New Boyle County Arts Academy helps prepare students for arts careers

Published 5:39 am Friday, September 9, 2022


The Boyle County School District’s new Arts Academy has launched into its first year with over 200 students excited about the arts.

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The Arts Academy is a school within the five Boyle County schools. Students in grades 5-12 can audition with any art form to be in the program.

Arts Academy Director Jimmy Cornn has had only a couple of months on the job to get things going. He said they are still somewhat constructing the program’s little details.

Starting out, students in the academy pick a primary art form. Those forms include drama, dance, instrumental music, vocal music, technical theater, and visual 2D and 3D arts.

While taking a normal amount of required classes, students use their electives to take classes in their primary art form. Cornn said middle and high school students usually get an average of four electives per year, but seniors generally get more. He said they offer about 30 different arts electives at the middle and high school level.

Students in the academy can take upper-level arts courses that give them more intensive instruction. However, students not in the academy can also take those courses.

“We want to give them more intentional and intensive instruction within the arts in the classroom setting, but then also opportunities beyond the classroom to experience the arts,” Cornn said.

The academy allows students to learn more outside the classroom. Cornn said they are in the process of developing a private lesson component for music students. He also plans on bringing in guest artists for performances and master classes. Students will have opportunities to go on field trips to Louisville and other places to experience the arts.

High schoolers in the program will be working toward earning an Arts Seal of Excellence on their diploma. The program requires a certain number of classes or credits based on their art form, including an arts appreciation class, and a senior project.

The academy will have individualized class scheduling, where students will meet one on one with Cornn to make sure they can get all the courses they need.

Each art form offers performances or shows throughout the year. Theater students will be putting on at least two different productions each year. The academy is currently partnering with West T. Hill community theater to put on “Scrooge! the Musical,” at Boyle’s performing arts center.

Band will have two concerts, there will be multiple art student shows, including in the performing arts center lobby, and dance students will be doing two recitals per year.

Dance teacher Katie Palmer is currently working with students to prepare for the fall recital on November 10. Her middle school class is learning choreography that combines different cultural styles, the theme being “Around the World.” Some of those students help create the choreography.

As the district’s only dance teacher currently, Palmer teaches elementary, middle and high school dance classes. Each of her eight classes is preparing choreography for the recital, and some high school classes are doing two dance numbers.

Palmer previously taught dance at Toliver Elementary School, and is looking forward to helping start the academy’s dance program.

“There’s a lot of really talented dancers, I just like working with them and helping support them as they grow; and just watching this program grow and teach the arts to more kids,” Palmer said.

The new Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Boyle County Middle School will not only give students a place to perform, but it will also bring in artists for students to learn from.

The PAC, which opened in 2021, is a 500-seat theater that features a full fly loft with professional rigging, orchestra pit, performance lighting and sound, multi-level seating, lobby with ticket office, scene shop where people build sets, dressing room and green room.

“In Kentucky, it’s the nicest school-related venue I’ve been in,” Cornn said, who has taught music in schools for 15 years.

Also serving as director of the PAC, Cornn said the center serves as a venue. It will operate as an independent entity and business for performances that come to Danville, much like Centre College’s Norton Center.

Cornn said they don’t want to compete with the Norton Center, rather complement it as another way to bring things to the community. Cornn said he hopes to bring in four to five outside shows to the PAC per year.

While just starting out, Cornn said he hopes to have the academy offer many more opportunities in coming years.

“As enrollment increases, we can add more classes and instructors,” Cornn said. “I feel very positive about that because in our first year we already have over 200 students.”

All the current arts academy instructors are:

• Hillary Zimmerman – Elementary Visual Art

• Carol Taylor – Elementary Art

• Jamie Hamblin – Elementary Music

• Christina Marshall – Elementary Music

• Kathy Weeks – Middle School Visual Art

• Zach Shelton – Middle & High School Band

• Scott Walker – MIddle & High School Choir

• Katie Palmer – Elementary, Middle, & High School Dance

• Maggie Jenkins – Elementary, Middle, & High School Drama

• Carrie Snow – High School Visual Art

• Frieda Gebert – District Arts Coordinator

• Kolton Winfield – High School Theatre Tech

• Damian Laymon – High School Digital/Media Art

• Jimmy Cornn – Arts Academy Director & BCPAC Director