Frequently asked questions

The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists (SPCPA) is a world-class high school located in downtown Saint Paul, MN. SPCPA is located in the Lowry Building and partners with the Saint Paul RiverCentre to provide excellent facilities and learning opportunities for young performing artists.

About spcpa

general Questions

The mission of Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists is to provide the highest caliber of academic and artistic education for aspiring pre-professional performing artists in the areas of instrumental and vocal music, theatre and dance, visual arts and creative writing, and to fully prepare students for college and conservatory.

Following a recommendation by the Mayor’s Office for the City of St. Paul in 2000 to establish a performing arts high school in the downtown area, Mayor Randy Kelly worked with civic, arts, and public school leaders to assess the need, design a program, and carry forward a plan. The school plan received approval from the Minnesota Department of Education in 2003 with Ordway Center for the Performing Arts acting as an authorizer. The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists opened its doors for 154 students in 2005, offering a full academic program and performing arts instruction in dance and theatre.

A charter school is a tuition-free public school that is part of Minnesota’s public education system. Charter schools operate under Minnesota Statute §124E.
The statute permits teachers, parents, and other community members to form and operate independent school districts.

SPCPA serves grades 9-12 through the Minnesota Department of Education.

Charter schools are site-based managed, meaning that parents, teachers, and local community members choose the people who govern the operation of the school. Charter schools elect their own school boards to oversee all aspects of the school’s mission, goals, and operations.

Note: SPCPA is not part of Saint Paul Public Schools District 625. We are our own district.

Students who reside in Minnesota do not pay tuition. Students residing in another state are welcome to attend SPCPA, but would be required to pay annual tuition. For more information, follow this link to our Out-of-State Residency and Tuition page.

Demographics for the current school year reflect a student body that includes 33% students of color, with members of the African American, Asian, Hispanic and American Indian populations represented.

Geographically, students come from nearly 80 different cities around the Twin Cities metro area and western Wisconsin with the largest percentage from St. Paul (29%), Minneapolis (13%), Woodbury (7%), and Cottage Grove (5%). Other cities representing at least 2% of the student population include Eagan, Roseville, and Edina.

SPCPA’s student body is approximately 70% female and 30% male.

The school day runs from 8:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. SPCPA is on a block schedule consisting on five, eighty-minute periods per day.

The school year consists of two semesters and J-Term.

There is a designated space in each building for students to each lunch. Some students will follow the early lunch schedule and eat lunch from 10:45-11:15 a.m. and some students will follow the late lunch schedule and eat lunch from 12:10-12:40 p.m. SPCPA has an open campus, meaning students are allowed to leave our buildings for lunch if they chose. We do not have a free or reduced lunch program.

SPCPA does not have a lunch program at this time. Indoor lunchroom space in both buildings is available – students have access to multiple microwaves – forks, spoons, bowls, and plates are provided. Students are allotted 30 minutes for lunch and will either bring their own packed lunch from home or purchase lunch at one of the many food spots nearby the school.

Most students utilize the Metro Transit System to get to school. Students may purchase special discounted student bus passes from SPCPA, which allow them to travel throughout the metro area on either buses or light rail.

More information about applying to SPCPA can be found on our Prospective Students page.

  1. We recommend interested students research the school and attend available experiences offered to gain a better understanding for the school’s unique environment.
  2. Interested students and families may then complete and send in the Application Form.
  3. Completed application forms will be reviewed upon reaching the initial application deadline, February 1. The first round of notifications are made by the end of February.
    1. Enrollment is not on a “first come, first serve” basis. Completed applications forms submitted after this date are placed in the waiting pool. SPCPA may continue to accept students from this pool throughout the spring and summer as spots become available. Accepted applicants from this pool will be notified on a rolling basis.
    2. If there are more applicants than space available, a lottery is conducted to determine which applicants will fill open spots.
  4. Students accepted will be informed via mail with an Enrollment Packet and a secondary deadline to complete the Enrollment Packet.

It is SPCPA’s policy to provide equal educational opportunity for all students. The school does not unlawfully discriminate on the basis of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity, marital status, parental status, status with regard to public assistance, disability, sexual orientation or age. The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists also makes reasonable accommodations for disabled students.

You may reach SPCPA’s offices by calling 651-290-2225 (#0 to reach the main desk) or by emailing SPCPA’s administrative offices are located in the Lowry building.


Academic Questions

Approximately 400 students will attend SPCPA throughout the current school year.

Average class size: 24

SPCPA is guided by national and state academic standards. Students’ average performance on nationally normed standardized tests is regularly, and significantly above the national average.

SPCPA offers advanced classes in all grade levels and offers students the opportunity to take Advanced Placement (AP) courses and participate in Post-Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO).

For more information, check out our Academics Section.

Yes. All academic instructors employed by SPCPA are licensed by the Minnesota Professional Educators Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB).

For more about our academic staff, please see our Academic Faculty Bios page.

Arts Questions

The Saint Paul Conservatory for Performing Artists provides opportunities for dance, theatre, music , visual arts and creative writing students not available in traditional high schools, utilizing the conservatory model. To accomplish this, three hours each day are devoted to conservatory style training, arts teachers are professional artists, and professional training and performance spaces are used to the extent possible.

SPCPA expects students to possess a keen interest, experience, and/or potential in one or more of the arts programs . Though auditions are not required for admission, students will go through a placement process wherein current arts faculty observe students and place them in their arts courses accordingly.

Students at SPCPA are required to select one of the following programs: Dance, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Music, Visual Arts or Creative Writing. Each program has a set curriculum that focuses on building skills specific to that performance type. Curriculum for each program can be found on the Arts Department pages.

Though auditions are not required for enrollment, a placement session is required for placement into our arts programs.

Students in Instrumental Music are placed by technical ability. Dance, Theatre, Musical Theatre, Visual Arts, and Vocal Arts students are placed with their grade-level peers. Any question about placement may be directed to the appropriate department chair.

Every student is required to take 2 arts classes per day on a Monday/Wednesday, Tuesday/Thursday schedule. Fridays, in the arts, are devoted to additional arts classes that meet just once per week. Students in 11th and 12th grade will have the opportunity to choose a period 4 Friday elective class outside their arts program. All arts courses are required for graduation.

J-Term is a 13-day block in January devoted solely to rehearsing and performing a substantial piece of work. Students are in school during J-Term anywhere from 4-8 hours per day, immersed in a rehearsal schedule similar to that used by professional companies, and under the guidance of SPCPA instructors and guest professional artists. J-Term is graded on a Pass/No Credit scale; successful completion of J-Term each year is required to receive a diploma from SPCPA.

More information about J-Term

Toward the end of the school year, each student must demonstrate learned skill in their particular discipline for a panel of faculty and outside guest professional artists. Students are critiqued and given feedback.
Each semester, every arts class presents work either in process or performance. Showcases, workshops, concerts, and open houses happen most often at the end of a semester. J-Term is an opportunity for students to work exclusively toward a performance that happens at the end of January. All arts programming at SPCPA, at this point, is curricular.

It is an important part of our mission to work with students who must miss extended time for performances. Students complete a Predicted Extended Arts Absence (PEAA) Contract and work with academic instructors to determine what requirements must be met during and after an absence due to an outside arts experience. Students may earn credit in arts classes for their time spent working at approved arts organizations.

Every arts instructor employed by SPCPA is licensed by the Minnesota Professional Educators Licensing and Standards Board (PELSB). Because all our arts instructors are working professional artists, most arts instructors are working under a Tier 1 or Tier 2 license. For more information on our arts staff, visit our Arts Faculty Bios page.

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