It has been a well-known fact for many years that Garden City High School has had a strong performing arts program – one that includes speech, music, debate and theater.
Recently, the GCHS programs were recognized for their excellence when they received one of 15 awards by the Kansas State High School Activities Association following the state’s being named the winner of the National Performing Arts School of Excellence, a program implemented by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
The awards came from the joint efforts of the Kansas Music Educators Association, Kansas Speech Communication Association, Kansas Thespians and KSHSAA. Criteria included how high schools scored over the past five years in the different programs at state-level competitions.
There were three categories of awards for Kansas high schools and Garden City was among 11 schools in the Commended division. Topeka-Washburn Rural was the winner of the overall top award, while schools named Finalists included Blue Valley-North, Blue Valley-Southwest and Sterling High Schools.
“I love that this is a comprehensive award that covers all the performing arts programs,” said Russ Tidwell, GCHS speech and debate coach. “It means we are doing a great job across those activities – music, theatre, debate, forensics. As a west Kansas large school, I feel that this is also a pretty big accomplishment.”
Tidwell, a long-time instructor and coach at GCHS, said the award is an acknowledgement of excellence that he and others were already aware.
“We have an amazing performing arts staff, and we have ridiculously talented students,” Tidwell said. “When those two things get together, amazing performances and competitive things happen. It’s fun to be recognized for what already knew.”
With an award that crosses the broad spectrum of performing arts, the recognition also includes the award-winning drama department at GCHS.
“We provide an opportunity for students to experience classical and contemporary theatre as well as comedy, tragedy, dark comedy, musicals and drama,” said Barbara Hilt, Director of Drama at GCHS. “We won 10 Jester Awards (from Music Theatre of Wichita).”
Hilt said one of the primary objectives of the program is to provide variety for the students to showcase their talents.
“There are multiple performing groups for students to take advantage of at GCHS and all of the Performing Arts teachers have great pride in our students abilities and capacity for growth.”
Hilt said the award recognizes both the quality of the staff and the talents of the students over the period of time that the award covers.
“All of the performing arts teachers work very hard to promote the arts and students achievement within the arts program,” Hilt said.
Between the four program areas, approximately 200 to 250 students are involved in any given academic year at GCHS.
In addition to GCHS in the Commended division, certificates were awarded to Lawrence-Free State, Goddard High, McPherson, Lawrence High, Olathe North, Olathe South, Salina Central, Salina South, Sumner (K.C.) Academy of Arts & Sciences, and Wichita East.