Author: Bespflug, Kevin Sean
While musicals are often common arts activities in high schools in North America, little has been written about their place in elementary schools. This is surprising when many elementary schools, particularly independent schools, are starting to include them in their fine arts programming. This thesis looks carefully at the elementary school musical by first undertaking a review of literature connected to the staging of musicals. The research and writings of various theorists and educators are examined to determine whether or not a school musical can be an authentic, integrated performing arts experience for students. Two case studies of school musicals undertaken at a co-educational independent school for kindergarten to grade seven students in metropolitan Vancouver, Canada are then presented and described. The first of these involves children in kindergarten through grade four who participated in a musical written for them, Once Upon a Tale; the second of these involves children in grades five through seven who participated in a Broadway Junior production, Fiddler on the Roof. In each case, detailed reflections are given by the author, a teacher who was involved directly with each of these productions in varying capacities. Most importantly, this qualitative research gives voice to the participants directly involved with these school musicals, the students. Their open-ended questionnaire responses and observations are considered by the author; insights are then offered as connections are made between student comments and the literature. In particular, the issues of arts integration, entertainment, aesthetic awareness and artistic skills growth, personal growth, and community building are all examined. Ultimately, it is determined that in each case study the musical served as an authentic, integrated performing arts experience with benefits for both individual participants and the independent school community as a whole. These benefits included the growth of various students in their musical skills, artistic appreciation, and self confidence – and the building of a caring community through teamwork and appreciation for the talents of one another. Recommendations are then presented so that authentic musical productions might best be included as components of balanced arts programs at other elementary schools.
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Thesis advisor: Senyshyn, Yaroslav
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