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Principal 'incredibly excited' about new Hagerstown arts school

September 23, 2008|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN -- The new principal of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts says he'd love to have 500 Washington County students apply to enroll in the downtown Hagerstown performing arts school.

"That would be a great problem to have," Principal Michael T. Thorsen said.

In its first year, however, the school likely will include about 150 freshmen and sophomores and a limited number of juniors and seniors. Officials have said the school later will enroll about 300 students.

Applications were available online as of Thursday at www.barbaraingramschool.com.

Thorsen, 61, whose annual salary is $111,462, has been on the job since Aug. 20. He has spent time getting to know the school and the program that students will follow when the school opens in August 2009. Thorsen has been reaching out to middle school students, visiting arts teachers and readying for the first day of the 2009-10 school year.

Thorsen said he already has seen a lot of talent, and is impressed by what Washington County students have to offer in theater, dance, visual arts and music - the four disciplines that will be studied at the high school.

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He said that all successful performing arts high schools, including the one he oversaw in Pennsylvania, include college preparatory academic courses alongside preprofessional arts instruction.

The Barbara Ingram School for the Arts will be no different.

That way, when students graduate, they will have the option of becoming professional artists or pursuing different courses of study in college, Thorsen said.

Thorsen spent 35 years teaching, supervising and administrating arts-education programs in Pennsylvania, most recently at Pittsburgh High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, where he served as principal for seven years. He retired from that position in 2006, according to his résumé.

Following his retirement, Thorsen did consulting work before accepting the job as principal of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts.

But, he said, "I didn't like being retired."

Soon after he was hired, Thorsen and his wife, Kathryn, moved to Hagerstown. They have three children who live in Pennsylvania.

Thorsen lived in Pittsburgh for more than 50 years, but said he and his wife had talked about moving to a more rural area.

He said he is "incredibly excited" about the new performing arts school. Thorsen talks not only about the benefits for students, but what he believes will be an infusion of money into downtown Hagerstown.

He expects that students will have at least 100 performances throughout the school year, drawing parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends to downtown Hagerstown. Thorsen praised the use of the Washington County Free Library, The Maryland Theatre and the University System of Maryland at Hagerstown as partners with the school.

Important dates



Applications to be a student at the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts are available at www.barbaraingramschool.com. or in schools. Here are some important dates for those interested:

o Theater workshop to provide assistance with the admission process - Nov. 10, 7 p.m. at South Hagerstown High School

o Dance workshop to provide assistance with the admission process - Nov. 17, 7 p.m. at South Hagerstown High School

o Visual arts workshop to provide assistance with the admission process - Nov. 18, 7 p.m. at South Hagerstown High School

o Music workshop to provide assistance with the admission process - Nov. 24, 7 p.m. at South Hagerstown High School

o Applications due - Dec. 15

o Auditions - Feb. 7, 2009 at South Hagerstown High School

o Enrollment notification - March 2009

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