With a continued eye to improving the academic and extracurricular offerings for our scholars and their families, Challenge Preparatory Charter School has added accelerated courses and new after school programs for the 2017-18 school year. One of the biggest additions is the Performing Arts Department led by Nadine Sutherland.
The Jamaican born and raised artist became a child star at the young age of 11 and went on to be classically trained in music and dance after being discovered by world-famous reggae artist, Bob Marley. For years, Sutherland has made a career as a popular music artist, circling the globe on tours and festivals. But a few years ago, she realized she wanted to do something more in addition to her music.
In the fall of 2016, she finished her Masters in Cultural Studies and around the same time Sutherland was invited to join the Board of Trustees for the Creative Production and Training Centre (CPTC) by government officials of Jamaica.. The CPTC is a high-quality film and TV production company and institute offering studies in video, audio engineering and digital media since the mid 1980s.
Then in the summer of 2017, she received a call from Dr. Mullings, CEO/Founder of Challenge Preparatory Charter School. He shared with her his dream of starting a Performing Arts program for the scholars. This was the call Sutherland had been waiting for, and before she knew it, she was finishing her touring for the summer with Rototom Sunsplash in Spain and packing up her house in Jamaica bound for Far Rockaway, New York.
In the short time she has been with Challenge, Sutherland has begun to lay the foundation for a strong Performing Arts Department, creating the school’s internal program mission and vision while also reaching out to the network of artists and arts organizations in our great city. Exciting developments are in the works for our Performing Arts Program as a result.
This month, talented scholar Malachi Kingston auditioned for Dwana Smallwood, Founder of the Dwana Smallwood Performing Arts Center in Brooklyn, following his impressive dance audition for Sutherland. Smallwood was a premiere Alvin Ailey dancer at the American Dance Theater and then served as Director of Student Affairs at Oprah’s Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa. And recently Challenge has been in contact with Cathryn Williams, Director of the Ailey Arts in Education & Community Programs, to discuss a partnership with the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Through it all, Sutherland is committed to high standards in academics while developing the talent our scholars already exhibit.
“It’s not about just being ‘an artist.’ Our scholars need to have knowledge, and the scholars in the Performing Arts program will be held to our strong academic standards. I don’t want any of the students to become one-dimensional. I believe artists can be successful at their craft and be smart. I am encouraging them to do many things well, not just one thing,” stated Sutherland.
Auditions for the older middle schoolers were conducted in September. Students that were accepted are already working on their part of the holiday show which will feature grades K-8. Currently, Sutherland works with the students after school on Thursdays and Saturdays. There is also a long-range vision of developing electives focused on the Performing Arts that will be a part of the curriculum offerings at the Middle School.
In the meantime, scholars and their families can look forward to more doors of opportunity opening for scholars, to the upcoming holiday show, and a high bar of excellence that Challenge has always been committed to through the new Performing Arts Department.