Professional Performing Arts High School
MANHATTAN NY 10036 Map
Professional Performing Arts High School
The Professional Performing Arts School was founded in 1990 as a way to give aspiring actors, dancers, and singers the technical skills they need to become professional performers and the academic skills they need in whatever career they choose. Students receive first-rate training from professional studios and companies, including the Ailey School for dance, Rosie’s Theater Kids for musical theater, the National Chorale for voice and Waterwell for drama.
Recent graduates include singer Alicia Keys, Lee Thompson Young (star of the television series "The Famous Jett Jackson") and Jesse Eisenberg (star of “The Social Network”). Graduates also include Victor Rasuk (HBO's "How to Make It"), Justin Davis (HBO's "Boardwalk Empire) and Sarah Hyland ("Modern Family").
It's a small school where, it seems, no one gets lost. Principal Keith Ryan knows every child by name and is a visible presence in the halls and classrooms. “All the kids like him a lot,” one mother said. The school keeps tabs on students to make sure they do their homework and don’t skip school. Students are chosen according to their artistic talent, not their academic record, and there is a wide range of academic abilities in each class. Teachers do their best to ensure all children get the help and challenge they need.
Serving 500 children in grades 6 to 12, PPAS has a tiny middle school, with just 75 kids, 25 each in grades 6, 7 and 8. All middle school students study drama, singing, and dancing in addition to taking a full academic load.
High school students have academic classes from 8:30 a.m. to 1:15 p.m., followed by two hours of their major: drama, vocal, dance or musical theater (which combines acting, dancing and singing). Acting and vocal are offered in the building, dancers travel to the Ailey School on West 55th Street, and musical theater majors go to Rosie’s Theater Kids a few blocks away. The school contracts with Waterwell, a professional theater company that produce original plays, to teach PPAS students acting. Some students study at the School of American Ballet or Julliard’s Pre-Collegiate program in classical instrumental or vocal music.
PPAS shares a building with a successful elementary school, Midtown West. The 100-year-old building is clean and the rooms are airy, with a new library, a renovated auditorium and a black box theater. The science labs are also new and brightly lit. There are no bells and bathrooms are open. Students in grades 8-12 may leave the building for lunch. The atmosphere is joyful if occasionally boisterous; class changes are noisy.
While the academics are solid, class size has grown in recent years. In the high school, most classes have 34 students. High school seniors often have a light academic load, partly because the school has limited upper-level offerings and partly because some seniors prefer to have free time once they have finished the minimum requirements for graduation. Some seniors only take history and English as academic courses. The school offers Advanced Placement classes in biology and literature. A few advanced students take college courses at Hunter, John Jay and New York University. Students we spoke to said they had one to two hours of homework a night.
About five percent of the students are already working in film, television or theater productions, both on and off Broadway. The school makes accommodations for them with a flexible schedule to ensure they keep up with their school work. The school is more than 70 percent female.
Special education: The school has two special education teachers. Only 25 students have IEPs, but nearly 100 take advantage of tutoring and extra help offered by community volunteers, peer tutors and the special education teachers.
College admissions: About 75 percent of graduates continue their studies in the performing arts either in 4-year colleges or conservatory programs such as Julliard or Berklee College of Music. Top students have been admitted to colleges such as Columbia, New York University, Oberlin, Carnegie-Mellon, Cornell and Northwestern.
Admissions: There are regular tours for prospective parents; there is an evening "showcase" and information session in October. Call the parent coordinator for details. Auditions are scheduled in November and December. (Clara Hemphill, October 2011)