Governor's School for the Arts

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For the school in Kentucky, see Governor's School for the Arts (Kentucky).

Coordinates: 36°53′15″N 76°18′44″W / 36.887611°N 76.312278°W / 36.887611; -76.312278

The Governor's School for the Arts
254 Granby Street
Norfolk, Virginia 23510
United States
School type Public, Regional Secondary Arts School
Founded 1987
School district Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton County, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach
Grades 9-12
Enrollment 355
Programs Dance, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Instrumental Music, Visual Arts, and Vocal Music

The Governor's School for the Arts is a regional secondary arts school sponsored by the Virginia Department of Education and the public school divisions of Chesapeake, Franklin, Isle of Wight County, Norfolk, Portsmouth, Southampton County, Suffolk, and Virginia Beach. It is one of nineteen specialized Virginia public schools designated as "Governor’s Schools" whose mission is to provide intensive educational opportunities for identified gifted students.

Participants in the program take academic classes at their community high schools during the day and attend the arts school in the afternoon during the school year. There are no tuition fees and transportation is provided.

The programs of the Governor’s School for the Arts are housed in facilities in the City of Norfolk. The School is currently renovating the old Monroe Building on Granby Street in downtown for relocation in August 2013.


The Dance Department is located at TRDance Center in Norfolk. A wide variety of dance styles are offered to the students of the dance department including ballet, modern, jazz, etc. The dancers perform three times a year including a cooperative performance with the Virginia Stage Company, along with their annual performances, the dance department is responsible for hosting the regional high school dance festival every other year.


The program, with an average membership of fifty students, is housed in the Monroe Building/ Wells Theatre complex, home of the Virginia Stage Company. A flexible black-box theatre, located in the complex, serves as the principal producing space for the theatre program.

Students have the opportunity to work in the Wells Theatre, one of the most architecturally beautiful and theatrically functional theatres of its kind outside of New York; it closely resembles Broadway's Helen Hays Theatre. Instruction takes place in well-equipped classrooms, studios, and rehearsal space, and students receive hands-on experience with state-of-the-art computer lighting and sound equipment.

The department produces three mainstage and several workshop productions per year. Students have the opportunity to train and perform with professional theatre artists and visiting faculty from university theatre departments. Internships with Virginia Stage Company (LORT C) are available for selected students.

In terms of curriculum, the Theatre dept. offers hands-on performance experience in a variety of dramatic styles and periods, ranging from Classical Greek to Shakespeare, Commedia dell'arte and contemporary American writing, including on-camera work and screen material. Moreover, students are offered the necessary training to support the demands of heightened language and stylized material, preparing them for auditions at the collegiate level. Perhaps most importantly, students benefit from the opportunity to rehearse and perform material that is unavailable in a typical secondary school setting, not to mention the local area. Productions of note include 'Heathen Valley,' 'The Wrestling Season,' 'The Cripple of Inishmaan,' 'The Laramie Project,' and original student work focused on contemporary issues and civil rights.

Musical Theatre[edit]

The Musical Theatre Department is the most competitive and also the smallest department at the Governor's School for the Arts. The department consists of roughly 30 students with an equal male to female ratio. The program is designed to prepare students for professional careers in musical theatre, music/recording, television, film, and popular live performance venues such as Broadway, theme parks, cruise ships, and cabaret.

In Dance, students are grouped according to ability from beginner to intermediate to advanced. All Musical Theatre students take regular classes in ballet, jazz, tap, and hip hop. Vocal coaching focuses on the fundamentals of vocal production, classical literature, musical theatre literature, and also explores the correct and safe execution of the BELT/POP voice along with the development of the legit voice. The Acting element attempts to break down any barriers or walls that may exist and help the performer to be more relaxed and confident in the stage environment. The differences between film/television acting and stage acting are discussed and practiced. Monologues and scene work contribute to an advanced refinement of song interpretation and communication.

Instrumental music[edit]

With an average enrollment of 80 students, the instrumental music program is one of the largest of the GSA departments. The program offers professional training and a wide variety of performance experience to classical and jazz performers including those interested in conducting, composition and audio engineering.

After spending the morning in classes at their area public high school, instrumental music students are given three hours of intensive training each weekday afternoon in many facets of music including chamber music / jazz combos, sight singing, ear training, eurhythmics, keyboard skills, literature, improvisation, theory, composition, classes in the latest computer technology related to music, audio recording (Pro Tools), sectionals, music business, audition preparation, performance classes and ensembles such as the Big Band, and the Symphony Orchestra. All classes take place within the flourishing musical and academic environment of our downtown Norfolk campus, which includes the Virginia Arts Festival and Todd Rosenlieb Dance.

Governor's School instructors are some of the area's finest performers and educators including members of the Virginia Symphony, faculty of Old Dominion University, administrators of the Virginia Arts Festival and a collection of experience from all facets of musical life in Hampton Roads and beyond.

Graduates of the Instrumental Music Department that choose music as their profession have continued their studies at some of the top music universities and conservatories in the world including the Eastman School of Music, Rice University, the Juilliard School,the Cleveland Institute of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Manhattan School of Music. Students of GSA have spent their summers studying at the most prestigious music festivals such as the Meadowmount School of Music, Aspen Music Festival, Tanglewood, the Encore School for Strings, the National Repertory Orchestra and the National Orchestral Institute.

Graduates occupy positions throughout the music world including positions with leading orchestras such as the Boston Symphony and Saint Louis Symphony, seats in the orchestras of Broadway shows, recording contracts with the thriving record industry in Nashville and New York as performers and engineers, and teaching positions at universities and arts schools all over the United States. Graduates not majoring in music have had equal amount of success in their chosen field, crediting music study as one of the driving elements being their success and lifelong happiness.

Visual arts[edit]

The visual arts department encourages in-depth exploration and research in an array of studio courses in the field of printmaking, painting, photography, computer imaging, video imaging additive, subtractive, and constructed sculpture (as well as welding), design, and other areas such as medical illustration and fashion design. Additionally, students take continuing drawing and art history classes as well as classes which focus on conceptualization, analysis, and criticism.

The schedule for Visual Arts students is based around two-hour elective studios which are taken daily, along with either art history, concepts and criticism. Each student chooses two elective studios from a variety offered each nine weeks. Portfolio development is an integral part of the visual arts program. With guidance from the department chair, students select two electives for each of the four nine-week grading periods. In addition to the typical electives, advanced students may apply for independent study in a particular area.

Vocal music[edit]

The Vocal Music Department has an annual total enrollment of 30-40 9th-12th grade vocal students. The Vocal Music Department offers in-depth, comprehensive training in all aspects of music, from theory to applied voice. It is classically based and designed for the serious student who has aspirations of singing classical music and opera.

Students perform solo and ensemble roles in student productions, and learn vocal repertoire in opera, operetta, art song, and legitimate musical theatre as well as small- and large-scale choral works. Solo singing is encouraged and expected of all students.

The Vocal Music program provides serious students with intensive focused training which is designed to carefully develop the maturing voice. The program instructs students in all aspects of vocal music and fosters the formation of habits which enable them to use their vocal instruments to the fullest.

To augment this instructional program, Vocal music students have the opportunities to attend professional opera performances and meet the performers - such as Plácido Domingo, Dawn Upshaw, Denyce Graves and Mirella Freni. Recent trips include those productions of the Virginia Opera, the Washington Opera, the New York City Opera, Russia's Kirov Opera, and the Metropolitan Opera. Additionally, Vocal and Instrumental students have traveled and performed outside the United States in such locations as England, Scotland, France, Italy, and Austria.

Alumni information[edit]

Last year, the 88 graduates from the school were awarded, in total, over $2 million in college scholarships. In the history of the School, approximately $20 million in scholarships have been offered to our students to study at colleges and universities such as The Juilliard School, Cornell University, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, Elon University, The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Eastman School of Music.

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