When charged with starting the West Covina High School Performing Arts Academy, Choir Director Tyler Wigglesworth jumped right in. Together with the theater, band and dance teachers, Wigglesworth’s goal was to provide high-quality performing arts education while still giving students a comprehensive high school experience.
“We require each student who wants to join the Performing Arts Academy to fill out an application and then audition,” he explains. “If selected, the student will declare an emphasis, called a pillar, which defines the focus of their performing arts education for the next four years. The four pillars offered are dance, instrumental music, theater (both acting and technical) and vocal music.”
The director who oversees that specific pillar works with the student, as well as their academic counselor, to provide a four-year academic plan that encompasses all the Performing Arts Academy, high school and college-entry requirements.
In addition to directing the choral department, coordinating the Performing Arts Academy and running its vocal music pillar, Wigglesworth is also the music director for the school’s musicals. “What excites me the most about my music program is simply the diversity of opportunities that are provided for each student to refine their craft as they find their voice at West Covina High School,” he says.
Encouraging students to find their voice is core to Wigglesworth’s teaching philosophy. “I truly believe that music and other performing arts disciplines are catalysts for students to unlock incredible levels of excellence as they work together toward a high level of performance,” he says. “However, we have to celebrate that these ensembles are made up of individuals who have unique backgrounds that they bring to the art of music-making. By simply participating, students are expressing their individuality, and it is the combination of all these individual voices that creates musical magic.”
Wigglesworth also finds unique and exciting performance opportunities for his students. “A couple years ago, I took two of my choirs to perform at Carnegie Hall in New York City,” he says excitedly. “Not only was that an incredible experience, but through that process we had the opportunity to bring to life a beautiful work that was written for our group in collaboration with composers Melanie Penn and AJ Harbison. It was such a thrill to be able to be a part of new music being written.”
In 2023, the school’s choir will be premiering another new work — a song co-commissioned with Los-Angeles-based singer and composer Joel Balzun.