Lettering at SPA

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Lettering at SPA

Lela Howard, Staff Writer

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It’s the ninth inning. Bases are packed and anxious breaths float visibly in the crisp spring air. A boy stands taller than the rest, analyzing the pitcher, waiting for his shining moment. The leather jacket that hugs his shoulders reminds him that he is an important part of this baseball family, and the embroidered, capital letter on its back acts as a symbol of his loyalty to his fans and his school. This tangible connection to four of his most formidable years will never let him forget the moments like these, when a win was just one ball away.

 

These dual-colored letterman jackets gained their popularity in the 1950s, and acted as more than just this kind of memorial. They were originally designed to be a way to highlight the most valuable players on high school sports teams. Even now, nearly 7 decades later, they still fill high school hallways, singling out the “jocks” from the rest of the student body.

 

While most schools only offer these jackets to the strongest members of their sports teams, The Salt Lake School of the Performing Arts (SPA) allows kids to letter in the arts instead.

 

“The requirements are rigorous, challenging but also achievable, and at least somewhat comparable to what kids are going to be experiencing at other schools. The opportunity that students have in the performing arts here at SPA to go far and above what most are  getting educationally in those performing arts areas is significantly higher than pretty much every other school in the state and so lettering within our system needed to match that as well,” SPA’s assistant principal, Jason Hansen explained.

 

Sumner Shoell, a Junior at SPA, works tirelessly at meeting these higher expectations and recently lettered in Theatre to achieve his mark of excellence. While he may not be the MVP of the Drama department, he is one of them. He has put in the effort to exceed the school’s, and his peers’, standards, but for him, lettering was more of a personal goal.

 

“I really love theatre and I felt that I had earned it,” Shoell said.

 

In addition to the classic letters, students at SPA can join highly advanced departments called conservatories, that specialize and compete in respective performing arts. Many kids at SPA think of lettering as a secondary achievement to entering into an arts conservatory, considering conservatories are an achievable social goal, more hands on, and are prerequisites to several department’s letters at the school.

 

This conservatory system is based off of auditions and class excellence. As one of the only schools in the state that offers four years of classical training in several performing arts, kids can fit an intensive amount of training into an eight period schedule, and can quickly improve enough to be accepted into a conservatory by their senior year.

 

“It’s very challenging, in fact I don’t even think it’s possible to letter at SPA unless you are in a conservatory in a particular area and so basically you’ve already had to get into the highest level of things,” Hansen said.

 

Once in a conservatory, lettering is almost second nature. The competitions and extracurricular hours that conservatories demand is nearly in line with lettering requirements in many cases, meaning that most advanced artists at the school will easily end up lettering in something. However, it is a step up from simply becoming a conservatory member.

 

“[To letter] you have to participate in at least two varsity level competitions. In this case those were Shakespeare competition and regional drama competition.” Shoell explained.

 

Lettering is a big deal for many high schoolers. It means new friendships, personal improvements and a beefier college application. However, this opportunity is often less accessible to those individuals that are not sports-minded. For those kids, Hansen stresses that SPA’s classes are open to anyone at any school and they can achieve arts awards without being a full-time student of the school. Thanks to SPA, no one has to miss out on their well rounded high school experience simply due to artistic differences.

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