MURFREESBORO, Tennessee – For the past 37 years, the Tennessee Governor’s School for the Arts, hosted by MTSU’s College of Liberal Arts, has been a vehicle for the education, training and development of artistic high school students throughout Tennessee.
This year, over 290 of these young artists will perform and showcase their talents at the grand graduation events scheduled for Friday and Saturday, June 24th and 25th, after nearly a month of being showcased by a variety of MTSU and MTSU faculty Vocal and instrumental music, visual arts, theatre, dance and filmmaking were taught from across the country.
Katie Goodwin, associate theater professor at MTSU, the new principal of the Governor’s School for the Arts, also known as GSFTA, noted that, like previous years, students admitted this year had to go through an application and selection process for the three-week summer residency program .
“GSFTA is for aspiring juniors and seniors who apply in the fall. We conduct a round of auditions and portfolio reviews to select the right students for 22 days of on-campus arts training,” said Goodwin, a six-year faculty member in the Department of Theater and Dance who is also an MTSU theater alumna.
“You have to show grades and certificates to be considered. Each of the arts areas has a coordinator and a selection is made after the auditions. They get three college credit hours (and) have (MTSU students) M numbers and IDs. You will also be prepared for college life.”
This year’s Governor’s School has 293 students from 31 different counties across the state, selected from 600 applicants this year.
“In a few years we had 1,200 applicants,” Goodwin said. “We thought we would be (again) virtual this year as our numbers were lower last year due to COVID, but we’ve gone up about 50 students hoping to get back to (the) 350 that normally accepts will.”
As host of the Governor’s School for the Arts, MTSU provides scholarships with grants from the Tennessee Department of Education to help students with program fees so they can benefit from an unforgettable campus experience.
“What often happens is that students who have attended the GSFTA are the ones who go back to their schools to tell others,” Goodwin said, “but that information goes to all of our schools in Tennessee — both public ones — beforehand as well as private high schools, even for homeschooling students—just because we’re open to any high school student.”
GSFTA offers training and unforgettable experiences
Although they expect “wonderful pieces for parents and other people who will see what we’ve done,” Goodwin said, an important part of the annual Governor’s School is “the training and experience they receive from the faculty, made up of excellent artists and teachers.”
“They are working on being able to present opera, orchestral (and) film premieres, to present music and drama,” she added. “A lot of them can perform, so we keep them on campus so they can immerse themselves in the arts education. They gain experience, make friends who will be part of their connection.
“They feel understood because they speak the same language on something that is close to their hearts. They may not be surrounded by it in their various schools. They find relatives.”
MTSU flute professor hopes GSFTA builds dreams
Deanna Little, a MTSU School of Music professor and GSFTA instructor who primarily teaches flute master classes and coaches chamber music, said the Governor’s School uses chamber rehearsals to help students “learn how to work as a team” and focus on their performance in the last week of the year prepare camp.
She remarked during a rehearsal that she hopes to see growth in her students at the Governor’s School.
“I hope music students grow as musicians, get a sense of what it might be like to continue with music in college, gain independence and functionality outside of their home,” Little said. “They should also become more goal-oriented when it comes to making music, making lifelong friends, and developing real stamina in working on their passions.”
GSFTA student in 2019, MTSU student in 2022
MTSU sophomore Cameron Roberts, a Governor’s School graduate, is providing logistics and social media support to the GSFTA office this year. Roberts, who is now a junior music education major, said his experience in 2019 led him to this academic path.
“In 2019 I went to GSFTA for music, and that’s the main reason I’m here, because that’s when I explored the beauty of MTSU and the beautiful facilities here, (and) I got to know the faculty,” said Roberts.
Roberts engaged this year’s Governor’s School applicants after they applied online “by following up on their correspondence, e.g.
He also circulates around campus “to take photos, not just to let parents know we’re doing our job, but to spread the word about the governor’s school.”
“Communication has been great and everyone seems to be in high spirits to make sure the students are having fun,” said Roberts.
He added that he is fortunate to be part of the project.
“Having received 600 applications, I know the names of all these students; I feel like I know them all. Being there in 2019 just made me realize that I want to be here and it’s so much fun to be behind the scenes. Students send me things to post and it’s fun that they see the campus the way I did,” he said.
As high school students get closer to college, Roberts says they have to start making decisions about their futures, and attending Governor’s School has helped him in that.
“Not everyone goes to the field they come here to study for; Some of them come to have fun and some find out what they want to do. I entered Governor’s School at MTSU in 2019 knowing what I was going to do.”
Recruitment from rural Tennessee
Goodwin said she would like more representation from the state’s rural areas in the years to come.
“One of the things we’re looking forward to over the next year is recruiting in some of the rural areas that we traditionally don’t have students from,” she said. “We have a good presence in some of our biggest cities, but we don’t usually get (many) representatives in the rural areas.
“This could be because their high school may not have the resources to have a robust (arts) program, such as B. a dance studio or community theater that help with development and love for the arts.”
Goodwin has taken over leadership of the program from longtime GSFTA director Raphael Bundage, a professor of vocal performance at the School of Music who directed the Governor’s School for more than a decade.
The new principal said she wants to “continue to work on the standards that keep the Governor’s School for the Arts running.”
“I correspond a lot with the different areas on campus to make sure we are good hosts. If we get it right, these kids will feel at home here, and when they look at where they want to go to college, they would consider MTSU,” she said.
She added that she hopes these young talents have “good experiences” in what they do, so “they know they can go anywhere from the GSFTA.”