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Upper School Academic Departments

Performing Arts

The program supports the belief that performing arts are vital to the emotional, intellectual, and aesthetic development of students. This philosophy encourages self-expression, creativity, self-discipline, and cooperation. The program builds on the foundation laid in the Lower and Middle Schools, and provides more challenging performing opportunities and development of individual talents. The program aims to benefit the wide-ranging interests and needs of the student population through intimate experience in a variety of artistic media.

Students may receive a semester of Fine Arts credit for participation in the fall play or the spring musical, which can be applied towards their graduation requirement in the Fine Arts. Students may also elect to waive one season of P.E. for each major theater production in which they are involved. 

Students who are involved in the choral or instrumental program for two years have their P.E. requirement reduced to seven seasons.

Note: All students in performing groups are encouraged to study privately in addition to performing in their ensemble. All groups perform in a variety of settings both on and off campus and in joint programs with local schools.
  • Concert Choir

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This interactive course creates an enjoyable atmosphere for students to experience various styles of vocal music. The members range from beginning to advanced students, and all learn the basic fundamentals of music. This group studies vocal technique, music theory, sight-singing, concert etiquette, musical expression, choreography, and stage presence. Students learn how to engage an audience by performing high-quality music in concerts, community events, and music festivals, including an annual music trip in the winter. From Broadway to Bach, students build their confidence in an encouraging environment to become lifelong music enthusiasts.
  • Chamber Orchestra

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This program is open to students demonstrating ability on the violin, viola, cello, or bass, and who have a desire to participate in an ensemble committed to musical excellence. Performances in a wide range of orchestral literature, from the Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Contemporary periods, are offered. On- and off-campus performances are frequent, including an end-of-year competition, and enrolled students are also eligible for all-district, regional, and all-state ensembles and festivals.
  • Wind Ensemble

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This program is open to all woodwind, brass, and percussion students demonstrating ability on their instruments and who have a desire to participate in an ensemble committed to musical excellence. Performances offer a wide range of band literature, including marches, contemporary literature, and orchestral transcriptions. In addition to performing in the fall and spring concerts, students have opportunities to participate in the Pep Band, which performs at football and basketball games: audition for the all-district, regional, and all-state ensembles; and perform solos and ensembles. During the school year, the students join with the choir, orchestra, and drama groups on the annual music trip, during which they attend master classes and perform.
  • Advanced Wind Ensemble

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental approval
    This program is open to woodwind, brass, and percussion students who demonstrate advanced ability on their instruments and who have a desire to participate in an ensemble committed to musical excellence. An audition is required to participate. Performances offer a wide range of band literature, including marches, contemporary literature, and orchestral transcriptions. On- and off-campus performances are frequent, including the District Band Festival in March. Enrolled students are also eligible for all-district, regional, and all-state ensembles and festivals.
     
  • Honors Advanced Wind Ensemble

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental approval
    With departmental approval, students participating in Advanced Wind Ensemble may also participate in the Jazz Ensemble for Honors Distinction. Their commitment includes at least one 45-minute rehearsal each week on Jazz Ensemble music with the Jazz Ensemble director. Students are also required at all after-school Jazz Ensemble dress rehearsals and concerts.
  • Jazz Ensemble

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    This comprehensive music course is open to all saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone, percussion, keyboard/piano, guitar, and string/electric bass students demonstrating ability on their instruments. The ensemble performs jazz and other contemporary music such as blues, rock, Latin, and fusion. Literature is selected from “big band” charts, with opportunities for smaller ensemble work. All students must have experience reading music prior to enrollment. Enrolled students are also eligible for all-district, regional, and all-state ensembles and festivals.
  • Honors Jazz Ensemble

    Grades 9-12
    Full Year
    1 credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental approval
    With departmental approval, students participating in Jazz Ensemble may also participate in the Wind Ensemble for Honors Distinction. Their commitment includes at least one 45-minute rehearsal each week on Wind Ensemble music with the Wind Ensemble director. Students are also required at all after-school Wind Ensemble dress rehearsals and concerts.
  • Music Technology/Song Writing

    Course 732
    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    Music Technology is a course that uses the computer as its main tool to understand the composition and recording of many musical styles. Topics include basic use of multi-track mixing and sequencing software, the MIDI (Music Instrument Digital Interface) system, and microphone and mixing board use. Students will learn by doing, creating their own music compositions. This introductory course is open to any student with the desire to learn about the ever-changing world of music technology.  Students will explore the latest computer software and hardware along with analog and digital recording. Students will leave this course with a basic understanding of sound systems, recording techniques, and computer music.
  • Music and Politics

    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    The 20th century was a time of turbulent transformation in which Americans were forced to rethink their political ideals, their commitment to social justice, and their definitions of art and culture. In this course, students focus on the big ideas in American culture that shaped the nation's history from the beginning of the 20th century through today. Students examine American music within the context of US history, studying folk music and the labor movement, the Vietnam War and the 60s, student activism, and hip-hop and racism. Through listening experiences and class discussions, this course will examine music’s social and cultural impact.
  • Modern American Popular Music

    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    Students will examine the development of American popular music, make connections between the music and its historical and cultural contexts, and recognize key artists and compositions from recorded examples. Students will listen to, analyze, and discuss important social, political, and cultural elements of rock, pop, country, and hip-hop music. Students will also develop the ability to recognize major musical components, such as form, instrumentation, and style.
  • Music History - The Jazz Age

    Grades 9 -12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    This course seeks to introduce students to the major movements and artistic innovators of the jazz music tradition, from African and African-American folk origins through blues, ragtime, early jazz, swing, bebop, hard bop, cool jazz, free jazz, avant-garde, jazz-rock and fusion, to postmodern and contemporary developments in the jazz mainstream and beyond. In addition to musical issues, we will examine critical issues related to the social and cultural progress of African-Americans and other minority groups, and discuss how that history influenced the development of jazz.
  • Music Theory

    Grades 10 -12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    The Music Theory course content covers theory (music fundamentals, counterpoint, and harmony) and dictation (aural recognition of rhythmic patterns, intervals, and triads and techniques of functional hearing). This course satisfies a semester of the full year Fine Art graduation requirement.
  • Theater I

    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    This basic acting course centers on building confidence and stage presence through improvisation and a series of increasingly difficult acting exercises. Students begin without the use of a written script. Each student creates a wide variety of characters in the class, and those characters are then used to create original theater pieces. The elements of theater are investigated through the creation of short performance pieces and in-class discussion of the work.
     
     
  • Theater II

    Offered 2020 - 2021
    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    This course builds and expands on the skills developed in Theater 1, and is centered on the process of scene study. Students study, practice, and perform scenes from established playwrights such as Shakespeare, Moliére, Ibsen, and various contemporary writers. Students serve as sounding boards for one another as the scenes are presented in class. Note: Two drama productions are presented each year. Parts are open by audition to all Upper School students. Interested students may also be involved in production, including set construction, props, lights, costumes, sound design, and stage management.
     
  • Theater III - Intermediate Acting Class

    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    Students will read the complete scripts of a number of contemporary plays.  Scenes will then be selected for performance and students will spend focused time contemplating and brainstorming how the scenes will be presented. Selected scenes will be performed in a workshop environment in the Black Box Theater, using a variety of theatrical elements including costumes, makeup, props, lights, music, and sound.  The scripts will represent more unusual styles of theatrical pieces ranging from absurdism to non realistic pieces.
  • Theater IV - Advanced Acting Class

    Grades 9-12
    One Semester 
    ½ credit
    Students will read, discuss, and analyze a variety of full length plays.  Scenes will be selected from these plays and then rehearsed and performed in the Black Box space.   The scripts will be selected from “classical” writers, such as Shakespeare, Ibsen, and Chekhov as well as more contemporary “writers of note,” such as Tennesse Williams and David Ives.
  • Religion and Music

    Grades 9-12
    One Quarter
    ¼ credit
    This course will explore the numerous roles that music plays in religious and spiritual contexts around the world. We will compare religious musical practice from a global perspective, exploring the connections between religious doctrines, rituals, and cultural performances. The scope of the class will cover the major world religions using listening, analysis, and discussion to develop a foundation of understanding for music’s role to express reverence for and connection with the divine.

Department Faculty

  • Photo of James Marvin

    James Marvin

    Director of Scheduling, Upper School Drama Teacher
    (703) 212-2749
    University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, IL - B.F.A.
    Trinity University, San Antonio, TX - M.F.A.
  • Photo of Vaughn Ambrose

    Vaughn Ambrose

    Upper School Music Teacher
    703-212-2882
    East Carolina University - BM Music Music Education
    East Carolina University - MM Jazz Studies
  • Photo of Dallis Byrne

    Dallis Byrne

    Middle and Upper School Chorus Teacher
    (703) 212-2902
    Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY - Bachelor of Music
    University of Louisville, Louisville, KY - Master of Music
  • Photo of James Criswell

    James Criswell

    Middle and Upper School Band and Orchestra Teacher
    703-212-2867
    James Madison University, Harrisonburg, VA - BM
    Auburn University, Auburn, AL - MM
    University of Maryland, College Park, MD - DMA
  • Arvilla Mastromarino

    Costume Designer, Upper School
    703-751-2700
Age 3-Grade 12 coed Episcopal day school in Alexandria, Virginia

Campuses

List of 3 items.

  • Lower School

    Age 3-Grade 5
    400 Fontaine Street
    Alexandria, Virginia 22302
  • Middle School

    Grades: 6-8
    4401 West Braddock Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304
  • Upper School

    Grades: 9-12
    1000 St. Stephen's Road
    Alexandria, Virginia 22304