“Is this a typical day at Mitty?
Yeah, it is,” says Doug Santana, Director
of Performing Arts at Mitty.
Outside of his office, connected to
the school’s band room, a collection
of student singers and instrumentalists
are running through music
together as if it’s rock band practice,
which it essentially is: They are in
Exodus, a liturgical rock band that
students audition for and take as an
official school course. School president
Tim Brosnan has run the class
for the past 20 years.
“I make the final decisions in terms
of what music we’re going to do, but in
terms of how we do it and how it should
be arranged, I give them a lot of leeway,”
Brosnan says of the band, which performs
at school liturgies, shows and other various
events in the Bay Area. “Because frankly,
most of them are better musicians than I
ever was at that age, for sure, and better
than I am now.”
Exodus is a perfect microcosm of sorts.
It mirrors the innovative initiatives in arts
education taking place not only at this
school, but also throughout the South Bay, where various private
schools are using the arts to redefine what it means to be “smart.”
While the Bay Area competitive environment has, in recent years,
62 South Bay Accent
boasted a reputation of increasingly intense competition, focusing
on traditional academic excellence as a pipeline to the country’s best
colleges, many local private schools recognize the limitations of that
noncreative, one-dimensional approach.
The concentration of STEM-heavy industries
in combination with a hyper-attention
to the admissions process for elite colleges
can result in a devaluing of arts education.
But that perspective is now being challenged.
A growing contingent of schools
foster and expand arts offerings in an attempt
to provide a more holistic learning
experience for students. One result is that
dance, music and other nonlinear activities
have begun to play a crucial role in many
kids’ lives; arts inform their development of
identity and generate new ways of thinking
about and succeeding in the world.
“It’s like a part of me. It’s like I can’t live
without music,” says Sean Lao, a senior at
Mitty who reluctantly joined the orchestra
for Mitty’s musical theater program in his
freshman year. He is now in his sixth show,
performing on stage as a fiddle player in
the school’s upcoming production of Steve
Martin and Edie Brickell’s “Bright Star.”
For many students, the arts provide a
real place of refuge in an era when, Brosnan
says, levels of anxiety for young people are
STATE of the ARTS
second grade students
performing “Little Red
paint in class.