The Music, Art, and Drama Department at ACDS teaches each student to combine creativity with conceptual knowledge; to help each student develop interpretive and problem solving skills through the arts; and to make fine, applied, and performance arts relevant to each student.
Lower School students study art, drama, and music in designated classes regularly within their weekly schedule. In Middle School, students study either music, art, or drama each trimester four days each week.
The Music program is based on three pillars: Creation, Rehearsal, and Performance. These contexts are the basis for learning as many musical styles and genres as possible in the early childhood program, while the later elementary years use a gradual refining of each student’s style through the music-theory concepts of rhythm, harmony, and melody. Improvisation is used as a fundamental skill in both the initial creation of material which is then structured through rehearsal into composed pieces, and also as a fundamental expressive part within the performance of the developed works. Composed pieces are notated through as wide a variety of notation traditions and techniques as possible, including staff notation, graphic scores, tabs, chord signs, and continuo. Middle School students are trained in the use of instruments which are widely used in contemporary local culture – drums, bass, guitar, keyboard, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, clarinet, and flute. These bands can play rock, jazz, and concert music, once again using as many notation techniques as possible.
The Art program at ACDS prepares students to become competent and confident visual thinkers. The scope of the program includes art criticism, aesthetics, art history, and art production. At each consecutive grade level, student artists are challenged to add another level of mastery of materials and intuitive sophistication to their work. Beyond exposing students to traditional and technological art material and inspiring students to challenge their own creativity, the art department supports the social development of our students by introducing group art critiques and preparing students to give and receive constructive criticism. In an effort to enhance the academic program, whenever possible, art is used as a vehicle to make academic studies more relevant to our students.
The drama program has a process-focused curriculum designed to encourage students to step outside their comfort zones, build confidence, and learn about the art of theatre. Skills learned in drama class can assist students not just in future theatrical endeavors, but also in public speaking, interpersonal communication, creative project work, and self-confidence.
Fifth and sixth grade students learn introductory skills, including vocal and physical awareness and control, improvisation, teamwork, giving constructive criticism, and solo performance. In the first and third trimesters, students have six weeks of drama classes, in which they begin with the basics and ultimately prepare and perform a monologue or scene for their peers. In the second trimester, fifth and sixth graders put on a full-length performance and go through an eight week rehearsal process, during which they memorize text and blocking; work with properties, sets, and costumes; and become acquainted with the process at large, as rehearsals are quite different from a standard drama class. The rehearsal process at ACDS, though ending with a performance, is also process-based; the focus on learning outweighs the focus on performance value.
Seventh and eighth grade students put on two full-length performances, a musical at the end of the third trimester and a dramatic play at the end of the first trimester. In the second trimester, students who do not opt to perform in the play or musical take a full trimester drama course. This course has a more intense focus than the introductory fifth and sixth grade courses and includes reading plays; putting on short, scripted performances in groups; and analyzing film versions of theatrical performances.