Upper School

Explore Our Curriculum

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. Or students may elect to waive one season of P.E. for each major theater production in which they are involved. They may apply for this reduction of the P.E. requirement only three times.  Students may also recieve a semester Fine Arts credit for participation in Yearbook as well as 3D Modeling and 3D Printing. 

Students who are involved in the choral or instrumental program for two years have their P.E. requirement reduced to seven seasons. They may apply for one additional reduction of their P.E. requirement once by participating in the fall play or the spring musical.

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

    Five Times a Week: 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 bi-yearly music trip in the winter. From Broadway to Bach, students build their confidence in an encouraging environment to become lifelong music enthusiasts.
  • Chamber Orchestra

    Five Times a Week: 1 credit
    The 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

    Five Times a Week: 1 credit
    The 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 bi-yearly music trip, during which they attend master classes and perform.
  • Advanced Wind Ensemble

    Five Times a Week: 1 credit
    Prerequisite: Departmental approval
    The 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

    Five Times a Week: 1 credit
    With departmental approval, students participating in Advanced Wind Ensemble may also participate in the Jazz Ensemble for Honors Distinction. In addition to their principle class of Advanced Wind Ensemble, their commitment also includes at least one 45-minute rehearsal each week on Jazz Ensemble music with the Jazz Ensemble director. In addition to Advanced Wind Ensmeble performances, students are also required at all after-school Jazz Ensemble dress rehearsals and concerts.
  • Jazz Ensemble

    Five Times a Week: 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

    Five Times a Week: 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 be required at all after-school Wind Ensemble dress rehearsals and concerts.
  • Music Theory

    Grades 10-12
    Five Times a Week: 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

    Five Times a Week: ½ credit
    This basic acting course centers on confidence building and stage presence through improvisation and a series of increasingly difficult acting exercises. Students begin without the use of a written script. A wide variety of characters is created by each student in the class, and those characters are then used to create original theater pieces. The elements of theater are investigated by creating short performance pieces and having in-class discussion of the work.

  • Theater II

    Five Times a Week for One Semester: ½ credit
    Prerequisite: Theater I or departmental approval
    The course builds and expands on the skills focused on in Theater I 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 after school 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.
  • Directing

    Five Times a Weekr: ½ credit
    The course is a hands-on, practical approach to play directing. Students learn and practice different elements of play direction. Areas to be covered include script analysis; floor plan design and usage; communicating with set, lighting and costume designers; auditioning and casting; and the various steps in a play rehearsal process, including blocking, characterization, style, pace, and acting moments.
  • Honors Orchestra

    Five Times a Week: 1 credit
    With departmental approval, students participating in Orchestra may also participate in the Jazz Ensemble for Honors Distinction. In addition to their principle class of Orchestra, their commitment also includes at least one 45-minute rehearsal each week on Jazz Ensemble music with the Jazz Ensemble director. In addition to Orchestra performances, students are also required at all after-school Jazz Ensemble dress rehearsals and concerts.
  • Music History; The Jazz Age

    Music History; The Jazz Age

Faculty

  • 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.
  • Vaughn Ambrose

    Upper School Music Teacher
    703-212-2882
    East Carolina University - BM Music Music Education
    East Carolina University - MM Jazz Studies
  • 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
  • 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
St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School is an independent, college-preparatory, coed, day, Episcopal Church School that educates students in junior kindergarten through grade 12. The school consists of three, age-appropriate campuses (Lower, Middle, and Upper School) in Alexandria, Virginia. SSSAS welcomes families of all faiths. We offer challenging academics, a state-of-the-art performing arts center, and championship athletics. SSSAS is regarded as one of the top private schools in the Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. area.

Lower School

Grades: JK-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