There is a buzz in the building. As I write this from my perch in The Ward Center, our joint Winter Upper School production, Macbeth, just wrapped up. With this excitement, I can’t help but be reminded of the many reasons why our Upper School arts program is unique, rich, and so compelling amongst independent schools in the region and nationally. Almost all of our arts classes (all but two), as well as all of our visual art exhibitions and productions in grades 9-12, are open to students from St. Paul’s School and St. Paul’s School for Girls. This creates a deep and highly rewarding set of co-educational opportunities for students and families from both schools— one that is supported by one large community of arts supporters.
Our community—including students, families, and visiting artists– truly comes together in The Ward Center. Through our coordinated arts, we’re able to offer our students a deep and broad substance and scope in repertoire, exhibitions, and performing opportunities—one that could otherwise only be achieved in an environment with a much larger student population. Of course, this is in no small part due to the commitment, talent and experience of our expert faculty, who are highly knowledgeable in education but who have also all thrived as working visual and performing artists. Through this critical mass, we’re able to provide the outstanding individual attention that students receive in smaller schools, while our young artists reap the benefits of the type of programs that could only exist in much larger institutions.
This is all because of coordination. It extends to the depth and breadth of the experience of our students in the classroom through co-ed interactions, as well as the availability and selection of deep, exciting, and thought-provoking repertoire. There are also countless benefits of having a joint community that supports our exhibitions and productions, as lifelong friendships are formed between SP and SPSG students and families, specifically because of their interactions in our arts program.
In living our mission in the arts at St. Paul’s to foster a K-12 arts experience that is captivating, challenging, inspiring, and pedagogically appropriate for students of all ability levels and artistic interests, we currently offer in our 9-12 coordinated program:
- A sequence of courses and exhibitions in Painting, Drawing, Ceramics, Sculpture, Graphic Arts, Digital Photography, Graphic Design, as well as IB and AP course opportunities. Visiting visual artists interact with students in our classes many times each school year, we regularly have students with work displayed in exhibitions at The Walters and in The Maryland State House, and we have a strong partnership with MICA and numerous local arts organizations.
- A comprehensive 9-12 theatre, musical theatre, and technical theatre curriculum with offerings for students who act, sing, write, produce, direct and perform in plays and musicals, as well as those who excel in set design, lighting, and sound. Students “run” our performances. We also offer extra-curricular opportunities in five musical and dramatic productions, and all are available to 9th-12th grade SP and SPSG students.
- Four renowned choral ensembles (two per school), maintaining 105 members that combined during our standing room-only winter concert, two Jazz Bands, and IB Music.
- A robust K-12 Applied Music Lessons program in voice, instrumental music, piano, strings, winds, and percussion, with multiple opportunities each year for students to perform in recitals.
- An enviable 9-12 co-educational dance program at SPSG and an impressive variety of after-school offerings through TDC (The Dance Conservatory) currently welcoming 105 students from 19 area campuses in 35 course offerings to St. Paul’s.
And let’s not forget the coordinated extra-curricular opportunities in our Middle and Lower Schools. Into the Woods, our current joint Middle School production, currently boasts 69 actors, singers, and dancers from SP and SPSG, as well as nearly 30 students who will build sets and work backstage and in the booth to “call” the performances. The Color Show, our joint Middle School exhibition in The Ward Center Gallery, featured the paintings, drawings, and sculptures of all of our 5-8th grade visual artists. And recently, nearly 60 SP and SPSG students from our middle school choirs combined for a rehearsal and performance in the St. Paul’s Chapel that will long be remembered by those in attendance.
Our upcoming Lower School 4th Grade Production, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, promises to build upon the enthusiastically received The Jungle Book from 2015, the Lower School Choral Ensemble continues to perform to acclaim.
What does all of this mean? It demonstrates that we’re at our best when coordinated in areas where it makes sense, while maintaining the identities and benefits of single gender education. We have great and immediate opportunities to evolve our arts program through coordination. With nearly 1200 students on our combined campuses, we are planning– and have the capacity to support– new, innovative, exciting and substantial future arts offerings. Stay tuned! As we approach a year-long celebration of the 25th anniversary of The Ward Center in 2017, I think that you’ll be excited to learn what the future in the arts will bring at The St. Paul’s Schools.
So, while you’re at it, visit ward.booktix.com early and often to get your best seats for our upcoming performances… Macbeth on February 4,5, and 6, Into the Woods on February 26 and 27, and many others to come. Also, stop by The Ward Center