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Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
Arts and Education
Ballet
Professional Children's School (PCS)
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An Introduction to the Professional Children's School

by Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 3, 2003
Professional Children's School (PCS)
132 West 60th Street
New York, NY 10023
212.582.3116

About the Author:

An Introduction to the Professional Children's School

132 West 60th Street
NY, NY 10023
www.pcs-nyc.org
212.582.3116

Head of School, Dr. James Dawson
John Tucker, Coordinator of Public Relations

Carol Kleban, Principal

By Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
March 3, 2003

This is the first in a series of articles on Arts and Education, which may include arts programs in the schools, such as artists in residence or Grant Programs for arts enhancement of curriculum. In this case, Professional Children's School is a relatively small, private school, grades 8 - 12, for students, who are already performing artists in theater, music, dance, film, and television, and who wish to complete their High School Degree and, usually, complete a fine College Degree, as well. I had the pleasure, recently, of touring Professional Children's School (PCS), which boasts many famous alumni, such as Milton Berle and Ruby Keeler, in the original days. In fact, the school was founded in 1914 by Jane Harris Hall and Jean Greer Robinson to educate children in show business, one year after two young Broadway actors were found playing cards for money. Rather than adapt the children to the school, the philosophy, still in existence, was to adapt the school to the children's needs. Early curriculum included arithmetic, spelling, reading, French, literature, phonics, geography, history, music, French, and dancing. In 1916, the first commencement took place at the Princess Theatre with four graduates, and the actor, John Drew, was in attendance. (PCS Notes).

PCS, today, fully accredited and non-profit, is still dedicated to the idea that the students should be equally successful in their chosen career as in their education. The hours and assignments are flexible, so that students can travel and send their contracted homework by CD ROM, FAX, or email from cities across the United States or abroad. Students may travel frequently, due to out of town bookings in theaters and concert halls. Individualization and self-reliance are stressed, so that homework may be completed efficiently during breaks at school or on weekends. Students are allowed to arrive later in the morning, if they're appearing on Broadway till midnight. Students are encouraged, in an extremely supportive and collaborative ambiance, to realize all their potentials, without the need for homogenization of structure and teaching styles. In fact, violinists and pianists may take courses in voice and painting, while dancers and award-winning ice skaters may take courses in drama. Academics are taken seriously at PCS, but without the heavy competition and stress. Their professional lives are extremely stressful and competitive, says Mr. Tucker, and here they are supported and provided a calm, nurturing environment. They are also provided laptops for homework and a very high-tech computer lab, in which they may email foreign relatives or just do homework or research. Administrators watch valuable violins, and pianos and music rooms are available for practice time.

There are 24 full-time faculty members, with 4 doctorates, 21 master's degrees, and 24 bachelor's degrees. Students receive intense and personalized counseling, so that their careers, as well as their academics, do not suffer. Twenty-six percent of students come from other countries, and there is a strong English as a Second Language department for those students who need help with English skills. PCS Graduates, among whom are listed Suzanne Farrell (Ballerina), Adam Arkin (Actor), Eliot Feld (Dancer, Choreographer), Yo-Yo Ma (Cellist), Deanna McBrearty (NYC Ballet dancer and Danskin Spokesperson) (See Interview), Darci Kistler (NYC Ballet), Emanuel Ax (Pianist), Beverly Sills (Opera), Fernando Bujones (Ballet, Choreographer), Leslie Uggams (Theater), Dick Van Patten (Actor), Donald O'Connor (Actor), Joan Blondell (Actress of Days Gone By), and Sarah Jessica Parker (Actress of Today), have graduated from some of the finest colleges, such as Harvard, Middlebury, and Sarah Lawrence. Once in college, some of these extremely talented students have later decided to become lawyers, physicians, and distinguished members of other professional communities.

The parents are extremely supportive of the school, highly involved, and in constant contact with faculty, especially when the students are on assignment out of town. Teachers are invited to the students' performances and parents are invited to shows, mounted by PCS, such as dramatizations. When I recently visited, F. Murray Abraham, well-known actor, had just worked with the students in theatrical technique. One young student was still in awe, as he described the incredible experience he was still digesting. The ambiance that I sensed (I happen to be a former school administrator) was one of extreme calmness, with a degree of positive energy. Students were gathered on the hallway floors, studying and chatting, with happy demeanors. These same students may appear on stage in a day or two, in front of thousands, playing the violin or piano, singing in an opera or Broadway show, dancing en pointe with a major ballet company, or filming a television pilot. Yet, they are enjoying the learning process, one that allows them to be themselves and to discover all those hidden and unearthed talents that will enable them to succeed in one or more artistic endeavors.

At PCS, teachers often eat lunch with students, come to school at 7AM to tutor or create a long-term assignment agreement, and stay late to meet with parents. Everyone at PCS appears proud to be there and proud of each other's strengths. Students feed off the energy level, in contrast to the calm of the spotless and very sophisticated small building on West 60th Street, behind Lincoln Center. The proximity of the School of American Ballet, the theaters, and Juilliard enable PCS students to come and go at will to rehearse and re-appear for class or a PCS rehearsal of a play or festival. Students are informed as to when they may watch PCS alumni on television, such as John Spencer in The West Wing. On my visit I saw several posters, prominently displayed, of student achievements and current projects. Administrators were meeting figure skaters, who will partner their students, as well as parents of students who excel in fencing and sports.

Soon to be posted - A series of interviews with PCS students about their professional lives and their academic projects. PCS is a most fascinating discovery, a school that has been in existence for 90 years in New York City and is sought after by parents around the globe, who readily relocate to NYC, just for this opportunity for their children, who want both a top education and a career in performing arts. I look forward to my imminent, next visit, to explore the thoughts and skills of the multi-talented students at PCS.

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