A Tale of Two Schools: The Educational Center for the Arts

Attending high school is hard enough: the tests, the social groups, the homework. Now imagine attending two high schools every day until 6:00 p.m., except on Fridays, doubling your workload, social groups, and homework.

This is a reality for the students attending The Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven, which is a magnet school located in Arts District of New Haven and has five departments: music, dance, creative writing, theatre, music, and visual art. These students attending ECA also attend another school every single weekday, except for Fridays, where they will only attend their “sending school”. The transportation situation takes about an hour, as students from Woodland are picked up from Woodland by a van at about 11:50 a.m., they get to Seymour High School  at about 12:05 p.m., and after that, Woodland students and Seymour students are picked up by an Oxford High School bus and get to ECA at around 12:45 p.m. with students from Woodland, Seymour, and Oxford on board. Only two Woodland students attend ECA, one of them being senior, Clara Rae Fauteux. Fauteux attends ECA as a member of the music department, where she sings soprano.

Fauteux first learned about ECA at the beginning of eighth grade. She and another student went to the middle school guidance counselor and asked him if there were any fine arts programs they could do, and the rest is history. Clara Rae was accepted into the program after going through an audition, and would begin high school enrolled at two schools.

Fauteux says, “The first couple of months [of high school] were hard, because I feel like freshman year is a lot of drama, and a lot of friend groups are changing, and [you’re] also getting used to the classes you’re taking. So that’s kind of hard, being able to focus on music and also my academics while also maintaining healthy relationships with my friends. Then after the first couple of months, maybe like, three or four months, I was able to actually get into the swing of things and realize certain things about school and friends.”

Fauteux describes the community at ECA as “very close”. According to Fauteux, it’s a very close-knit community in the music department, where everybody knows each other and you can just go to someone and start a conversation with them. The students of ECA call the teachers by their first names rather than their last names because it creates a closer bond to have, and the ability to be connecting through music and the fine arts is something powerful. ECA runs on block schedule, similar to A and B. On Mondays and Wednesdays, students have vocal technique, small ensemble, and music theory. On the second day, which would be Tuesdays and Thursdays, the students have large ensemble, small ensemble, and then a class of choice, where Fauteux frequently chooses acting. During this period, a student could choose whatever class they want in any department.Fauteux emphasises that a student could take classes like composition audio production and a lot of different audio classes, making music, and it’s even possible to take an independent study if one has already taken most of the classes they want to take.

But of course, every situation has its downsides. Fauteux is very busy during the week and says she can hardly hang out with friends, getting home at around 6:00 p.m. every night. She also describes her junior year as hard, trying to balance two schools, two workloads, and two sets of homework. Fauteux also made the decision to try a sport during junior year, where she was on the cheer team.

“It was really hard to balance things. I was taking some classes obviously very hard for somebody. But at ECA, the course load is never a lot, but you have to put a lot of effort [in]. It’s not as much compared to here so I was able to focus more, but I also did cheer last year and that [was hard for] me. But being able to balance, especially since I balanced cheer, ECA, and Woodland, it was manageable, but with the competitions that we have at ECA, it made it really hard to balance everything but it was the same as every other year. This year is obviously a lot easier because like we don’t do anything,” Fauteux says.

The Educational Center for the Arts comes with many opportunities to the students lucky enough to attend. Students get a lot of opportunities to audition for places like the CMEA and regional festivals. ECA performed at Carnegie Hall in 2016, and the band, the orchestra, and the jazz band has performed at Berklee [Jazz Festival]. They have performed for the past four years at Berklee, and the student singers, Clara and about 14 or 13 other girls performed there for the last two years. This April, ECA will be performing at Carnegie again. They also receive plenty of opportunities with the colleges around them, such as Yale University, who often opens up their doors for ECA students to audition and sing with their Glee Club. Last year at this time around, Fauteux sang Beethoven’s Ninth with the Yale Glee Club at Woolsey Hall.

Another opportunity ECA offers is that a lot of alumni come from different parts of the music industry, and just recently an alum, who is currently Ariana Grande’s backup singer, came in and taught the students about improvisational music, melody, and how to open up their horizons. They also go on field trips frequently, to places such as Shakespeare in the Park, Broadway shows, and even seeing the ECA theater kids do their shows.

ECA isn’t just fine arts; currently, the students of ECA are trying to plan a spirit week for the end of the year. They also have lock-ins coming up, and the biggest event of the year for them is the ECA prom, which is like Homecoming at Woodland, but at the end of the academic year. It’s student run, and each department chooses the theme and decorations each year. Past themes include the 80s, Disney, the 90s, Gatsby, and more. The dress code is also different in the sense that you dress up based on the theme rather than just getting a plain dress.

Fauteux says her top three classes at ECA include her small ensemble class, acting class, and her stage combat class. She described how nice it was to be able to meet kids from other departments, because she was able to make friends that she could see every once in a while. Fauteux describes her favorite part of ECA being the environment, being able to be vulnerable in her own music, and being able to be responsive to criticism.

“Everything is constructive and everyone is there to help you,” Fauteux says.

Fauteux plans on pursuing music at either the University of Southern Maine or the University of Tampa, going for a bachelor of music performance and possibly a minor in music education. ECA has fostered a love for music deep enough for her to want to pursue it. Her dream job is to have a steady gig at the Metropolitan Opera House, as opera music is her strength at ECA. The Educational Center for the Arts in New Haven is an underrated goldmine of honing an interest in fine arts, creativity, and talent, and is available for auditions and applications from all students entering any year of high school. ECA is a resource that not many students are aware of, but is a resource that is valued by the ones who are lucky enough to attend.