ISAS Arts Festival: Where Inspiration Is Unavoidable

An epic celebration of the arts was held last weekend in Austin as 3,500 students representing more than 50 independent schools met on the campus of St. Stephen’s Episcopal School for the Independent Schools Association of the Southwest (ISAS) Arts Festival. Fifty-two Bosque students representing the choir and band programs participated in the 2019 Festival which, coincidentally, marked its 52nd anniversary.

The ISAS Arts Festival “has been designed as a celebration of sharing and learning with critiques by professional artists and performers.” It provides a platform for students involved in the arts to perform or share their work with professional adjudicators, who then provide important feedback to the artist.

“ISAS is absolutely incredible,” said Jenna ’19, who has attended the Festival twice. “It’s difficult to comprehend the sheer amount of creativity that surrounds you while you’re there. Not only was there every type of artistic medium you can think of (choir, band, strings, fine arts, drama performances, improv, dance, ceramics, rock bands, acoustic coffeehouse, etc.), but there were all sorts of outrageous workshops for students to learn new skills, as well as master classes to perfect the ones they have already with the help of professional feedback. The opportunities are limitless at ISAS—the inspiration is unavoidable.”

“It’s such a life-changing experience for so many of them,” said Joanna Hart, Bosque performing arts teacher and the school’s ISAS coordinator. “If we’re going to strive to be the best in our art form, we need that feedback to push us. It’s so powerful.”

Ms. Hart said every adjudicator who observed Bosque’s work was positive in their comments and complimented the students in all aspects of their performances. “(For example) the jazz professional told our trio, ‘Please keep doing what you’re doing.’” This reinforcement helps to encourage the artists’ efforts. “It’s important for our school to be recognized for what we’re doing here in Albuquerque,” she added.  

But the Festival isn’t just about performance and feedback. “It allows students to connect with other students and grow those connections,” Ms. Hart said.

For Jenna, that holds true. “I’ll always cherish the memories from ISAS and keep in touch with the many friends I have made,” she said.
About the ISAS Arts Festival:
The Independent Schools Association of the Southwest Arts Festival began in 1967. Since then, the Festival has grown to be the nation’s premiere annual regional arts festival among independent schools. Typically occurring each spring at a different member school campus, the Festival is a collaborative enterprise featuring an average of thirty participating schools. From its inception, rather than a competition for prizes or rankings, the ISAS Arts Festival has been designed as a celebration of sharing and learning with critiques by professional artists and performers. This approach has fostered creativity and experimentation and has proven to be an exceptional opportunity for schools to come together to understand and to appreciate qualities in one another’s programs and other facilities. The Festival has been instrumental in the development of strong arts programs in participating ISAS schools and richly inspirational to their students. Thus, the Festival has grown in both stature and popularity over the years.