Visual and Performing Arts Courses
Fifth Grade students who enroll in band meet in small groups during the school day. In these classes students are given specialized instruction on flute, oboe clarinet, bassoon, alto saxophone, trumpet, trombone, tuba, or percussion. A full band rehearsal held once a week after school allows the students to develop proper ensemble performance etiquette and skills. The band performs several times throughout the year, including an off-campus performance in December, a Christmas Concert, a Spring Concert in March, and a Lower School assembly concert in April.
The Lower School Chorus is a non-auditioned, after-school elective for students in fourth and fifth grades that meets once a week after school. During the first semester, students prepare for a Christmas concert that is performed both on- and off-campus in December. The chorus is open for additional, second-semester enrollment during the first two weeks of January. Second semester chorus culminates in a highly-anticipated thematic Spring Concert presented at the beginning of May. The concert features solo, small ensemble, and chorus selections, choreography, costumes, staging, and dialogue.
Using the National and Georgia Standards for Music Education as our guide, we sing, perform, improvise, listen, and understand music as it relates to history and culture. With the latest 21st century technology, our teaching tools have been updated, but the philosophy and goals for our students remain the same: music literacy. The music technology labs in the music classrooms are equipped with iMacs with M-Audio Keystation Mini keyboards that interface with software such as Sibelius First, GarageBand, Music Lessons I and II, Music Ace I and II and other new, innovative programs.
An instructional team in both large and small group settings teaches the Lower School orchestras. Students may join orchestra in third through fifth grade; the Allegro Orchestra is for beginning students and the Presto Orchestra is for continuing students. In orchestra, our young musicians work on developing techniques in playing the violin, viola, cello, and bass in solo, chamber, and orchestral settings. They also work on their music literacy and aural skills. The culmination of students’ learning is exhibited in concerts that are presented throughout the year. Presto Orchestra students also perform in the Fourth Grade Medieval Festival; the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter assemblies; and in a performance field trip with the band and chorus during the Holiday Season.
Within the Lower School's art program, students in Pre-First through Fifth Grade are taught within a sequential program adapted to their differing maturational and developmental levels. Our teachers present age-appropriate curriculum which emphasizes building confidence and developing skills and expose students to both two- and three-dimensional forms to express their ideas. Through repeated art experiences in drawing, painting, printmaking, collage, ceramics, and fiber arts, the concepts dealing with principles of art and elements of design are identified and explored, and facility with the tools, techniques, and vocabulary of the process are enhanced. At each grade level, students learn about their artistic heritage through exposure to works of art and artistic traditions in different cultures and times. Whenever possible, art activities are integrated into and/or correlated with the classroom curriculum and other special areas.
Students are placed into one of three band classes—beginner, intermediate, or advanced—based on their knowledge and playing experience. Students learn instrument playing fundamentals, basic musicianship, music theory, and rehearsal techniques in the beginner band classes. As they expand their desire for music performance, students refine individual playing skills and begin exploring the expressive qualities of musicianship in intermediate band. The advanced band class is designed for students aspiring to dive deeper into their passion for performance.
The Middle School Chorus program at Westminster is committed to developing lifelong singers and music appreciation. Each class includes vocal technique appropriate for the age, music theory, and music history. The objective is to create independent singers and musicians who have enough knowledge and confidence to feel comfortable and confident in any singing or audition situation.
Performance is an integral and rewarding part of the Middle School Chorus Curriculum. The Middle School Choirs perform in a variety of settings including Middle School religious services, Demonstration Concert, Spring Concert, Small Ensemble Concert, and Winter Recognition Assembly.
Dance begins in the eighth grade at Westminster. The dance program focuses on technique, challenging repertoire, and an overview of the history of dance. Students participate in daily modern and ballet technique classes in addition to being introduced to the basic elements of dance composition. The class incorporates flexibility and strength training, and the classroom exercises and technique are adapted for both novice and experienced dancers.
In every level of the Film & Theatre Arts department, we desire to create a solid foundation of good technique and powerful, specific, personal storytelling. We develop the individual artists’ instrument, and encourage them to become craftsmen and collaborators. The Film & Theatre Arts department in the Middle School offers a selection of courses during the academic day as electives, including theatre arts, theatre and film, and drama in performance. There are also extra-curricular performances during the school year, and all students are invited to audition.
Two levels appropriate to age and skills are offered for sixth, seventh, and eighth grade Orchestra students. Prelude Orchestra offers young musicians the opportunity to develop basic performance technique and music reading skills. Participation in the Junior Chamber Orchestra helps develop technique through ensemble performance.
Public Speaking is offered in the eighth grade. It begins with the basics of effective communication and presentation skills, and moves into delivering informative, persuasive, and policy speeches. There is an overview of speech evaluation, and the students learn to give each other constructive feedback. Whether an evaluation, a presentation, or a classroom exercise, every student speaks every day with a variety of speech opportunities offered including interviews, debates, toasts, improv, voice-over, impromptu speeches, and interactive speeches. Students benefit from individual attention, personal direction, and specific feedback and advice about presentation style.
Building on the principles of design, we continue our artistic journey through Middle School, enlightening students and empowering them to explore uninhibited creativity through self-awareness and increase their level and understanding of visual communication. Peruse the narrative and galleries below to gain a clearer understanding of the aesthetic development of the Middle School art student.
- A Cappella
- Chamber Orchestra
- Chorus & Chorale
- The Symphonic Band
- The Westminster Players
- The Wind Ensemble
The popular collegiate tradition of a cappella group singing has taken root at Westminster and has been a part of the musical scene for many years. All Upper School singers are invited to audition for the men's or women's cappella group (affectionately called MAC and WAC on campus) and there are numerous appearances on and off campus during the school year. The groups are student-led and have always enjoyed sensational reviews from fellow students, faculty members, and parents.
Students from all areas of the school frequently find themselves uniting in the wondrous bond of orchestral music. A football captain is a fantastic cellist; the star basketball player is also a brilliant brass player while the leader of the Robotics team may, in time, become the concertmaster of the orchestra. The Chamber Orchestra is primarily a string ensemble, appearing in a dozen concerts on campus each year. One of its most exciting assignments is the annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. That doesn’t mean its repertoire is limited to serious classical selections. Popular music in new arrangements is often heard in concert and students are all required to play in chamber music ensembles of varying sizes and repertoire. The chamber music component, in fact, is unique to Westminster’s orchestra program. Students have been participating in quartets or quintets since coming to the Lower School. By the time they become upperclassmen, they have a thorough grounding in classical techniques and literature. Individual study is encouraged and personal pride in being a part of such an amazing ensemble is obvious. Many of the members of the Chamber Orchestra participate in all-state Orchestra festivals.
The Upper School curriculum features two large choruses, one for Ninth and Tenth graders, the other (called the “Chorale”) for Juniors and Seniors. Both choirs learn diverse and demanding repertoires spanning a wide range of musical styles. Members of the groups are trained in vocal technique, music theory and sight-singing. No audition is required to participate. In the fall of each year, the choirs go on a singing retreat weekend. At the holiday season they are featured in Handel’s Messiah with the Chamber Orchestra, an annual tradition of great excitement in the community. In the spring there are two more concerts (one with orchestra), a service for Holy Week and a day-long service project in which they sing in assisted living communities, day shelters, churches and prisons in and around Atlanta. Most of these choristers have been singing since their earliest school days and many study voice privately with area teachers. Their singular experience in this communal “melting pot that sings” prepares them for a lifetime of appreciation for the arts.
Upper School dancers literally take wing as they explore dance in its myriad forms, from classical ballet through the newest jazz and contemporary styles. Classroom time balances the study of dance technique and history with discussions specific to the great, landmark works of dance, such as The Afternoon of a Faun and The Rite of Spring. Once in each school year, the dancers present a showcase that frequently includes their own choreography.
The Westminster Ensemble is a 24-member auditioned choir which performs sacred music from the Renaissance to the present as well as more contemporary music from sources as diverse as Appalachian folk tunes, African-American spirituals, American musical theater, and The Beatles. The Ensemble has an annual tour during spring break; within the last few years, they have appeared in London, Prague, Rome and Paris. The group has also performed the National Anthem at Atlanta Braves games.
The Westminster Band program provides an opportunity for music study for all students who have an interest in wind, brass and percussion literature regardless of their past musical experience. The Symphonic Band is one of the two groups which celebrates the highest achievements of Upper School musicians. In Symphonic Band, rising Freshmen and Sophomores continue their personal development while participating in a new and exciting, rigorously collaborative group. Tonal beauty, phrasing, intonation, musicianship and musical scholarship are taught at an advanced level in the Symphonic Band curriculum. These fundamentals are designed to create quality performances while preparing the young musicians for their experience in Wind Ensemble, which is the culminating level of Upper School band.
Critical thinking, intense personal preparation, leadership and collaboration all contribute to the creation of an outstanding piece of theatre. The Westminster Players bring the masterworks of Stoppard, Shaffer, Molière, Miller, Shakespeare, Chekhov and Wilson to life. The annual musical is one of the highlights of campus life. Repertoire is chosen to give students an opportunity to study and perform the great theatrical works of all periods so that over the course of four years, a theatre enthusiast will develop a passion that is truly lifelong. Students are encouraged to audition on a play-by-play basis and also have the opportunity to learn theatre arts and public speaking in the classroom. For many theatre students their motto is, “What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compare to what lies within us.”
The Wind Ensemble is home to Westminster’s finest band players. Most of the students have spent their entire lives learning and perfecting their craft. Many of them have come up through Lower and Middle school band programs, have played in the Symphonic Band, have even marched in the Pep Band on occasion. They are frequently members of the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra and Georgia All-State bands. In recent years, the Wind Ensemble members have traveled to give concerts in New York, Chicago, Orlando and the Bahamas. The joy these students find in music stays with them throughout their lives. The respect for each other which they learn from being on this musical team propels them into a lifetime of good citizenship, personal responsibility and spiritual growth.