Spotlight on the Performing Arts

By Anabela Mok 2022-01-11 17:56:02

Let’s find out what some of the city’s top schools are offering students in the performing arts and how some of these students thrive.


Concordia International School Shanghai

Meg Ideker, HS Choir Director and Fine Arts Department Lead


How would you describe your schools’ performing arts programme?

Concordia International School has a comprehensive, robust and extremely active performing arts programme. From middle school to high school, we offer seven bands, eight choirs, and five string orchestras, as well as an AP Music Theory course as part of our music curriculum. Our co-curricular offerings include two bands and four choirs in addition to the Tri-M Music Honors Society, and involvement in annual APAC and AMIS festivals. Additionally, we perform 16 major concerts annually.

Theatre offerings include exploratory courses in acting and stage craft in middle school, and courses that cover acting, directing, technical theatre, stage craft and play writing in high school. Each year our high school puts on a fall play and there are annual musicals performed in both middle and high school. In addition to participation in APAC Theatre festival, our high school students may also join the International Thespian Honor Society.



What opportunities does your school offer for students who are into the performing arts?

Look at the impressive list of courses and co-curricular activities above! Concordia offers a fully articulated music program for our students, beginning in Grade 5 through to Grade 12. Each discipline: band, choir and strings, are fully developed for students to work their way up through the program by grade level and by ability. We offer both auditioned and non-auditioned ensembles during the school day as part of our regular curriculum. In addition to this, we offer co-curricular ensembles before and after school for additional experience. All students in each ensemble perform in 3-4 major concerts per year.

Theatre students are involved in exploratory classes in middle school, and in-depth theatre study in high school. Thespians can be involved in age appropriate shows: the middle school musical, the high school play or the high school musical. All are offered annually.

At what grade do students begin performing arts?

Students begin performing arts classes in Grade 5. Because Concordia believes in comprehensive and holistic education, all middle school students are required to take music from Grades 5-8. Students choose to be in either band, choir or strings. Student musicians rehearse in an ensemble all year long performing in 3-4 major concerts annually by discipline.

Theatre is required for all students in Grades 5-6. Elective theatre courses are offered from Grades 7-12.



How does your performing arts cater to the different ages and interests of students at your school?

Concordia offers the most extensive and articulated music and theatre program in Shanghai. We have the most curricular music ensembles and the most performances, annually. This is an intentional, holistic performing arts curriculum offered to our talented students.

Address: 999 Mingyue Road, Jinqiao, Pudong New Area


British International School Shanghai

Caitlin, Year 12 student


Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested with the performing arts

Hi! I’m Caitlin and I’ve always been a performer, but my love truly blossomed in Year 4 during our Juilliard-based workshops and the lights, music and energy of the performing arts lured me in.

What opportunities does your school offer you?

Where to begin? I’ve had the pleasure to perform in musicals with talented casts, in plays with those learning alongside me, to travel to other schools to sing with the school choir, and to learn from Juilliard coaches and our teachers in drama, dance and music. It’s truly incredible what we are able to do at school.

How do you balance your love for music and drama?, Do you find performing arts helpful to your academic pursuits?

My music, dance and drama overlap a lot, mostly because we do musicals so there’s always the need to use each discipline. I love the way the arts are able to free my soul and release passion. The arts are a great release from the pressures of everyday life. I learn so much from drama on how to organise my time and to perform with confidence – this also helps me in my academic life.

How do you feel your school has helped you grow as a performer?

I have learnt not just to act but to analyse and direct. We develop technical skills and are regularly given chances to act in front of camera. The teachers are kind and always willing to help. The experience and ability to learn every aspect of my art is thrilling and so helpful!

Address: 111 Jinguang Road, Huacao Town, 
Minhang District
Tel: 6221 7542


Wellington College International Shanghai

Michael Larsen-Disney, Director of Arts


How would you describe your schools’ performing arts programme?

Wellington’s performing arts programme encompasses drama, music and dance. Our teachers are accomplished practitioners in their fields. State-of-the-art facilities ensure that our pupils enjoy endless opportunities to tap into their creative potential.

What opportunities does your school offer for students who are into the performing arts?
Whether it is our dance showcases, our termly music concert series, our annual pantomime, our play series or our Senior, Lower Prep and Upper Prep school musicals, Wellington pupils have opportunities to participate in many performances throughout the year. They may also get involved in the production and technical aspects of our performances. Off-stage, musicians may avail themselves of paid one-on-one instruction in a wide variety of musical instruments. Additionally, pupils who demonstrate exceptional talent may be eligible for an Arts Scholarship.


At what grade do students begin performing arts?
We believe that a complementary arts education is a fundamental must for a child’s development. Our performing arts curriculum aims to make pupils more creative, confident, communicative and empathetic. There is no age that is too early to begin teaching these invaluable skills. This is why we provide specialist classes in drama, dance, music and fine art from Year 1 up.

How does your performing arts cater to the different ages and interests of students at your school?
We encourge full participation in the arts through both our curricular and co-curricular programmes. Our course content is age-appropriate and accommodates a wide range of skill levels, from the novice to the aspiring professional. Whether a pupil wants to play drums in a rock band, study ballet or be the lead in a play or musical, we offer something for everybody.


Asia, Year 11 student

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested with the performing arts

My name is Asia. I joined Wellington last year. I have been interested in the performing arts since I was very young and have always dreamed of one day becoming a performer in that area. It was very recently (ever since I started at Wellington) that I decided to pursue musical theatre specifically. When I am not performing, I spend my time composing music.

What opportunities does your school offer you?

Wellington offers countless opportunities to improve and showcase our talents in the performing arts. I take drama and music and attend the dance CCA (co-curricular activity). I am part of the orchestra, the choir and the musical (this year it is The Wiz). I also take singing, piano lessons and attend Centre Stage here, thanks to my performing arts and music scholarships. The choir and orchestra give me the opportunity to collaborate with my peers through music and teach me how to be part of an ensemble. The senior school musical provides a healthy bit of competition during auditions. My music lessons not only give me the opportunity to improve my skills in singing and piano but also are extremely fun. The dance CCA gives me the opportunity to learn to dance and I believe I have improved a great deal since I have started. Finally, Centre Stage is extremely fun and instructive. It is the highlight of my weekends.

How do you balance your love for music and drama? Do you find performing arts helpful to your academic pursuits?

I take both drama and music and have not as yet found it difficult to balance my love for both. They are both taught by amazing teachers, and their respective co-curricular activities never conflict in my schedule. I think the subjects complement each other, considering my goal to become a musical theatre actress. Drama teaches me to act and music teaches me to sing. Unfortunately, I cannot study both for IB, so picking one will be extremely difficult.

Music and drama help me with my academic pursuits as well. Drama has taught me to be more outspoken in class and has helped me build confidence to tackle challenging subjects. I believe music has helped me become more open-minded and creative, which helps me in many other subjects.

How do you feel your school has helped you grow as a performer?

I have seen great improvements in my performing abilities since I started at Wellington. My teachers have encouraged me to develop a good stage presence, and this has greatly increased the standards of my performances. Drama has greatly improved my acting skills, and I now find it much easier to inhabit different characters. Wellington constantly challenges me to improve as a performer and one of the greatest lessons I have learned here has been that performing is not only about the quality of the sound that comes from your voice or instrument, it is about the way you sell it to an audience.

Address: 1500 Yaolong Road, Pudong New Area
Tel: 5185 3885


Shanghai American School

Dr Doug Hundley, Theatre Director, 
Shanghai American School Puxi Campus

How would you describe your schools’ performing arts programme?

Our thriving program of theatre, dance, and music goes far beyond performance. SAS students use their talents to improve the lives of others through a focus on service, support of migrant schools and local hospitals, and visits to community centres.

What opportunities does your school offer for students who are into the performing arts?

On a typical day in the life of a performing arts student, they’re learning and performing in at least one of our theatre, music, or dance classes. After school, our co-curricular performing program offers something for everybody, whether one is just dabbling or an expert. Students can participate in at least five different theatre productions, three dance productions, and multi-school APAC festivals during the year. And with band, orchestra, choir, and jazz ensembles, I can’t count how many performance opportunities students have in music.

At what grade do students begin performing arts?

Even before they start school, children are play-acting, dancing, and singing at home, so there is no reason to have them wait once they get to SAS. They get right into it at the earliest of grades. The elementary school does such a fantastic job introducing students to the magic of performing through classes and after-school activities. By the time students get to middle and high school, they have developed a focus and are confident, experienced, and loving their craft.

How does your performing arts cater to the different ages and interests of students at your school?

Our vast course offering empowers students of any age to immerse themselves in any area of performance that sparks their interest. For example, newer courses like Audio Production and Music Technology enable students to compose and record music-related projects in a professional studio setting.

Address: 258 Jinfeng Road, Minhang District


Yew Chung International School

Cherry Chen, Performance & CCAs 
Co-ordinator, ECE and Primary at YCIS Puxi

How would you describe your schools’ performing arts programme?

YCIS Shanghai’s comprehensive performing arts programme is dynamic and fun and sparks curiosity in our children. It begins with musical exploration in Early Childhood Education (ECE), followed by a violin programme for Year 1–3 students, a Co-Curricular Activity (CCA) programme, and an In-school Individual Instrumental Programme (IIP).

At YCIS Puxi Primary, the CCA programme offers more than 60 options weekly, 15 of which are performing arts-based. IIIP is an additional private musical instrument programme open to all YCIS students from K3–Y13. These one-on-one lessons are scheduled during the school day or after school, depending on the desired instrument, the preferred time, and instructor availability.

What opportunities does your school offer for students who are into the performing arts?

Each year, YCIS Puxi holds seasonal performing art events, such as the ‘Art & Music Mosaic’, which takes place near Christmas. Additionally, our Year 5 and 6 students have their school musical production in April. The Years 1–3 violin concert and the Summer Gala both take place in May. We hold most of these events in a theatre with formal arrangements and professional equipment. Over 250 Primary students participate in various roles, including being members of the orchestra and choir, dancers, soloists, MCs, and more. The violin concert provides an opportunity for every Lower Primary student to show their skills on stage.

These large-scale events are often highlights of the school year and regularly receive strong support from our school leadership and families. Students show enthusiasm in performing on stage. They build confidence, teamwork experience, friendships, and heightened artistic awareness.

At what grade do students begin performing arts?

Our Early Childhood Education (ECE) students begin their violin journey in K4, and formal violin instruction starts in Year 1. Students in Years 1–3 partake in violin lessons twice a week. There are three full-time violin teachers on campus in Puxi and two in Pudong. The dedicated teachers provide a new, fun, and challenging musical environment for students. Children discover an interest in various string instruments, and many continue their journey in the Primary orchestra or ensemble after completing the violin course.

How does your performing arts cater to the different ages and interests of students at your school?

In Primary, our 60+ CCAs fall under categories including STEAM, Sports, Health & Wellbeing, Language & Culture, and Performing Arts. Children aged 5–11 can find performance activities that may interest them, such as ballroom, hip hop, pop, Chinese, and ballet dancing, drama and musical training, acapella, and Orff Schulwerk music and movement.


Lucas, Year 11 student at YCIS Pudong

Tell us a little about yourself and how you became interested with the performing arts

Since I was young, I became very interested in instruments, particularly the drums. I have now been playing the drums for around seven years. Every time I play, I manage to impress myself. In Brazil, I took drum lessons, but I had very few performance opportunities. When I moved to Shanghai and YCIS Pudong in 2017, everything changed. I had many different bands to join with my classmates, such as the Stage and Show Band, Senior Jazz band, Rock Band, and the percussion ensemble. I also had the fantastic opportunity to perform live on numerous occasions. Ever since my ‘student career’ as a musician switched from simply learning an instrument to playing in bands and performing, my interest in performing arts has grown and consistently continues to do so.

What opportunities does your school offer you?

YCIS Pudong offers me the opportunity to perform in multiple bands and diverse locations. I had never done this before, and it is something I always relish doing. The school has provided me with the resources to explore a whole different part of music through performing, helping me to grow as a musician. Back in Brazil, my musical practice revolved around learning techniques or how to play different songs. However, once I came to YCIS, my practice shifted to incorporate the skills needed for performance and being a band member. This process includes not only playing but also listening and responding to other instruments according to musical changes.


How do you balance your love for music and your other school work? Do you find performing arts helpful to your academic pursuits?

To balance my love for music and my academic commitments, I participate in performing arts activities Monday through Wednesday after school. Meanwhile, on Thursday, Friday, and over the weekend, I focus on academics. Music relaxes me, and it has helped me to balance academic-related assessments. Performing in different scenarios means we sometimes find ourselves outside of our comfort zones. After joining the performing arts CCAs, I can now concentrate more and panic less in exams. These experiences have helped me to feel more accomplished as a musician and also as a student.

How do you feel your school has helped you grow as a performer?

The school has aided me to grow as a performer by giving me many opportunities to join different bands and to perform in different scenarios, which sometimes are out of our comfort zones, ultimately making us grow more as musicians as we often reflect on these experiences.


YCIS Puxi ECE (Ronghua) Campus: 59 Ronghua Xi Dao, Puxi; 
YCIS Puxi Primary (Hongqiao) Campus: 11 Shuicheng Road, Puxi;
YCIS Puxi Secondary (Gubei) Campus: 18 Ronghua Xi Dao, Puxi; 
YCIS Pudong Regency Park Campus: 1817 Huamu Road, Pudong; 
YCIS Pudong Century Park Campus: 1433 Dongxiu Road, Pudong;
Tel: 2226 7666