The Upper School arts program strives to create a strong sense of discipline in the advanced learner but never stifles creativity or exploration. We respect the product but enjoy the process as well.
Students who love to sing will find plenty to engage them. Two large choirs—not auditioned but requiring top-notch musical skills—come together frequently during the school year. A smaller chamber choir, the Ensemble, travels during spring break each year.
Creativity is not just fun: it’s daring, adventuresome, and exotic.
A memorable trip around the world is possible in theatre arts as well. Courses in public speaking help you find your voice. In dance, our students fly through the air, personifying exuberance, elegance and grace. Main-stage theatre performances each year pull from the works of Arthur Miller, Sondheim, and Shakespeare, and have included Les Mis, The Music Man, and Oklahoma! One-act plays and student-led writing competitions fill out the year. If your passion takes you behind the scenes, a vast array of technical theater work is available. Build sets, learn about stage lighting or design costumes.
Band and orchestra programs have flourished at Westminster since its beginning. Upper School orchestra students appear numerous times on campus during the year, in chamber-music concerts, in early morning coffee concerts, with members of the symphonic band, and accompanying major choral works, such as the haunting Requiem of Gabriel Fauré or Vivaldi’s exuberant Gloria. Students whose taste runs to jazz continue to find an outlet for their passion: the jazz ensemble rehearses and plays concerts throughout the school year. Meanwhile, the wind ensemble and symphonic band excel in classic repertoire, both old and new.
The Westminster Ensemble, a 24-member auditioned choir, travels to Europe each spring to perform in different cities and venues. In 2017, the group traveled to France, performing at the American Cemetery in Normandy, and in Paris at La Madeleine, the American Church, and the Cathedral of Notre Dame. In the past, Ensemble has traveled to London, Prague, and Rome.
- A Cappella
- Chorus & Chorale
- The Chamber Orchestra
- The Symphonic Band
- The Wind Ensemble
- The Westminster Players
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.”
An annual Westminster tradition, the Messiah is a joint orchestra and choir performance that brings students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff together during the Christmas season. Performing arts alumni are invited to perform with the students.