The Importance of School Musicals

Image of blogger. School musicals play an important role in the lives of our school communities but what are the benefits? Eileen Carr, a teacher in our Donegal Town school, Abbey Vocational School, for over thirty years, has been the Musical Director for countless musicals and musical productions both at school and in the community and in this blog she discusses the value of participation in the school musical.


‘Consider yourself at home, Consider yourself one of the family. We’ve taken to you so strong.  It’s clear we’re going to get along.’

Group of students in costume singing.
Oklahoma performed by students from the Abbey Vocational School.

The school musical has become one of the biggest and most important highlights of the school calendar in all of our schools across Donegal ETB. With productions from the ‘oldies’ like ‘Oklahoma’ and ‘Guys and Dolls’ to the more recent ‘Hairspray’ and ‘All Shook Up’, the catalogue of shows on offer to schools these days is both ambitious and extensive. Nothing makes us feel our age when the students assume ‘Back to the 80s’ is in the ‘oldies’ category … and how is it that our young people feel that ‘Greased Lightning’, first performed over fifty years ago, having had more revivals than a rock band in their golden years-era, is fresh and contemporary?  Musical theatre is simply timeless!

The school musical certainly impacts on learning and teaching in our schools.  It requires cooperation and patience from all stakeholders in the school community. Yes, students may miss class, they may have to excuse themselves from football for footwork of a different kind, they may even get ‘notions’ of celebrity status for the run. Some disappear to woodwork and art rooms for hours and even days, working creatively in what can appear to be a leisurely and relaxed fashion. Others who claim to be an integral part of the production will not actually be appearing on the stage … at any stage!

Two students performing in costume in Beauty and the Beast.
Beauty and the Beast performed by Abbey Vocational School students,

So why, then, do our schools in Donegal ETB foster and encourage musical productions? Because the journey of preparing and producing a musical helps to develop the ethos of our schools – promoting and nurturing the core values of excellence in education, care, equality, community and respect; yes, they are all there – in rehearsals, promotion, front of house, onstage, backstage, indeed in the stories and plots themselves, themes involving friendship, self-belief, freedom, resilience, equality, adventure, hope, faith, courage, and romance too of course. Our school ethos is like the Yellow Brick Road, our path of knowledge, where nothing is deemed more important than the loves, cares and needs of human beings. The impact of the school musical on learning and teaching therefore is inherently positive!

Group of students in costume.
Abbey Vocational School students in costume for West Side Story.

Being in a musical is a life-changing experience and has a significant impact on positive wellbeing.  It enhances students’ holistic development in a caring, safe environment where morale, self-esteem, confidence and character are strengthened. The cast and team involved in a school musical unite to become a collective, a community with one aspiring goal … and a big deadline! This team is far reaching, including students, staff, parents, staging professionals and talented people from the wider community.  The musical exposes talent and gives students a platform on which to shine and develop. It can bring together students from across different year groups, therefore younger students can work with older ones, learning from them and being inspired by them. Students are selected at auditions for their artistic potential – singing, dancing, and acting, but during the rehearsal and performance process, they engage in far more. They learn to refine the skills needed to be successful in everyday life, such as communication, literacy, teamwork, confidence, creativity, problem-solving, and time-management. Students come out of the process with a real sense of achievement.

The final bow, as it were, possibly the most significant benefit of being involved in their school musical for our students in Donegal ETB, is that it creates a sense of belonging:

‘Consider yourself … one of us.’