The Excel School of Performing Arts is celebrating its 20th anniversary and students are planning to mark the occasion by doing what they do best - performing.
The Christian-based school was founded by Jeff Todd and welcomed its first student intake on March 1, 1994.
Principal John Knight says it is a unique school with students coming from around the country.
"With X-Factor, New Zealand's Got Talent and Idol, everyone wants to be the next star," he says.
"I think for me, we still haven't seen the best of Excel.
"There's a lot that's been happening in New Zealand with Maori and Pacific Islanders and that's a whole new exciting area of creative."
Plans are under way to celebrate the 20th anniversary with a variety of events in 2014.
Between 90 and 100 students enrol at the school every year.
Of those only 25 are invited to return for a second year which includes a 20 week tour of New Zealand high schools and churches from Invercargill to Whangarei.
Mr Knight says the school is returning to its roots this year and will be playing in bigger theatres.
"It's a tremendous experience for the groups that get on the tour," he says.
The NZQA-accredited institution offers a holistic approach to education and a supportive environment.
After the one-year course students graduate with a certificate of performance majoring in drama, dance and music.
Excel alumni includes musical duo Adeaze and 2004 New Zealand Idol winner Ben Lummis who have gone on to enjoy success.
Singer and producer Vince Harder graduated from the school in 2000 when he was just 17.
"When I joined I didn't know what to expect as a performing artist and as a singer," he says.
"Apart from learning how to sing or play the guitar or anything like that, I learned how to set up sound and lighting rigs on my own and to take that with me was valuable."
Although the school has an audition process Mr Knight says they do take people in with raw talent.
"Take what you've got and make it better.
"It's not just stars that make it big," he says.
- Western Leader
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