Professional Performing Arts School

Professional Performing Arts School


School Description

"Professional Performing Arts School (PPAS) is committed to nurturing each student's passion for the performing arts and thirst for knowledge by providing a safe, supportive community that inspires lifelong learning and a commitment to social change. PPAS was created in 1990 to meet the needs of two groups of students, those who wanted to pursue professional work in the arts and those who wanted to study the arts as an avocation. The curriculum offers students in grades six through twelve a unique opportunity to study the performing arts with working artists. PPAS students follow a daily schedule of rigorous academic work at school each morning and intensive performing arts instruction at professional studios each afternoon. Partnerships include the Ailey School for dance, Harlem School of the Arts for instrumental and vocal music, the Actors Institute for drama and musical theater, and by special arrangement, the School of American Ballet."

Contact Information


Principal: Keith Ryan-

Additional ETA Contact: Chuck Vassallo, Assistant Principal-

Four-Year Plan Goals

Goal One: (Years 1&2) To develop and implement a codified and annual calendar of performances that reflects the work of the drama and musical theater (MT) program, and guarantees all students an opportunity to perform at least once a year.

Goal Two: (Years 1&2) To modify our assessment tools across all performing arts programs so that there is more common language and identifiable school-wide expectations regardless of the major study (dance, drama, musical theater, vocal).  The expectation will be related to students’ professionalism and character while engaged in their major of study.

Goal Three: (Years 3&4) To develop a professional theater experience for PPAS students in all performing arts programs including professional level lighting, sound, set shop, costume shop and staging.

Goal Four: (Years 3&4) To implement arts based units in grades ten, eleven and twelve humanities classes that combine performing arts elements that help enrich understanding of text and/or topics in English Language Arts and social studies topics.


Goal One: Prior to ETA partnership, many PPAS students in the drama and musical theater programs did not participate in a performance event open to their families and the public in their entire four years of school.  They wanted all students to have an opportunity to perform.  Learning dramatic theatrical and singing skills in the classroom remained the priority, but specific performance targets increase the motivation of the students.  For students there is a degree of credibility linked to performance.  Such credibility enhances their overall connection to the essential skill-building work of the classrooms.  The goal was to produce performances open to the public for each of the four levels in the drama and musical theater program.  The performances were integrated into the curriculum as a required activity at each level. ETA support was used to hire the necessary production support (directors, stage managers, technicians, etc.) needed to mount an increased number of performances in a year while the budget was reorganized and additional partner organization structure was solidified. This goal was completed and exceeded by the end of Year Two

Goal Two: This work was intended to identify common school-wide standards across the majors and modify assessments so that these common standards are reflected in progress reports and report cards.  This modification was designed to enrich the whole-community environment and promote better communication and shared learning experiences across arts disciplines and academics. The common standards were in the area of professionalism and character. ETA Support was used to pay for professional development from professionals in a variety of arts disciplines around assessment practices and non-cognitive skills in the different disciplines. This work is on-going, but the ETA funded portion of it was completed by the end of Year Two.

Goal Three: Once Goal One was completed and the school was able to absorb the cost of providing a performance opportunity for every student at least once a year, PPAS adopted Goal Three to develop the capacity to assure that the productions are of high quality. They identified two areas that were important regarding the quality of the productions available to all students: the ability for staff and selected students to provide expert support in their use and direction of the technical aspects of the theater spaces and the professional usefulness of its performance spaces and scene shop .  This required additional staff and selected students to be trained in the areas of sound, lighting, set building/design, and costuming. ETA also supported the purchase of tools and equipment to build out the theater scene shop.

Goal Four: The PPAS academic program combines the core subjects of English language arts and social studies into a blocked class called ‘humanities.’  Humanities classes blend ELA and historical topics in order to deepen the understandings of both subjects through the lens of the other. There were several cross-curricular subjects studied in both the humanities and the drama program like Shakespeare and presentation skills.  School leadership observed that the skill the drama teachers bring to the class leads to the best reading of text that their students demonstrate.  Providing training in such skill from a dramatic perspective to the humanities teachers increased their ability to help students to a deeper understanding of both sides of the subjects. ETA support paid for visiting artists to conduct professional development sessions for humanities teachers as well direct instruction in the classroom that supported the unit and provided additional professional development for the teacher.

Arts Partnerships

PPAS worked most closely with the theatre education department at Waterwell on much of the work of all their goals. Other partners include Rosie's Theatre Kids and National Chorale.

Sustainability Plan

Goal One: While the initial work of building out the performance capacity was happening, school leadership worked to make adjustments to the budget to accommodate the additional performance productions on a yearly basis. The Assistant Principal of Performing Arts was assigned a specific leadership role in the oversight of the program and its alignment with performance opportunities.

Goal Two: The school made the review of the standardized component a regular agenda on teaching team meetings.  Continued meetings and any relevant PD were funded by Department of Education school funds, either directly to staff in the form of per session or to teaching artists through partnership budgets. The AP of Performing Arts was given oversight of the standard component, and assures that it remains a priority.

Goal Three: The intent of the professional development was to provide in-house expertise for several technical production skills that could be turn keyed to new teachers and artists to the performance process. Material purchases were selected with an eye toward equipment that will last and be useful for the foreseeable future.

Goal Four: A project assessment and modification plan was created that included post project meetings across the participating grades for debrief and planning for the next iterations. Lessons were then solidified and incorporated into the curriculums.