Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts

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Coordinates: 39°56′22″N 75°09′57″W / 39.9395°N 75.1658°W / 39.9395; -75.1658

Philadelphia High School for
Creative and Performing Arts (CAPA)
Ridgeway Library Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts from north.jpg
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type Public secondary
School district School District of Philadelphia
Principal Joanne Beaver
Grades 9–12
Mascot Pegasus

The Philadelphia High School for Creative and Performing Arts, commonly known as CAPA, is a magnet school in South Philadelphia, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.[1] It is a part of the School District of Philadelphia. Students major in one of seven areas: Creative Writing, Instrumental Music, Visual Arts, Theater, Dance, Vocal Music, Film, and MDTV. The school is located on South Broad Street, in the former Ridgway Library.


The center section of the Ridgeway Library building

CAPA was started on February 6, 1978. It was originally located in the Atlantic building at Broad and Spruce Streets. Here CAPA shared space with the Philadelphia College of the Arts (now the University of the Arts (UA)).[citation needed] CAPA was located in rented space at 260 S. Broad St. Beginning in September 1984, it moved into Palumbo Elementary School in South Philadelphia,[2] a school that was directly adjacent to a now demolished high rise housing project.[citation needed] Originally the school board was planning to close Palumbo, but it canceled the closure so CAPA could have space.[2] The staff and administration worked for years to find a new space for the school.[citation needed]

In 1997 CAPA moved to the restored Ridgway Library building at Broad and Christian Streets. The school received a large budget ($80,000) to help create the tools needed to succeed in the arts: film studios, dance studios, lights for professional theatre and a backup generator for them.

In its new location, CAPA has become a permanent part of the Avenue of the Arts.


  • Wendy Shapiro was named Interim Principal in the Fall of 2013
  • Joanne Beaver was named Principal in the Spring of 2014

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Boyz II Men have recorded five #1 hits and three of them broke the record for the longest time a single remained at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Boyz II Men is considered to be one of the most successful R&B male vocal groups of all time.
  • Black Thought MC of The Roots. Became friends with Questlove (drummer for The Roots) while both were students at CAPA.
  • Joey DeFrancesco, an organist who has played with Miles Davis in 1988, Joey DeFrancesco has recorded several albums, a couple of which are: "Live at the Hot Spot" and "Incredible." He is known as one of the major contributors to the rise of jazz in the 1980s.
  • Anye Elite, openly gay singer-songwriter and community activist
  • Robert X. Golphin graduated CAPA in 1999 as a Creative Writing Major. He is an award-nominated actor and award-winning filmmaker/screenwriter, best known for his role as "Dunbar Reed" in the 2007 film The Great Debaters.
  • Amel Larrieux is an American soul and R&B singer-songwriter and keyboardist. Larrieux rose to fame in the mid 1990s as a founding member of the duo Groove Theory.
  • Aaron Levinson is a veteran record label owner and producer with a background as a musician and composer. He has produced and/or released nearly two dozen albums. Levinson founded the Spanish Harlem Orchestra, and is a multiple Grammy Award winner.
  • Tony Luke, Jr., a.k.a. Anthony Lucidonio Jr. who graduated CAPA in 1980 is an American actor, screenwriter, songwriter, restaurateur, and entrepreneur who has appeared on such food shows as Throwdown with Bobby Flay, Dinner Impossible and Man vs Food various TV shows and Movies. who wrote, Produced and starred in The Nail: The Story Of Joey Nardone
  • Christian McBride is thought to be one of the best bassists of his generation. He has performed and recorded with artists such as James Brown, Sting, Carly Simon, and many more. McBride is also the co-director of the Jazz Museum in Harlem.
  • Jamar Nicholas is an award-winning graphic novelist who created the graphic novel adaptation of Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun, a memoir written by African American social activist Geoffrey Canada in 1995.
  • Angela Nissel, author and television writer. Nissel is best known for her first book, The Broke Diaries: The Completely True and Hilarious Misadventures of a Good Girl Gone Broke and her work as writer and co-producer on the television show Scrubs.
  • Questlove (also known as Ahmir Khalib Thompson) is the drummer of hip-hop band, The Roots, and became friends with Black Thought (MC of The Roots) when they were both students at CAPA. Questlove has produced for artists such as Common, D'Angelo, and Al Green and is a member of Soulquarians, Grand Negaz, and Grand Wizzards production teams.
  • Kurt Rosenwinkel, Guitar player who has worked with the best of young jazz players and has released a few original albums.
  • Jazmine Sullivan R&B singer-songwriter and seven-time Grammy Award nominee
  • Stephen Tirpak Jazz Recording Artist, Horn Arranger, multi-instrumentalist Grammy Award nominee
  • Karen Malina White, Famous actress well known for her role Dejonay on the Proud Family. She has also appeared in movies such as Lean on Me as Kaneesha Carter. She guest starred on Living Single as Maxine's openly gay friend.
  • Bryce Wilson is a record label executive/producer, actor, musician, and former emcee. Wilson was half of late 1990s contemporary R&B duo Groove Theory, and emcee/keyboardist for early 1990s dance music/electro funk/old school hip hop group Mantronix.

Basic academic courses[edit]

Creative writing[edit]

Creative Writing (CW) is responsible for various school publications and events such as the United Writers and Artists literary magazine, the Painted Word newspaper, and the written scripts of some school productions. Many writers are also a part of the yearbook staff.

Every year, under faculty supervision, the creative writing majors get together to put on their own show, traditionally known as the Writers' Cafe, an expose where many creative writing students perform original pieces they have authored, ranging from simple poetry reading to dramatic performance art.

Course syllabus[edit]

  • Desktop Publishing
    • The basics of computers and word processing along with scanning and computer art techniques are taught. Students learn to write and publish their own magazine.
  • Screenwriting
    • Students write movie scripts based on original ideas and concepts and learn the basics of writing for the "Big Screen."
  • Poetry I+II
    • This course uses personal reflections in developing individual poetic style.
  • Critique
    • Pupils learn how to analyze both works of literature and film.
  • Fiction I+II
    • Writers gain experience in fiction through reading and writing short stories in Fiction I and II.
  • Nonfiction I+II
    • These courses explore the creative aspects of essay writing. Freshmen writers take Nonfiction I and senior writers take Nonfiction II.
  • Journalism I and Media Studies
    • In Journalism I students write editorials, news and feature articles and even write their own newspapers. In Media Studies students explore the communications and broadcast media.
  • Memoir
    • Students are tasked with writing chapter by chapter accounts of their lives, as well as reading memoirs by published authors, in order to gain a deeper understanding of themselves.
  • Playwriting
    • Students learn to write original scripts for plays.[4]


The CAPA Dance Department instructs their students in different levels of Ballet, Modern, Jazz, Tap, Hip-Hop under the direction of LaDeva Davis. Dance majors perform annually in the Thanksgiving Day Parade as well as the National Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington D.C..[5]

Instrumental music[edit]

The CAPA Instrumental Department encompasses a wide variety of performances and ensembles, including Concert Band, Orchestra, String ensembles, Jazz ensemble and a number of smaller groups. Students participate in these ensembles on a daily basis and are also instructed in such topics as music theory, composition and improvisation. CAPA students are integral members of the All-Philadelphia High School music ensembles and have participated in the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association ensemble program at the District, Regional and All-State levels.

Graduates of the CAPA instrumental program have attended some of America's finest Colleges, Universities and Conservatories, including the Juilliard School, Curtis Institute, the Peabody Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the New England Conservatory of Music.

The instrumentalists have taken trips to play all over the Tri-State area from Harrisburg to Atlantic City. The CAPA Concert band has also recorded their own CD entitled Superlative.


  • Orchestra
    • Led by Nanette Foley, this full symphony orchestra's repertoire includes a vast library of classical music along with arrangements of more modern pieces. A smaller iteration of the same orchestra plays the music for the school musical each year.
  • Concert Band
    • Led by Brian Ewing, the concert band focuses on contemporary band works and classical transcriptions.
  • Jazz Band
    • The CAPA Jazz Band, a "Big Band", is also led by Brian Ewing and plays music from many eras of jazz history.
  • String Ensemble
    • Led by Foley, the string ensemble is a large group of string instruments which normally plays classical music.
  • String Quartet
    • String Quartet is reserved for more advanced string players. Those rostered into this class are split up into two quartets, both of which learn chamber pieces. The string quartet often plays professionally. The quartets are instructed by Nanette Foley.
  • Saxophone Quartet
    • Organized by Brian Ewing, this student run group is available for engagements.
  • CAPA Jazz Sextet
    • Organized by Brian Ewing, this student-led group is in high demand for straight-ahead small group traditional jazz.


The Theater Department puts on an average of seven performances a year, plus three more by the MyVision Theater Ensemble, a selective theater group. Elsa Johnson Bass retired from teaching in 2014, and Jennifer Kramny took her place for the 2014-15 school year. Dr. Marlene Goebig and Jennifer Kramny produce and direct the performances. The students actors also work in partnership with the Philadelphia Theatre Company to see plays and write their own pieces with teaching artists from the company.

Course syllabus[edit]

  • Movement
    • Students learn the basics of the human body through the Alexander Technique, Yoga, Ballet, Modern Dance, other Dance styles, Theater Games, and exercise.
  • Film and TV
    • Film and TV is a course that teaches how to create and act for the media.[6]
  • Principals of Theater I+II
    • Students learn the history of theater from the moment it was created out of religious ceremonies to present day. Students also learn methods of acting from Stanislavski, Chekov, Spolin and other masters. Students learn basics of playwriting, with special emphasis on monologue writing. They learn about set, lighting, design, directing, critique, publicity, costuming, and much more. They study other forms of art to enhance their knowledge of their own, and read plays varying from classics like Oedipus, Death of A Salesman, Glass Managerie to more modern ones such as How I Learned to Drive.

Visual arts[edit]

CAPA's Visual Arts department covers a variety of disciplines, including: drawing and painting taught by Mark McQuilling, graphic design taught by Jacquelyne Gilmore Stallworth, commercial arts taught by Steven Nau and ceramics and 3-dimensional sculpture taught by Maria Lengauer.

Freshmen and sophomores focus on drawing and quick sketching. Students also study the human body and perspective. The Freshman students are introduced to hand-built pottery and 3-D clay design, and learn basic graphic design.

The juniors and seniors learn advanced graphic design, commercial art, continue painting, advanced 3-D sculpture and work on college portfolios.

Throughout all four years at CAPA, art major students are required to enter a variety of contests, and complete various projects.[7]

Vocal music[edit]

CAPA's Vocal Music Department, originally conducted by David King until his retirement in 1997, is currently conducted by Dorina C. Morrow. Vocal Music includes choral singing in large and small ensembles, individual voice training and development, solfeggio, harmony, music theory, and composition.

There are two choirs: Concert Choir and Mixed Choir. The Concert Choir is made up of juniors, seniors, and some very exceptional Sophomores. The Mixed Choir is made up of Freshman, Sophomore, & some junior students. All vocal majors have to take at least one year of Solfeggio, a sight reading and ear training course. In addition, an Advanced Placement theory class is available for seniors to teach them how to master the art of harmony.

The CAPA choirs have achieved a position of excellence among choral groups in the Delaware Valley.

A few of the choir's notable singing engagements:


Besides academic and art courses, CAPA offers many extracurricular activities, organizations, and sports teams to students.

Extracurricular activities[edit]

  • United Writers and Artists (UWA)[9]
    • CAPA's literary magazine is staffed by selected visual artists and writers, based on merit and talent, and is run like a professional magazine. These students are not responsible for the publication of the magazine, neither in print or online. Writing and art published in the magazine is mostly original work of CAPA students. The Internet department cannot maintain the school website.
  • The Painted Word
    • The school newspaper is written and maintained by a staff of diligent students, under the supervision of Journalism/English teacher, Karen Holdsworth.
  • The Encore (yearbook)
    • The organization responsible for the production of the senior yearbooks. Yearbook is sponsored by Jacquelyne Gilmore Stallworth and business manager Maria Lengauer.

Councils and committees[edit]

  • Student Council[10]
    • CAPA's student council is composed of student representatives elected or selected by each advisory, so that all grade levels and majors are accounted for. Student Council operates as a venue through which student voices are heard. This group also organizes various activities.
  • Class committees
    • Class committees include the freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior committees. These committees are responsible for the organization of class meetings, fundraisers, dances, etc.
  • Seasonal/holiday committees
    • When holidays and events arise at CAPA, students are encouraged to join these committees. They are the primary directors of the activity and work together to make it a success. For example, during Halloween, students rally together to create a committee whose primary responsibility is to create the CAPA Halloween "Spooktacular".

Clubs and organizations[edit]

  • Down to Earth - Coordinator: Ian Notte
  • Gay Straight Alliance - Coordinators: Jennifer Kramny, Peter Konstantopolous
  • National Honor Society Peer Tutoring
  • Mock Trial - Coordinator: Grinkewitz
  • History Club - Susan Baraldi
  • TV/Film Club - Coordinator: Mr. Kaufman
  • Tech Team - Coordinator: Joey Ippolito
  • Philadelphia Student Union
  • Slam Poetry Team
  • Future Business Leaders of America - Advisor: Lewandowski
  • Model UN
  • MyVision Theatre Ensemble

Sports teams[edit]

  • Basketball - Coach: Mychal Bligen
  • Cross Country - Coach: Mychal Bligen
  • Softball - Coach: Mychal Bligen
  • Volleyball - Coach: Jeremy Wright

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Snyder, Susan. "It's good to be king - of your high school Guys get their own pageant." Philadelphia Inquirer. March 13, 2005. Retrieved on September 21, 2012.
  2. ^ a b "ARTS HIGH TO SHARE PALUMBO SCHOOL SPACE." Philadelphia Daily News. May 24, 1984. Retrieved on September 21, 2012.
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  6. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-20. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-04. 
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-09-21. Retrieved 2008-09-05. 

External links[edit]