In a world where STEM reigns supreme, have we lost sight of the benefits of creative arts – and, in particular, the school musical? haven magazine spoke to high-school student Michael Nixon, who is a passionate participant in his school’s musical program, but also keeps busy as the CEO of his very own extra-curricular STEM program, EduKits International.
1. First up, tell us a bit about EduKits International?
Outside of school I run a business called Edukits International. I created this business three years ago to share my passion for technology and to help kids, especially those from regional areas, learn about and explore new technologies. Through my business I have been able to run workshops for kids teaching them about 3D printing, coding, and electronics. In addition to the workshops I have also developed a STEM learning kit for kids called The Amazing Annoyatron. My product is stocked across the country in Australian Geographic stores and also has sold to kids from my website in 15 countries across the globe.
2. How long have you been participating in your school’s musicals, and how many musicals have you been in in total?
I’ve keenly participated in our musicals since my induction to the school in Year 7. This makes for a total of four musicals I’ve been in. At our school, the musicals aren’t mandatory. You can watch this short clip I made for our last school musical, ‘Seussical the Musical’, right here.
3. Are school musicals popular amongst your peers?
Our annual school production is probably the most popular extra-curricular activity that is offered. Preparation spans two terms and involves actors, dancers, singers, musicians and audio-visual technicians, all of whom are students. Part of its allure to many new students, I’m sure, comes from its appearance to the primary schools in our local area. Younger students are exposed to the musicals sometimes from as young as Year 3, which means they are already familiar with the program when they arrive in Year 7. Each year, we have around 150-200 staff and students involved in our productions. It’s not just performing, either. Staff and students direct the shows, manage the stage, design and operate sound and lighting installations and construct impressive sets. It’s also just exciting to be part of a show that people love coming to watch. Over nine shows last year, we had only three tickets left unsold.
4. What do you think are some of the benefits you’ve experienced having participated in so many musicals?
The biggest skill I’ve developed in my years of musical performance has been the ability to improvise live. It’s not uncommon (especially in high school productions) for actors to forget their lines, and it’s important for a cast to be able to work together to get the cart back on the road when this happens. Dealing with complicated situations on the fly? That’s certainly a skill that can find application well beyond the curtains of the stage.
5. Having participated in both STEM-based activities and musicals, do you feel that musicals are just as valuable as any other kind of extra-curricular activity?
STEM education and associated activities have become quite notorious as of late in the education sphere. It seems to be the buzzword of the moment, and teachers are rushing to be able to say that they’ve implemented it into their classrooms. However, one of the problems that has come out of this is that up to three quarters of those teaching STEM are unqualified to do so. It doesn’t help that many students don’t care about STEM. This means that, in many cases, it’s being forced down the unwilling throats of students by people who don’t know what they’re doing.
Musicals, on the other hand, have a reputation for inclusivity. There is a certain desire inside of everyone to express themselves. You don’t have to have any skills to get involved; the process of being in a musical from the first line-reading to the final curtain-call is a learning experience in itself. Certainly, at my own school, the musical is extremely valuable. But that’s partly because people have the opportunity to choose to do it – unlike STEM, they decide for themselves.
6. Finally, what do you love most about being in school musicals?
The atmosphere is really what I love most about being in a school musical. People are working together on a massive scale, and it’s so very satisfying to see the way everything comes together. It’s simply a thrilling journey to be on.
Still not convinced about the power of school musicals? Be sure to catch Coomera Anglican College’s production of ‘Oliver’ before it wraps up this Saturday, or do a simple Google to see which schools are putting on musicals in your area.