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This summer, over 100 students put on costumes, tuned their instruments, and laced up their dancing shoes as a part of an expanding summer arts program in Guilford County. Students in the program had the chance to participate in hands-on learning in theatre, music, dance or visual arts, and pick up new skills through the Summer Arts Institute, coordinated by Guilford County Schools.

Program leaders stepped up their efforts this year by providing an arts immersion experience to public schools students by expanding the Institute sessions to two weeks and bringing the initiative to two different high school campuses. Eastern Guilford High School in Gibsonville hosted a week-long session from June 24-27, while the Penn-Griffin School for the Arts in High Point hosted the program from July 15-18.

The expansion of the program is a direct result of its increasing popularity.

"This program has grown each year since its inception [in 2010]," said Nathan Street, the program manager for the Summer Arts Institute. "We had roughly 20 students then and we had 120 apply this year."

The program allows for students to choose a "major," based on already-cultivated skills in the arts, and a "minor," where students are allowed to explore artistic areas less familiar to them.

This year also sees the return of the "6 Strings and 88 Keys," a popular program in which students learn to play guitar and piano. The program is held at the Weaver Academy in Greensboro. Participating students took lessons from master performers and teachers, Patrick Lui and Mark Freundt.

"Shakespeare in the Park," another component of SAI, included performances of the historic tragedy Richard III, and was put on at Barber Park in Greensboro. In previous years, students in this program have acted in Macbeth and As You Like It. Collaboration is an on-going theme of the initiative, with Greensboro's Drama Center of City Arts and the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival collaborating on "Shakespeare in the Park," and Moore Music, a family-owned music retail store that provides instruments for students to use during the Art Immersion program.

The Community Theatre of Greensboro will continue collaborating with students and SAI on a full-length Broadway-style musical, Godspell Jr. This program enables students to explore their acting talents, as well as learn about backstage management, choreography, costuming, set design and music.

Students in grades 5-10 were accepted into the program. Applicants were required to demonstrate excellence in their respective area of art (band, orchestra, chorus, dance, theatre or visual arts) as well as academic excellence in their schools. The Institute offered scholarships to students in need, in order to allow the most students to benefit.

"The 2013 Summer Arts Institute is another amazing adventure for students in the arts," said Street.