Creative Journeys
By Marissa Hoffmann and Mary Russo

The ISZL Arts Programme is an expression of individual and shared joy within the school community. In the following pages, three families share their experiences of the richness of music, theatre and the visual arts from the primary years right through middle school and into high school. The ISZL website gives a full overview of what students can expect from their arts education, but these motivating personal stories show us that a creative journey within the curriculum has encouraged students to explore, shape and communicate their sense of identity. 

The continued emphasis on expression, connection and skills mastery within the arts at ISZL has helped each of them to nurture the passion they recognise in themselves today. Of course students at the end of their school journey have the benefit of hindsight when they try to explore exactly where their love of the arts began, but consistently it seems their evolution in the arts can be attributed to three things: the high-quality facilities and opportunities at ISZL, the diversity and depth of exposure afforded to them, and the dedicated encouragement and tuition they received from teachers throughout. Families Kraus, Rohan and Sibarium, review the individual elements that touched their children’s lives and influenced the creativity which has brought confidence, encouraged them to take risks and resulted in personal agency.

A Family Love of Music and The Performing Arts - The Kraus’ ISZL Arts Story
Heather Kraus - Parent

Our family of four moved to Zug in the summer of 2017 from the United States. My husband and I grew up involved in music and performing arts, and we knew before enrolling our son Liam (Grade 4) and daughter Lily (Grade 6) that there were classes and clubs to do both. What we did not expect is how many different opportunities there would be for them and the impact those experiences would have on their education.

Classroom Arts and Presentations
At ISZL, students are highly encouraged to speak up and regularly present in their classrooms. They also take the stage during the many school assemblies to share information or their projects and interests. Some particularly fond memories were when Liam worked in his visual arts class making an underwater scene of a whale, a turtle and a dolphin for his presentation on biomes. Also during the Grade 5 Exhibition, Lily took a creative approach for one of the elements by composing, playing on the ukulele, and singing a song about inequality.

Music as a part of the core curriculum is one element of their involvement in the arts at ISZL. From Grade 4, students learn a musical instrument. Both Lily and Liam chose guitar and have progressed a lot working with teacher Mr Eon Louw. We have also enjoyed their musical performances directed by teacher Ms Kirsty Kelly.

Co-Curricular Clubs and ISZL Zug Campus Choir
Both Lily and Liam are involved in the ISZL Zug Campus Choir with teacher Mr David Smith. His high expectations teach them what is possible from discipline and hard work. He believes deeply in the potential of the students to achieve remarkable results. We love hearing them perform and are excited they have opportunities to sing in various venues locally and outside of Switzerland.

Drama Clubs Grades 4 - 5 and Middle School
The co-curricular drama club for Grades 4 and 5 that meets September through February culminates in a fantastic performance. The club teachers Ms Lesley Armstrong, Ms Kirsty Kelly and Ms Katherine Matthews, are particularly loved by the students and support and encourage them. Liam, who played a comedic ‘Tiny Giant’ in this year’s musical, Panto Pandemonium, would tell others to join because it is a “really fun experience and after you do it, you feel proud of yourself - like you have achieved something great.”

Lily was fortunate to be in the Grades 4 and 5 drama production last year as a Cat in the Hat. This year in the Middle School, she was in the ensemble for Addams Family young@part with teacher Ms Alexis Dahl directing. Ms Dahl’s professionalism and insights are incredible. She challenged the students to develop, connect to and express their characters. Lily remarked, “It is a really fun musical, and we get to be active in our character building and active on stage. We also have a great director!”

Earlier this school year, Lily also performed with the local English Theatre Group of Zug in a production of The Secret Garden. For this, Ms Kelly went out of her way to coach her at lunch breaks for her role. Lily felt very supported by this demonstration of concern and kindness - thanks, Ms Kelly.

Parent and Family Involvement
I too enjoy being involved in the productions and have worked on the costume committees with other parents. It gives me both the opportunity to see the rehearsal efforts along the way and work with other parents I might not have the chance to otherwise get to know - all fabulous and highly creative people! The best part is seeing the student’s faces when they put on costumes - it is symbolic of their hard work and imagination coming to life. 

One downside about being in an international setting so far from home is that it is not feasible for the extended family to be here for live performances. However, ISZL helps bridge that gap by recording and posting shows online. We then send links to family back in the United States so our children can share this important part of their lives with them.

The arts are an essential and impactful part of the experience at ISZL. We love to see Lily, Liam, and their peers create and deliver compelling stories - from their classroom science project presentations to the stage. I know my children's involvement in the arts has propelled their confidence and ability to communicate effectively. We strongly support this aspect of education at ISZL and unequivocally encourage others to get involved in the years to come.

Taking a Bow Together - The Rohan Family
Gráinne McFadden-Rohan and Brian Rohan - Parents

Growing up in Ireland, participation in the arts and music were important parts of our family environments. Since moving to Switzerland in 2009, our two boys, Lúcás (Grade 11) and Cillian (Grade 10), have been students at ISZL, so the opportunities provided by the school in these cultural aspects have been a significant and memorable part of their personal growth, and not least, a great deal of fun.

Without question, you want to ensure your children benefit from a holistic educational milieu that is emotionally nurturing as well as academically motivating, where they can also test out and enhance their abilities across a wide range of skills. ISZL’s location here in central Switzerland gives access to an excellent variety of sports and social events that our children have taken advantage of, such as winter sports in Wengen, the Youth Forum Switzerland and service learning.

But it has been particularly in the areas of drama and music that the boys have engaged with enthusiasm, encouraged by amazing teachers and mentors as well as the rich infrastructure the school provides, and these are some of the highlights we will always remember from their schooldays. As all of us remember from our own time in the footlights, the friendships made during long rehearsals, through nervous opening nights and onto the euphoria of successfully bringing it all together in front of a live and entertained audience, are strong and lasting.

Here are some of their recollections over the past few years. For us, it was worth everything to see the two boys taking a bow together, surrounded by talented singers, actors, stage crew and staff, and embracing on stage after this year’s performance of The Great Gatsby.

By Cillian Rohan Grade 10
When I was nine years old, I decided it might be fun to join the Grade 4 and 5 production of Frankie and Me. I was given an ensemble role, but even then I felt the rush of going on stage and the beauty of applause. The next year I decided to work on my acting and get a bigger role. Thanks to the insightful help from teacher Mrs Lesley Armstrong I had the amazing experience of playing the antagonist in The Lemonade Kid. The feeling of being on stage, and being in character was one of the greatest excitements I have had in my life.

I was nervous going into Grade 9. However, after my role in The Little Shop of Horrors, I felt as though I unlocked my true confidence. I connected my passion for singing, dancing and acting all in one. I am so glad to be part of a school with such an amazing arts programme, full of opportunities.

I would love in the future to have some involvement with the theatre, as being on stage gives me so much joy and I never want to be without that feeling. ISZL allows students to unlock their talents and increase confidence through its multiple programmes and opportunities to develop one's character.

By Lúcás Rohan Grade 11
I remember hanging around the playground during break time in Grade 5 with a group of friends, banging our fists on the slide and clicking our fingers in an attempt to create some rhythm, a beat for us to sing over. As you can imagine, this did not produce incredible music, but the raw enthusiasm was there, and this was what drove us to begin using the music room during break time. I do not remember what we played, or even at which instruments I stationed myself, but I do still remember this excitement, where I felt as though I had really found something to do with myself, now and in the future. 

A few years later in Grade 8 was when I began to find out why the arts are so important to me. I got the part of Danny in that year’s musical Grease and got the opportunity to act, sing and dance in front of crowds of hundreds of people. I started a band with some friends and was given the opportunity to play at events like ISZL’s International Day, again in front of hundreds. Being able to perform at events of that magnitude at the age of 14, to me, is a huge privilege, and gave me the confidence to pursue whatever I wanted to upon coming to the High School.

In the two and a half years I have been at the High School, I wrote my first of many songs, with the invaluable support of teacher Mr Michael Huber. Thanks to teachers Ms Maria Le Guen and Mr Ole Wasner, I have been able to perform on numerous occasions in a variety of arrangements, and now can professionally master my home recordings in the ISZL Media Studio. The High School Music Room was a dream when I first began using it two years ago, and it has only improved since then. I have also performed on stage at the High School, and through this, I have discovered I am often more at home on stage than anywhere else. 

Discovering music and performance near the end of Primary School made me feel as though I had found a purpose, as cliché as that sounds. I feel incredibly lucky that I happened to be at ISZL when I made this discovery because ISZL gave me the resources and opportunity to pursue what I wanted to do and the confidence to continue to pursue this long after I graduate.

Passion and Courage - The Sibarium Family’s Arts Journey
Monica Sibarium - Parent

Darius and Mikayla Sibarium have participated in the ISZL arts programmes for over a decade and have attended the school since moving to Switzerland from the Netherlands in August 2007. Fast forward nearly 12 years, and both are approaching graduations in consecutive years, Darius in June 2019 and Mikayla in June 2020.

Music and Performance
Shortly after arriving at ISZL, Darius and Mikayla became active in ISZL musical endeavours. Mandatory recorder lessons brought both kids into the wind ensembles at school, ensuring two consecutive years of [sometimes] melodic whistles throughout the Sibarium household.

These early interactions at the Primary and Middle Schools, coupled with an osmotic love of music received from their parents since birth (from Broadway to Beethoven and Puccini to Prince), led to deeper interests in the arts. In the case of Darius, he glided from recorder to guitar to saxophone at ISZL, while pursuing violin for seven years at the local Knonau Musikschule. Mikayla’s recorder experience led her to ballet, the flute, voice, theatre and the ISZL Choir.

The Choir and Jazz Band
By Grade 4, Mikayla moved from the Junior Choir to Mr David Smith’s ISZL Zug Campus Choir where she learned discipline and other skills that have survived to this day. Mikayla performed with Mr Smith’s Choir from Grades 4 - 8, performing in Vienna (incredible experience!) and a few years later in Venice. She travelled to Paris and Budapest representing ISZL in the Association for Music in International Schools (AMIS) Girls Choir concerts. Now she sings in the Jazz Band with teacher Mr Ole Wasner and the High School Choir with teacher Ms Marie Le Guen.

Theatre and Production
When Darius and Mikayla were in Grades 4 and 3 respectively, the new multi-purpose Baarburg Theatre opened on the Zug Campus. Mikayla performed her first solo at one of the ISZL Theatre’s opening night events in December 2010, and a grainy performance is still available via YouTube:

Several performances, art exhibitions and years later, the Sibariums moved to the Riverside campus for High School and continued to evolve in the Arts. Mikayla persisted with voice lessons, musicals and most recently, theatrical directing (she co-directed ISZL’s most recent production The Great Gatsby). Darius hung up the violin and bow (for the moment) and migrated into a different sector of the arts including photography, film production (including IB Film) and digital media. Because of his interest in media, Darius interned at the Storm King Art Center in New York where he produced video footage and images. He enjoys this work so much that he plans to study Computer Science and Design after graduating from ISZL.

Mikayla loves performing arts so much that she became a member of the English Theatre Group of Zug and had roles with them in The Sound of Music and Honk. She also took classes at Simply Theatre in Zürich and has done a series of summer courses in musical theatre, songwriting and acting in New York City. In Grade 8 (2016) Mikayla was Sandy in Grease and in Grade 10 (2018) she played Audrey in The Little Shop of Horrors.

Mikayla has enjoyed the opportunities she has been given at ISZL to direct and perform. She has also found being asked to sing at ‘gigs’ provided by the school, such as at the ISZL Gala and the International Women's Club of Zug, particularly rewarding. Mikayla’s advice to other ISZL students is that:

if you are truly passionate in the arts field, pursue it, even if it is just a hobby of yours. It takes a lot of courage to step up onto the stage, but it is important to embrace your talent and passion rather than hide it away. I sang a song about baking my freshman year in assembly, and I was a new face for everyone. Although my song choice was quite odd and I was extremely nervous, putting myself out there has given me opportunities to feature in other people’s music, act in films, perform in gigs, and help me embrace who I am. High School is only a phase in our long lives, so you have to have your slip-ups and embarrass yourself on stage; it only makes you stronger, and once you get back up there you will work even harder to do better.”

The Media Studio
Working for Youth Forum Switzerland, an annual event held to empower the future generation of leaders, Darius was able to utilise the new media studio at the Riverside campus. At first it was overwhelming for him, surrounded by all this state-of-the-art technology at his disposal; however, eventually, he was able to use the advanced technology. Furthermore, Darius is also part of the senior video team, routinely making use of the school’s media studio and audio-visual equipment.


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