Every day, Seth Travaglino comes to work at Corbett Preparatory School in Tampa, prepared to change another student’s life. A teacher of performing arts, Travaglino has spent more than 15 years sharing his passion for the arts with his students and watching the flame ignite in them.
“I have had students that have been written off by everyone else, and we put them in a show and it turns their whole life around,” says Travaglino.
Studies have shown that kids who participate in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, two times more likely to read in their free time, and have a better attendance record, according to the National Arts Education Public Awareness Campaign. Travaglino hopes that parents embrace the arts for the improvements that they can make on your child’s education.
“Studies have proven that having music in your life can make a huge difference,” says Travaglino. “The amount of learning that increases when you add music to your learning is 80%, just with [how] the exposure to music affects your retention level.”.”
However, parents don’t always consider how to help their children become involved and inspired to join the arts.
“Life is a busy thing,” Travaglino admits “Parents know that their kids need to study and get ready for college and parents tend to gravitate toward academics and sports. But let your child try the arts because you never know what it will awaken in them.”
One way a parent can help their child get involved in the arts is by choosing a school with options for the student to pursue, such as drama, orchestra, band, chorus and art. At Corbett Prep, performing arts are part of the required daily curriculum. Every student at the school [Corbett Prep] gets to participate in eight different specials, including drama, music, dance and art. Corbett Prep also has a community school of the arts program which is available for kids who aren’t Corbett students. These children can take private acting, dancing, art, or music classes or opt for a group classes. A flourishing musical theatre program puts on two shows a year for all ages from kindergarten through high school.
If children are too busy during the school year, parents can check out summer camps that will help them grow their passion, or even discover an interest they may not know that they have. Travaglino says Corbett Prep offers Camp IDS, which has two musical theatre camps, music camps and drama camps for elementary, middle school and high school kids. Each musical theatre camp puts on a full scale production.
Parents who can’t afford camps for the arts or private schools, can look into scholarships and financial aid. “Don’t let money get in the way,” Travaglino says. “If there are things you want to try, get involved and talk to people and ask questions. Usually if it is just a money issue, people can find grants and scholarships to help your child get involved so don’t let that be a barrier.”
If your child is not sure that they want to commit to a program on a scholarship, take them to shows first.
“There are community groups everywhere that want to involve kids as much as possible,” Travaglino says. “There are free shows you can bring your child to. The community wants the opportunity for children. Continue to seek those opportunities.”
He also suggests scanning your local newspaper for free shows that your children can enjoy to expose them to the arts.
Your child may want to get involved but doesn’t know how or where to start, or even how to ask you about it, so make sure to be open and encouraging for them.
“Don’t be that stage mom and push too hard, but allow your child the opportunity to see what their interests can be. Allow them to play the instruments and to try things,” says Travaglino.
Another great way to encourage your kids is to help them think of creative ways to make costumes for shows or to help remind them of the things they learned in the arts programs when they face a challenge in their education elsewhere. For example, if a student is having a hard time with public speaking, remind them of how confident they feel on stage and it can help them think differently to achieve their goals.
Travaglino has seen his students transform before his eyes, and has seen their arts education manifest in other parts of their schooling.
“Theatre is the place where the child who gets in trouble in the classroom for not being able to stay on task, or the one who is labeled with ADHD, the kid who is labeled as the one who is not going to make it or is labeled as ‘that one’, is welcome,” Travaglino says “Those are the kids that an art or theatre teacher says ‘I’ll take them’ and it completely changes their life.”
Travaglino recalls one such student who was in constant trouble in every class. “He was in the office getting in trouble for something every single day,” he says. “We were doing a production of The Christmas Carol and I gave him the role of Scrooge. He got on that stage and all of the teachers who were teaching him for years and years saw him– teachers who loved him but didn’t know what to do with him because he was such a challenging kid to teach– but when they saw him on that stage it was just amazing to see what he could do. They were complimenting him so much and you could just see his shoulders perk up and his eyes lit up and he felt like he was finally good at something. That confidence changed who he was. That was eight years ago and teachers still come up to me and talk about how amazing that was.”
Whether your child is shy or outgoing, hyper or calm, challenging or simple, the arts can give them the confidence to be the adult that they need to be. With your encouragement and the right tools, the skills that they learn from the arts can change their lives.
“It is just believing in a kid and knowing they can do it,” Travaglino says. “We set the bar high and they will exceed it every time. The arts touch on what academics don’t, so it awakens that part of the child. It can really help make a transformation in the kids.”