I know of no other high school – comprehensive or magnet – where, year after year, almost 300 students perform in a new and original high school musical written and directed by the local choral director. Such is the case at W. T. White High School where Michael Parker has been the director for more than 10 years.
The W.T. White choir regularly matches or surpasses DISD’s much lauded magnet school, Booker T. Washington, in UIL competition yet does so under the constraints of a much smaller budget, meeting in a room named on the school’s original blueprint as the custodians closet. Theater students and the 3-year-old dance team are each confined to similar space and minimal funding.
When former W.T. White principal, Joy Barnhart, told Parker in hiring him that she wanted the maximum number of students involved, he responded by writing the shows. And when funds are so limited and the cast so large, students are responsible for finding their own costumes, just one of the many innovations Parker uses to flourish in the urban school environment. Only a handful of the students performing have had the benefit of private lessons. Their talent has been revealed and nurtured at W. T. White.
Additionally, W.T. White is also the only comprehensive Dallas ISD high school to be “Recognized” for academic achievement by the Texas Education Agency in addition to be noticed by Newsweek magazine for its Advanced Placement program. With more than 2,300 students, it is the second largest school in the district serving every demographic group – 15 percent African American; 73 percent Hispanic; 12 percent white and 68 percent economically disadvantaged. Dr. Mike Moses describes extra-curricular programs as the best drop-out prevention program, so surely W.T. White’s fine arts program is contributing to the school’s overall academic success.
More than 10 percent of the student body will be on stage in this year’s show. The production, “WTW.ENTERTAINMENT.COM,” is a parallel to “The Wizard of Oz” in which the central character falls asleep at his computer and embarks on an adventure through cyberspace. Performances run at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at the school. Tickets are $7.50. For more information, call 972.502.6200
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