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Searching for fame at U of W collegiate

University to establish performing-arts school

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Have you always had a hankering to attend a performing-arts high school like that cool school in the movie Fame?

Try the University of Winnipeg Collegiate.

Collegiate 1990 grad and Juno award-winning singer Chantal Kreviazuk will headline a grand announcement this morning of the establishment of a high-school performing arts program within Bryce Hall at the U of W.

And she'll sing, too.

The U of W says the Manitoba Conservatory of Music & Arts will announce it is relocating to the main campus, where the collegiate hopes at least 50 new students will enrol in grades 9 to 12 this September in band, jazz, choral, dance, drama and creative-writing credit courses -- some of them carrying dual high school and university credits.

"The ambition is to make it a real hub for performing-arts students," U of W president Lloyd Axworthy said Tuesday.

"It's a recognition that, because of our strong location downtown, that we have a strong performing-arts community in the downtown; it's important to have a student component," Axworthy said.

"It is significant for the future of the collegiate... (to) become a destination for students interested in performing and fine arts," said Jeremy Read, senior executive officer and adviser to Axworthy. "The idea is for the collegiate to be the hub."

The U of W Collegiate already provides academics for 50 students enrolled in the Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

"They want to combine dance and music, obviously," Axworthy pointed out.

"We're renovating Bryce Hall, the first and second floors," as specialized studio classroom spaces for the performing arts, Read said. Each space will have state-of-the-art acoustics and soundproofing. That space was vacated when theology moved in September into the Menno Simons College building on Portage Avenue.

The performing- arts program will also make use of facilities in the U of W's nearby Asper Centre for Theatre and Film.

"We started talking about it last year -- we found out there was a real need," Axworthy said.

The collegiate's foundation is still fundraising for programming costs and for an accessible washroom, said Axworthy. While there is no campaign to sell naming rights, Axworthy said, the U of W would certainly listen to anyone making an offer.

The U of W first proposed a performing-arts high school 15 years ago.

The collegiate is a private high school, this year with an enrolment of 593 students, but the U of W proposed in 1999 it operate a public high school downtown in partnership with the city's professional performing-arts organizations. It would have included a 400-seat performance facility. Like half a dozen other multimillion-dollar high-school arts-centre projects back then, the U of W's idea did not find the private donors necessary.

Read said the collegiate's foundation expects construction will go smoothly, and the physical space and equipment should be ready to welcome students in September.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 26, 2014 A4

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