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Performing arts magnet school to hold auditions

By Maria Jose Subiria

msubiria@news-daily.com

Hopeful students will attempt to own the spot light, as a local performing arts magnet school conducts auditions later this month.

The Clayton County Public Schools Fine Arts Magnet Program at Mt. Zion High School gives students a chance to study various disciplines in the arts and hone their arts-related skills on a deeper level. According to officials, it is the only, overall magnet program in Clayton County.

The program will hold auditions during the last week of February at the Clayton County Performing Arts Center, which is across the street from Mt. Zion High School. The school is located at 2530 Mt. Zion Pkwy, Jonesboro.

"[The] deadline for applications is Friday, Feb. 13, and once they're turned in, we will mail the parents back a letter stating the time and date of their child's audition," said Celeste Johnson, the county's school improvement specialist for fine art.

Students enrolled in the program attend basic academic courses at Mt. Zion High School, and the magnet courses are at the performing arts center.

Students in the program have a total of eight periods, and stay in school two hours longer than a regular student would.

"I have my regular classes at Mt. Zion High School, and I have two classes of dance, and one jazz class here [at the performing arts center]," said Javairia Coleman, a junior in the magnet program.

Johnson said when students finish their academic courses at Mt. Zion, they usually have to cross the street, and are escorted by the school's security officer to the performing arts center.

The magnet school includes seven basic arts strands: dance, vocal music, theater, band, orchestra, visual art and guitar, and also has a component in music technology.

According to Johnson, the most popular classes are dance, theater and guitar. She said there are 190 students, but that the program is expected to grow.

"We had auditions this November, and we had about 80 kids," Johnson said. "It was double what we had last year."

Students are allowed to join the program from all over the county, not just from schools in the Jonesboro area, Johnson said. "They audition from all over the county, and there are no district boundaries," she said. "Because this is a new concept for Clayton County, many [students] come to us with no experience at all, but with sheer potential."

However, Johnson added that there is some, minor level of proficiency expected from students who are interested in music and art, since these subjects are provided as an elective in most public middle and high schools.

Once a student is admitted into the magnet program, he or she must maintain a certain academic level to continue in the performing arts. "They have to maintain a 2.5 GPA, and no lower than a "B" in their magnet courses," Johnson said.

Interested students, according to Johnson, have a decent chance of admittance, because the school doesn't currently have to limit enrollment. "We are not limiting it as far as spacing, because the program is new, and we are expecting to take in about 150 to 200 students," she said.

The magnet program started two years ago, when Johnson was approached by Paul Robbins, executive director for fine arts in Clayton County. Robbins' vision, and Johnson's motivation resulted in the program's reality.

"I formed a magnet committee in 2006 ... and we put it together," Johnson said. "I presented the idea to the superintendent, cabinet and the Clayton County School Board. They agreed with our presentation, and the program was implemented in 2007."

Although the program is still fairly new, it is providing juniors and seniors with hands-on-experiences with university life, through various college tours and courses.

"We generally call and select universities that are open to our kids, and they participate, and attend classes with college instructors," Johnson said.

For many students in the program, performing is a way to, not only express themselves, but to have fun while learning. "I think it's [the magnet program] is better for people that want to achieve goals in performing," said Jesica West, a sophomore in vocal music. "When I come here, it's my favorite part of the day."