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The Value of Performing Arts for Students and Communities

The Value of Performing Arts for Students and Communities

As we continue to celebrate High School Activities Month, we’re excited for performing arts to take center stage! More than 9.6 million students participate in performing arts programs nationwide, with over 98.5% of schools offering speech and debate, theatre, and music.

The arts are an integral part of a well-rounded education and support personal, social, creative, and civil development. Students with access to the arts in high school perform better academically and have higher rates of college enrollment. The arts also promote essential growth in empathy, social tolerance, and self-confidence.

Reflections on the 2022 NFHS Performing Arts Conference

Last month, the GoFan team was honored to sponsor and attend the 23rd annual NFHS Performing Arts Conference (PAC) in Denver, Colorado. The conference brought record numbers this year, with 96 representatives from 23 states and 15 national organizations in attendance. 

Advocates for the arts from around the country gathered to network, share ideas, and learn from approximately 25 different presentations. In addition to participating in conference sessions, attendees had many opportunities to collaborate in workshops and small groups.

NFHS Performing Arts Conference
NFHS Performing Arts Conference 2022
Photo Credit: NFHS

The conference began with a focus on speech, debate, and theatre and concluded with an emphasis on music, with combined sessions in between. Topics included Educating Administrators on the Values & Genuine Needs of Speech and Debate Programs, Copyright Review, Rebuilding Motivation in Coaches and Students, Music Technology, Achieving a Work-Life Balance, and more.

Utah High School Activities Association Assitant Director Jon Oglesby delivered an inspiring keynote speech on creating a culture of change that generates unanticipated growth. He encouraged members of the audience to reflect upon their own professional and personal lives and embrace a “shake it up” mindset. 

"The education community is going through a period of profound change, and educators need to be ready to 'shake up' the status quo to better reach our students and communities. However, even in the process of making those professional changes, educators need to also be aware of the small changes that can be made in both our relationships and personal lives to revitalize and reinvigorate our dedication to this noble calling.” 

- Jon Oglesby, UHSAA Assistant Director

We enjoyed connecting with leaders in the performing arts space and learning more about their initiatives to ensure the continued expansion of high school speech, debate, theatre, and music programs.

The Benefits of Performing Arts Programs

Performing arts are vital to the high school educational experience and are worthy of celebration. Unlike athletics, performing arts are considered “cocurricular,” meaning that they combine classroom education with competitions, performances, festivals, and rehearsals after school. Fine arts require a significant time commitment and instill values that benefit students for a lifetime.

Speech and Debate

Speech and debate programs provide students with the unique opportunity to develop skills in research, critical thinking, writing, and public speaking. Students who participate in speech and debate also learn to exude sportsmanship, perseverance, and teamwork. Many students who are involved in speech and debate establish successful careers in business, education, entertainment, and politics.

Hundreds of thousands of students participate in various styles of debate each year, including Policy, Lincoln-Douglas, Congress, Public Forum, Big Questions, and others. Each style of debate has different rules and regulations, with tournaments at the local, state, and national levels. Speech and debate competitions create opportunities for students to refine their abilities, exchange ideas and perspectives on important issues, and gain educational experiences beyond the classroom and their local communities.


Theatre provides ways for students to express themselves creatively, analyze text closely, build self-confidence, and communicate and collaborate with others. These abilities are essential to development regardless of career path. 

Students who participate in theatre and literary activities often develop a higher capacity for empathy, as they explore diverse perspectives and embrace characters whose experiences can vary immensely from their own. In turn, they are posed with the unique task of bringing stories to life for an audience and portraying complex scenes with sensitivity and originality.

Participation in high school theatre programs continues to rise as students, educators, and administrators realize the true power of storytelling and all the implications it has for individuals and communities.


Music education can encompass a vast range of activities, including band, orchestra, and choir. Many high schools offer multiple ensembles within these programs as well, like marching band, concert band, drumline, show choir, a cappella groups, men’s and women's choirs, and more.

Music students develop enhanced language capabilities, effective study habits, improved memory and concentration, and self-dicipline. Students who study music tend to excel in other areas of academia and gain invaluable experience collaborating with others.


Support the Arts in Your Community

If you’re looking for ways to support performing arts in your community, be sure to check the calendar of upcoming events at your local school. It’s prime time for fall concerts, theatre productions, and speech and debate competitions! You can also recognize the dedicated staff in your community who make these programs possible, participate in fundraisers and volunteer opportunities, and help raise awareness for the benefits of the arts in high school and beyond. 


Next Steps

To learn more about National High School Activities Month and how you can support performing arts, visit NFHS.org or follow the NFHS on Twitter and Instagram at @nfhs_org. 

The GoFan team will also be publishing more blogs and content over the next few weeks to celebrate. You can stay up to date on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn at @GoFanHS or contact us for more information.

How State Associations Empower Students with High School Activities


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