Business Spotlight

Washington Township Schools

Writer / Seth Johnson
Photography Provided

For decades, the performing arts have been an integral part of student life at Washington Township Schools, from grades kindergarten through 12.Washington Township Schools

As the longtime director of bands and sixth through 12th performing arts department chair at North Central High School, Rick Granlund has seen firsthand the ways in which performing arts can impact a student.

“Typically, a third or more of our student body is involved in performing arts, so it’s a great way to make a large school feel smaller because you find your neighborhood of kids,” Granlund says. “It’s a really great community.”

In Washington Township Schools, students are introduced to the performing arts in kindergarten and can continue their creative exploration through high school graduation.

“Our township historically has a strong support of the arts from K through 12,” Granlund says. “Every elementary school has a full-time music teacher and full-time art teacher, so that really puts them in a good place when they’re going to one of the middle schools. In middle school everyone takes a performing ensemble. So you’re either in band, choir or orchestra for one year.”

When students reach high school, they can take part in North Central’s four major performing arts areas, which include band, choir, orchestra and theater. Within each of these areas there are also subcategories, such as jazz band and show choir.

Through the years North Central High School has found a great deal of success at Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) competitions.

“All of our groups have amazing histories in ISSMA,” Granlund says. “We’ve had 163 state final appearances in the history of North Central, and that’s only since 1985, when ISSMA started.”

In addition to their ISSMA accolades, North Central High School performing arts groups have also taken their talents across the U.S. and beyond.

“Our theater has been to New York and Chicago many times,” Granlund says. “Our bands, orchestras and choirs have traveled both in the U.S. and internationally. Our show choirs have traveled extensively. They’ve gone to New York, Chicago, and performed at the Grand Ole Opry in a national competition. Our band will be performing at Carnegie Hall this next spring.”

Washington Township SchoolsRecently, Washington Township Schools locations have also undergone several noteworthy renovations, which have included performing arts spaces. Most notably, the North Central High School auditorium recently received a facelift – a process that Granlund was heavily involved in from start to finish. “I was included in all the discussion and planning,” Granlund says. “I actually didn’t miss a single meeting, and we started meeting before COVID.”

Throughout the North Central auditorium renovation process, Granlund says the construction team left “no stone unturned.”

“What made that trickier is that it was an existing space,” Granlund says. “They encountered some issues along the way and found some really creative ways to make our space quite wonderful.”

Now that the renovation is complete, visitors will be in for a special treat the next time they experience a performance in the North Central auditorium.

“When you walk in, it just has a fresh feel to it,” Granlund says. “The students who were there prior and had seen the old auditorium were just blown away. Acoustics were improved. The entire seating area is brand new. The stage is large and has a hydraulic, professional lift. The lighting and sound systems were all renovated and brought up to current specifications.”

On the near horizon, Granlund says the Washington Township community can look forward to a very special theater production of Disney’s “Frozen” later this year.

“Joe King is the director of theater at North Central,” Granlund says. “He entered in a nationwide contest in the fall of 2022. Disney was wanting to release ‘Frozen’ to be performed for the first time at the high school level, but they decided they only wanted it to be one school in each state that was given the opportunity to perform ‘Frozen.’ They chose North Central for the whole state of Indiana, so we get to do it this fall. It’ll also be the first musical in our newly renovated auditorium.”Washington Township Schools

In reflecting on the impact that the performing arts have had on Washington Township students, Granlund ultimately believes the school district’s greatest accomplishment is that many students continue their creative pursuits through college and beyond.

“One accolade that’s impossible to track is that so many of our students do choose to perform in college or after college, and I think it’s because what they do at North Central is a lot more like what that’s going to be,” he says.


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