MS Performing Arts
The concepts of transition, competence, and identity serve as basic themes for the mission of the Middle School Performing Arts Program. Courses are offered in dance, theater, choral music and instrumental music. Students learn through active practice, rehearsal, and creation or performance of works in the arts. Students make connections between concepts in all of the arts and across subject areas. The middle school years are the foundation whereupon the students are able to progress to the advanced groups in the Upper School. Middle School students have the opportunity to grow as performers in concerts, dramas, and musicals throughout the school year. The artists-in-residence program along with occasional field trips all contribute to the growth of the Middle School Performing Arts student in preparation for the Upper Division groups.
Sixth grade drama offers students an opportunity to explore some of the basic elements of theatrical performance. While the bulk of the students’ work is experiential, participants do begin to layer in a more informed, critical approach to theatre and performance. The semester’s work is divided into three sections: solo, silent performance, solo performance with words, and group performance. The term’s work is leavened with theatre games that focus on increasing concentration, refining improvisational creativity, strengthening ensemble-building skill, and exploring the politics of the performance-making process.
This is a one-semester class for seventh grade students and is designed to develop improvisational and ensemble acting skills. Throughout the first half of the course, students will work individually and as an ensemble to accomplish specific tasks through theater games and improvisations. These tasks will include defining specific characters, developing physical awareness, exploring emotions, and communicating ideas to an audience. During the second half of the course, students will collaboratively write, revise, direct, and rehearse original scenes, which will culminate in a final informal performance.
This course focuses on the basic acting skills necessary to communicate a story and character to an audience. Attention is focused on the student’s sensory awareness and imagination in order to bring realism and vitality to the stage. The first half of the semester is devoted to character development. Students are taught to create realistic and stage-worthy characterizations through the use of pantomime, “Who-What-When-Where” exercises and improvisation. The second half of the semester is dedicated to applying the character work to improvised scenes that contain exposition, conflict, and resolution. By the end of the term, students will be able to perform scenes developed from audience suggestions.
Middle School Orchestra
Admission to the Middle School Orchestras is open to all string players and pianists in grades six through eight by permission of the instructor. A basic placement audition will be performed at the beginning of each year to determine seating in each instrument section. Students study and perform various styles of orchestral literature while gaining the technical facility, music theory, and reading ability needed to perform in the Upper School Chamber Orchestra. Membership requires participation in the Winter and Spring Concerts as well as the annual music festival at Disneyland. Practicing at home on a regular basis is mandatory. Students will be evaluated through music checks, effort, and participation during rehearsals, attendance, and punctuality. Middle School Orchestra is a yearlong course.
Middle School Choir
Admission to the Middle School Choir is open to students in grades 6 through 8 by permission of the instructor. The course is designed to improve students’ vocal and critical listening skills, foster a love of singing, increase knowledge of music theory, develop sight-singing abilities, and give performing experience. Vocal techniques involving a variety of styles and languages are examined in depth. Membership requires enthusiasm and focused participation during rehearsals and concerts, including the Buckley Winter Concert, Spring Arts Festival, and other appearances. Students will be required to commit to a regular practice schedule outside of class in order to be prepared for class meetings. Members of the choir who are in good standing are eligible to audition for our select extra-curricular Middle School Advanced Vocal Ensemble. The Middle School Choir is a year-long course that may be repeated for credit with the permission of the instructor.
In General Music, students develop the ability to be informed listeners of classical, jazz, and pop styles of music. This is done by listening and evaluating pieces from the various eras of musical history from 1700 to the present, which the students are responsible for finding and presenting to the class. The course also includes musical score reading, rhythm review, and analysis, singing in two part harmony, understanding musical terminology, musical ensemble practice with Orff instrumentation, and participating in class discussions.
Introduction to Dance
A one-semester dance course is offered at the Middle School level as part of the arts rotation. Students work on basic principles of movement and expression by studying jazz dance, modern dance, ballet, hip-hop, improvisation, and choreography. Along with the movement component, this course contains an academic element that focuses on keeping a journal to document ideas, analyze personal experiences, and help develop writing skills. The goal of journal writing is to help students become critical thinkers and to become more articulate when discussing dance in particular and the arts in general. This class is open to both males and females at all skill levels.
Advanced Middle School Dance
In the second semester, Advanced Middle School Dance is offered for those eighth graders who have already taken Intro to Dance, who are interested in continuing their dance experience, and who have the instructor’s permission to enroll in the course. Students in this class are expected to have a basic understanding of dance and choreography techniques and should have a genuine interest in dance. The class builds on the fundamentals that were presented in the introductory course while simultaneously preparing students for their participation in the Spring Dance Festival. Journal writing, class discussions, and reflective activities compliment dance experiences and prepare students for possible involvement in the Upper School Dance program.
Middle School Play
This course offers students an introduction to the practice of writing for the stage. Students’ work during the term is organized around an exploration of Aristotles’ “six constituent element”, plot, character, thought, diction, sound, and spectacle. Students will have an opportunity to explore a variety of creative strategies as they work to create an original short play. Although students will spend the greatest part of their class time writing and reading their own work (as well as the work of others in the class), some time will be devoted to reading and critiquing short plays written by established authors.