Not even a fire alarm could silence the students of CAPA 6-12 on the night of Nov. 28, as they gathered on the sidewalk outside their school after a fire alarm interrupted their performance, the group of students from Pittsburgh’s creative and performing arts school lifted their voices for a spirited rendition of John Mayer’s “Waiting on the World to Change.”
The song matched the tone of the evening’s event, aimed at increasing awareness of possible budget cuts facing the school. Titled “Honoring CAPA’s Legacy: Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow?,” the event featured adjunct teachers and students past and present to showcase the school’s strengths and the impact it has had on the Pittsburgh region and beyond.
“CAPA, this jewel of the public school system is under threat in the form of cuts to its arts program,” said radio personality Lynn Cullen, who served as the event’s host. “So prepare yourself for the most creative cry for help you’re ever going to hear.”
Under the Pittsburgh Public School District’s 2012 budget proposal, CAPA could lose $550,000 of its $7.7 million budget. The proposal calls for the elimination of as many at 22 adjunct teaching positions in the school’s arts department.
“As my colleagues and I traveled across the country and researched various institutions around the world, we became convinced that in order to mount a successful arts program, the instructional system must include experienced dedicated community based teachers in each of the arts disciplines,” said Neal Hughley, former principal of Rogers Middle School for Creative and Performing Arts, which has since been merged with the CAPA High School. “This is the role of the adjunct teacher.”
CAPA provides arts education in the areas of dance, literary arts, vocal music, visual arts, instrumental music, and theatre, which also includes musical theatre, technical theatre and costume design. Adjunct teachers are primarily responsible for the school’s afternoon arts education, often providing private lessons to students.
“In the long run, the district will lose more dollars than it saves and it will seriously put at risk, the investment made in establishing the well-conceived creative and performing arts school,” Hughley said.
Among the students singing outside the school, when a fire alarm interrupted the performance three numbers in, was 6th grader Cheyenne Springer. Springer was also one of the 6-8 theatre students who performed in the show’s opening act “Our Time Now.”
“I think this issue is important because so many people love our school and our teachers do so much for us,” Springer said. “We learn from their experiences as professionals in the arts. It feels like it’s a really big family.”
Just prior to the fire alarm, the 9-12 musical theatre department had finished a performance of “Journey to Moscow” from the musical “Anna Karenina,” wearing costumes created by the CAPA’s costume department. On Nov. 22, the Pittsburgh School Board voted to approve the elimination of the school’s costume department.
In 2003, CAPA moved to its Downtown location after nearly a quarter century in Homewood. This move brought an increase in students from outside of the city who must meet the same admittance requirements to the school and pay tuition which should have produced more income for the school.