Victoria Kuhnel learned Mozart's Clarinet Concerto in A major in October, and played it a lot before she put it away for the winter. But here it was again on the music stand - not just notes on paper, but the road map to a potential career.
Kuhnel was one of a group of out-of-district students who auditioned this week for admission to the nascent Fine and Performing Arts Academy at Glassboro High School, which recently was accepted into the state's Interdistrict Public School Choice Program. The district submitted one of only a handful of themed academic proposals.
"We really think this will be something special," said Mary Greening, Glassboro's orchestra director and one of those judging Kuhnel and the other students. "We think we are offering something unique."
Late last month, the Christie administration announced the selection of 56 new schools into the interdistrict program, which began in 2000 as a pilot program and had grown to 15 schools statewide. Sixteen schools in Burlington, Camden, and Gloucester Counties were among those named.
Glassboro, though, is trying something different.
The school is a sports power, as the trophies and plaques lining the main entry hallway attest. But the first citations a visitor sees are Glassboro's wealth of music awards. Greening and the rest of the school's staff wanted to capitalize on that tradition and proposed an arts academy - a school within the school - that would turn Glassboro into a magnet for out-of-district students.
Tony Capasso waited with nervous anticipation after learning in January about the proposal. The saxophone player is the inspiration for his granddaughter Kaytlynn Capasso, who, like her friend Victoria Kuhnel, is a sophomore at Penns Grove High School in Salem County. Capasso said he was delighted that Kaytlynn chose to compete for admission to the free program.
"This is what she wants to do with her life. Even though we like Penns Grove, there was no such chance of something like this happening there," he said Wednesday night after Kaytlynn's audition. "This is like a dream."
The vocalists, instrumentalists, and visual artists accepted into the program - which also has received applications from about 20 eighth- through 10th-grade applicants now in the district - will pursue a traditional academic curriculum until their junior year. During their last two years, they will attend specialized classes for about half of each day. Some will be taught by teachers at Rowan University, which is adjacent to the school.
Academy students will receive college credit for the courses if they later enroll at Rowan. That was a big plus for many at the auditions.
"When I heard that, the only word I could think about was phenomenal," said Anna Marie Fiore of Merchantville, whose son Julian Inverso is a ninth grader at Camden Catholic High School. Inverso, who brought his bass guitar for the auditions, plays classical guitar in school and is in a five-piece rock band, Guilty as Charged.
"I just want to be involved in something that I really love. And to think that I could spend a half-day of school playing music, well, that is great," Inverso said.
Music applicants had to prepare a piece, and also demonstrate the ability to sight-read scores and identify pitches. They took a short written music-theory quiz and were required to vocally match tunes that choral director Nicholas Forte played on the piano.
When clarinetist Kuhnel said she also played piano, Forte immediately went into his stash of sheet music. Cool and collected, she played the notes almost flawlessly.
"It will be a little scary starting a new school 20 miles away in junior year. But the idea of going to Rowan to study is just really attractive," Kuhnel said.
Rowan is eager to participate in the program, said Robert Cart, the university's dean of fine and performing arts.
"The advantage to us is to get talented young students to be on the campus to show what we have to offer," said Cart, who grew up near Indiana University and took courses there in high school. That exposure led him to attend IU's prestigious music school, he said.
"The more ways we can find good students to come on campus, the better off we will be," Cart said.
Glassboro and the other receiving districts in the state program get a per-pupil transfer of education funds equal to what the student's home districts would have received. That makes the program a moneymaker for Glassboro.
Mickleton resident Carolina Hooper, a sophomore at Kingsway Regional High School, was at Glassboro not only with her cello, but with her art portfolio, hoping to get into either program.
"I am just so happy there will be something for musicians and artists, especially with all the cutbacks in most districts these days," said her father, Bruce Hooper.
There will be about five openings in fine arts and about 60 in music when the program is fully operational, Greening said. The school does not expect to fill all of its slots in the 2011-12 academic year because of the short time between the program's approval and the deadline for auditions.
"But we're happy to be approved and know it's not just a one-year thing," said band director Arthur Myers. "We're lucky to be able to bring in more students who we hope will have a greater opportunity to study something they love."