Sudbury·New

Northern Ontario high school's performing arts program marks 30 years

Back in the early 1980s, Sudbury Secondary School was dying. Inspired by his daughter who was active in music and dance in the city, principal Joe Drago envisioned a school for the performing arts in downtown Sudbury.

'It excited me to think that what interested me as a kid ... I could pursue in high school and have a career'

Sudbury Secondary arts students perform in the Let's Dance recital in 2009. (Sudbury Secondary)

Back in the early 1980s, a high school in Sudbury, Ont. was dying.

Inspired by his daughter who was active in music and dance in the city, principal Joe Drago envisioned a school for the performing arts in downtown Sudbury.

But he says many other principals and some school board trustees were not thrilled with this idea of a school magnetized for the arts — and to which students could be bussed in from the surrounding area.

"There was a tremendous uproar from my colleagues and they didn't think this was right and they thought we were going to steal some of their better students," says Drago.

"A couple of them who were adamant that this never happen became principals at Sudbury Secondary — and told me it was the best school they ever worked in."

Students were 'enthused'

Grant Cvitkovich was part of that first class of 1985-86. He says he was "terrified" to go from his hometown in Noelville to audition in the big city of Sudbury, but left that first meeting with the teachers enthused about the future.

"It excited me to think that what interested me as a kid was actually something I could pursue in high school and have a career out of it," says Cvitkovich, now a graphic designer in Toronto.

Drama teacher Judi Straughan, who taught in the performing arts program for 16 years, says the goal from the beginning was not to simply produce professional actors and artists, a mandate that is still intact today.

"You would just be a happier citizen, a happier person, a more well-rounded person — not a star on Broadway," she says.

"But we've had our stars."

The first class of the Sudbury Secondary performing arts program graduated in 1989. (Sudbury Secondary)

How the show began

CBC reporter Erik White tells Morning North radio show host Markus Schwabe about the genesis of the performing arts program back in the early 1980s.

30 years ago, Sudbury got a different kind of high school. That's when Sudbury Secondary School started its performing arts program. CBC reporter Erik White joined us in studio to talk about how it all began. 8:12


Lori Cacciotti

Lori attended the performing arts programs in its early days in the 1980s and, for the last 22 years, has operated her own dance studio in Sudbury.

We're marking 30 years of the Sudbury Secondary performing arts program by meeting some of the graduates who drew and sang and danced their way to a diploma. Today we introduce you to Lori Cacciotti, who now runs a dance studio in the Sudbury. 4:40


Eric Rose

The son of a minister from "conformist" Lively, Rose attended Sudbury Secondary in the early1990s. It was there he discovered his future was on stage — and he now runs his own theatre company on the other side of the country.

Eric Rose is a graduate of the Sudbury Secondary School Performing Arts Program, now in it`s 30th year. Graduating in 1997, He's gone on to run his own theatre company in Calgary. We reached out to Erik to find out more. 7:13

Lisabeth Flanagan

Her dream of being an actor or a playwright never came true, but this 1996 grad says her arts education has help set her up for a life in business and in chocolate.

We introduce you to another graduate of Sudbury Secondary School's performing arts program now in its 30th year. Lisabeth Flanagan did not become an actor or a playwright, but she says her arts education helped prepare for life in the business world. 5:47

Derek Hagen

In the 20 years since he graced the stage at Sheridan Auditorium, he's gone on to star in films and in musicals in London's east end. But he still has a soft spot for the "paradise" of his hometown.

We have another of Sudbury Secondary School's Performing Arts Program graduates as we mark the program's 30th year. Derek Hagen has gone on to star in films and been on the stages of London's East End. 6:38

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