes an effort to show their programs off as much as we can. This included both showing the other students and stuff, but also includes the public. For example, the students put in shows, musicals, concerts, some even travel outside our school auditorium. For example, the chorus students travel to our elementary school to perform. It shows younger students what they can do when they are older, gives them a chance for fun, and gives them something to look forward to in their future. 

“I think early exposure is important in creating both interest and excitement for participating in the arts. Early experience is important to help build the basic skill set that our students will then build upon as they grow. As a choir and theater director, I always try to take my performing groups to the elementary schools to introduce the younger students to what we will do at the high school. I find it creates anticipation for being involved in music when they get to the high school,” Knepper stated. 

Along with several groups of talented students, our staff is also well equipped to teach the students everything they need to be successful. Many of them have been doing their job for several years and teach several different classes to broaden the students’ horizons. This way, everyone can find something they enjoy, become interested, and eventually build our programs. 

“I think these programs are very beneficial to students who have an interest in the arts. There aren’t many opportunities for students to do things like this unless they are in these classes or clubs, so it’s the only chance our students get during the day to do something they like,” Breanna DeLarme ( PAHS junior involved in the arts) said. 

Although our school has many offerings, nothing is perfect, and improvements can always be made. For example, many students want to take one of these classes, but don’t have room in their schedule. This puts them in an uncomfortable situation because they have to take their required class instead of the class they want or would enjoy. Our administration is trying to improve this. Mr. Barbazzeni and our guidance counselors are doing their best, but there is always room to grow and compromises that must be made. 

“I feel like there are opportunities but they aren’t as expansive as they could be. There is more of a focus on sports and college after high school than there is in arts or anything to pursue in that area,” DeLarme stated. 

“I really wanted to take a film studies class, I’ve wanted to take it for the longest time, and it’s becoming a thing next year. I’m really excited for it,” Noah Greenblatt (outside source) stated. 

Oftentimes our programs will work with each other and create something beautiful. For instance, our music department may work with our arts department and put on a concert with gorgeous decorations. Or our arts department can help the dramatics club create props for their upcoming show. This not only creates a feeling of satisfaction, but it also builds teamwork and allows worlds to collide. Several teachers within our building take pride in events like this, our program is very involved with our school, and we all work together. 

“I think many students find their home at school in their extracurriculars like the arts, technology, and athletics. I am always most proud when these different activities work together to allow our students to explore different interests and become well-rounded humans,” Knepper said. 

When asked about the thoughts and feelings about the work of other students, many students responded that they enjoy the work of other students being shown around the school.

“I think it provides a good atmosphere within the school,” Greenblatt said. 

Many of our students have also been recognized for their work outside of our building. For example, Punxsutawney recently participated in the PMEA District 3 band festival, participants including Alex Momyer, Abby Smith, and Kylie Diem. Diem will move on due to placing first chair out of 31 participants, and will represent Punxsutawney at the 2023 Region band event. 

Several students also participated in PMEA District 3 chorus including Danielle Griebel, Ariah Drum, Charlee Meko, Natalie Miller, Kylie Diem, Aaliyah Anthony, Cody Pifer, Alex Deppen, Dylan Novella, and Dominic Johns. Several of them, including Griebel, Drum, Miller, Diem, Anthony, and Pifer, will advance to the regional level. Our art programs have also created a virtual art show, and students often share their work there or in the display cases around the school. 

Overall, our programs within the arts are thriving. They work with the school, give students a purpose, and allow everyone to take pride in their work. Students, staff, and administration work together in hopes to make these programs the best they can be. They can only improve and grow from here. 

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