South vs. Perpich. What do they have to offer?

South vs. Perpich. What do they have to offer?

Students in Ms. Hippen’s piano class practicing.

Elika Beck and Katie Jerome, Staff Writers

South High is known for its excellent music program, but every year a few of our gifted students leave for Perpich Center for Arts Education. So what’s drawing these students away from South to Perpich?

Perpich offers an alternative education experience that many students enjoy but it’s not for everyone. South junior Madison Hallman considered transferring to Perpich for the 2010/11 school year, she attended orientation at Perpich, before deciding that the school wasn’t for her. “I thought the opportunities would be better.” Hallman said,  “I wasn’t completely satisfied with the choir program here [at South].” But for her, what South had to offer ultimately outweighted the options at Perpich. Hallman decided that the volleyball team, as well as the academics at South was a more manageable option.

There are several differences between South and Perpich. One being that Perpich is only open to juniors and seniors, according to the Perpich website ( Besides this, the biggest difference is size; the website also states that the average class size is about 10-12. Because Perpich is a magnet school for the arts, most of the classes emphasize various art forms. Perpich offers rigour in the arts as well as academics, this draws only the most passionate students.

Besides music, Perpich also emphasizes dance, literary arts, media arts, theater, and visual arts. Because of these emphases and Perpich’s college-preparatory academic courses, students who go there have more work than students at a normal high school. The academics aren’t necessarily harder than at South, but balancing it with all the other work can be a challenge.

One big difference between Perpich and South, is that Perpich doesn’t offer any extracurricular activities, sports teams, or clubs. This is due to the fact that the student body is significantly smaller than at South. The school also forgoes large music ensembles opting instead for small groups, such as trios and quartets. A drawback to this system is that students don’t get experience playing in large groups.

The base of the South music program are large ensemble performance classes. South is a big enough school to have different levels requiring auditions, so students don’t get bored in a basic music class, or find it too challenging to keep up. Unfortunately, South cannot offer private lessons for students like Perpich does, but the teachers try to be available every day during both lunches to help students and answer individual questions. In addition to the large group ensemble, band teacher Scott Carter has students work in small groups to prepare and preform a piece. This gives students a small group experience similar to one they could get at Perpich.

Junior Emerson Hunton applied to Perpich but ultimately decided not to go. He said, “I found more of what I was looking for [at South] than at Perpich. The music program here fits me better.” Hunton likes the South music teachers and how well organized the program is.

Both schools have great music programs. Perpich is right for some people, but not everyone. It’s important to consider all options and pick the one that fits you best.

Students practice in Hippen's piano class. Photo credit: Lars Olsen