Northwest School of the Arts is a CMS Magnet School that provides specialized arts instruction for students in grades 6-12. Well known for the arts, we have also become a place of inspiring academic success.
Students must pass an audition in order to participate in the CMS School Options Lottery for a seat at NWSA. For audition information, including requirements and how to request an audition, click on the “Prospective Students” link to the left, or visit nwsaauditions.com.
Pre-professional Arts Education
Students may choose one of 10 majors: Band, Orchestra, Piano, Chorus, Dance, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Technical Theatre (HS only), Costume Design (HS only), or Visual Arts. Middle school students major in one area, and high school students are permitted to have more than one major.
Students are able to advance their skills by interacting with like-minded peers who share their passion for the arts. Our arts teachers are artists themselves, and most of them are active within the arts community. Their connections have given rise to many community partnerships, and enable NWSA to bring in local and national visiting artists for master classes and performances.
NWSA students do not have to sacrifice academics in order to pursue the arts. Our students take the same “core” subject classes as students in other CMS schools (English, Math, Science, and Social Studies). NWSA offers standard, honors, and AP classes (High School only). Currently there are 12 AP classes offered. Our students are regularly admitted to many of the finest universities and conservatories.
NWSA recognizes that creative students may learn differently, and respond well to hands-on learning. Starting in middle school, teachers strive to integrate the arts into their curriculum in order to reach every student. Arts education is not only makes school interesting and fun, but also is correlated with higher motivation, success in school, higher standardized test scores, and an improved school culture.
NWSA was recently ranked as the #3 High School in Charlotte in US News and World Report, and is consistently receives attention for academic excellence. We are proud of our high graduation rate, which is among CMS’s highest.
Our school culture embraces diversity, and is accepting of all students. We regularly celebrate and embrace our diversity through Pro-Caring Days, designed to recognize diversity in the Arts, as well as among our students, that leads to an environment of caring and acceptance that is felt throughout the school.
The History of NWSA According to Dr. LaBorde
The seed for Northwest School of the Arts was planted in 1991 when Dr. John Murphy came to CMS as superintendent. He made the creation of magnet programs a major part of his efforts to rejuvenate the school system. Knowing that an arts magnet was often a strong component of the best school systems with magnet programs, I wrote to Dr. Murphy and told him of my background in the arts. (I was then principal of Myers Park High School, but had been a college theatre professor and a high school theatre teacher, as well as holding a theatre Ph.D.)
The original plan was to take the vacant Ivey’s Department Store on Tryon Street (directly across the street from the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center) and transform it into an arts high school. I was involved in the planning to create that space. Such a transformation required a bond issue vote—specifically for an arts high school. With no real push for those bonds by the system or the arts community—all thought the issue would pass easily—it was voted down by less than 80 votes.
Changing gears Dr. Murphy was still determined to have an arts high school, but decided he would start with elementary and middle school programs before tackling where to put a high school. He chose two schools that already had bond money approved for renovations—Chantilly for the elementary school and Northwest for the middle school years.
Deborah Cooper (the system’s visual art specialist), Dr. Harry Mamlin (the performing arts specialist), and I set out to work with architects to create the arts spaces needed for such a school. We also took the lead in staffing the arts teachers for the school, with our key hires being Sharon Kazee who not only served as head of the choral program but also as Lead Teacher; Jeanne Barefoot in visual arts; Linda Booth in dance; and Jerry Lowe in band.
Northwest started as an arts magnet in the 1993-94 school year (also housing an open school program and a year-round program—both of which eventually were discontinued as the arts program’s popularity grew) with Rosalind Rowe-Anderson continuing as the principal of the school. (Beverly Eury, who became such a fixture at NWSA as lead teacher, academic facilitator, assistant principal, and interim principal was part of the sixth-grade team in that first year.) That year I was reassigned from Myers Park High School (where I had started the first public school International Baccalaureate program in the state) and asked to oversee both the elementary and middle schools, while also looking for a site for ninth grade the following year.
(Northwest started with the unwieldy name—Northwest Visual and Performing Arts Magnet School. I petitioned the school board to change the name officially to Northwest School of the Arts for no other reason than simplicity in marketing.)
After exhaustive research across the school system looking at both unoccupied and under-utilized school facilities, my boss Dan Saltrick from central office and I came up with the revolutionary idea of just continuing ninth grade at the Northwest facility. It was expected that once the high school grew large enough, it would separate from the middle school. (As we now know, that never came to pass.)
In the 1994-95 school year we added the first high school grade. I was its principal and Sharon Kazee was my assistant principal. We had 75 students.
In the 95-96 school year, grade 10 was added and then in 96-97 we added grades 11 and 12 to complete the high school. The twelfth grade that was added that year was the result of students from around the school system petitioning the school board to add that grade a year early so that they could graduate from an arts high school. Our first graduating class was in 1997—with only 25 students making up that historic group.
Eventually Ms. Rowe-Anderson left to take over University Park Elementary when it was transformed into our feeder arts school and I became principal of all grades 6-12.
The rest is history.