Music Program at Private Boarding School Encourages Self-Expression in Girls

By Jess Clarke

Students at New Leaf Academy, a therapeutic boarding school for girls in Hendersonville, N.C., engage in art sessions, yoga, sports, equine therapy, minibike programs, and other activities regularly each week. Starting this summer, they can add singing to the list.

New Leaf, a private school for girls ages 10 to 14, is introducing music into the curriculum in response to requests from parents and students. The new program will start this summer and could become a year-round addition.

“As a school that has students from all over the United States and with parents wanting us to do it, we’ve always wanted to do it, but our schedule is packed,” academic director Bryan Tomes says. “If it goes well, I think that will provide the incentive to do it all year.”

Choral Music, Piano, Drums, and Guitars

The three-day-a-week program will include choral music and a baby grand piano and possibly drums and guitars. A theater element may be added eventually.

In the past, New Leaf has offered music history and music appreciation courses and guitar instruction. But the new music program will offer expanded opportunities to explore musical interests as well as more focused instruction.

For girls who come to New Leaf with experience singing or playing an instrument, the program will give them an opportunity to continue to pursue their talents. For students with no music background, the program will expose them to a possible new passion.

“We feel it will not only make current parents happy, but prospective parents will be excited to know it’s an option. We get a number of students who have had strong musical backgrounds,” Tomes says.

Providing a Therapeutic Outlet, Nurturing Talent

For girls who may be struggling in some areas, extracurricular activities can be therapeutic and provide opportunities to excel in other areas.

“We recognize that people have innate talents and weaknesses,” Tomes says. “Any time we can add more opportunities for girls to recognize their talents, we can attack their weakness more effectively because we can make them recognize the diversity that’s there. They can have 45 minutes a day to just belt it out. They get a chance to be creative without the constraints of testing. Art is relaxing and calming; likewise, music can provide that for our girls.”

The music program is part of New Leaf’s approach to nurturing well-rounded students.

“There are real-world skills you learn from performing and learning how to read music,” Tomes says. “The music program is a way to boost self-confidence, access a different type of therapeutic outlet, or develop a new skill they didn’t know they had.”

Playing individual drums in a circle, for example, builds teamwork and teaches students the coordination of how to maintain a rhythm.

And music sets the groundwork for a potential theater program at New Leaf. “It’s a first step to theater, which offers many of the same benefits,” Tomes says. “The arts offer real benefits. We all know that. We just don’t always have the time to pursue it.”

Jess Clarke is a freelance writer and editor based in Asheville, N.C.