Fine Arts Department
Students’ aesthetic experiences in the Fine Arts help us educate the whole person. Through the Arts, students learn that problems have more than one solution, they experience the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds, they learn to say what cannot be said with words or numbers whether it be ideas or emotions, the expression of a group or of an individual. The Arts complement and enrich student learning in the other disciplines. In short, the Arts help form well-rounded “Benedict’s men.”
The goal of the Music Department is to provide students both the option and opportunity to discover their own creativity and self-expression within the larger context of community and culture through the study of and participation in all facets of the arts through proven interdisciplinary pedagogical strategies.
There are two categories of musical opportunity at SBP: service and celebrity.
Service takes place at Convocation, mass, soccer games, fund-raising events both in and outside of the school (Benedict’s Dinner, Wynona House, etc.) where students can represent the best of SBP tradition of service. These are events where students performing are not the stars but add to the show. Service music also includes compositions that express a common cultural identity and which students will be asked to play in their lives as musicians beyond SBP. Examples of this include the National Anthem, hymns from various traditions, etc.
Celebrity is embodied by student concerts and giving students a chance to shine. These are important for students who seek to build a personal identity as a musician within the community. The celebrity side of things fits into our Interdisciplinary projects where the music is outside the canon usually taught in high schools.
All instruction stems from the philosophy that Visual Arts is a language that uses “Form” and “Content “ as its building blocks. “Form” represents all those things that make the art look the way it does; “Content” is what the art means. Students are exposed to art that ranges from personal expression of emotionsor ideas,to art that embodies cultural, social, historical or religious beliefs and realities.
The underlying belief in Visual Arts is that all students have talent; it is the goal of the course to discover where that talent lies. One student may have facility in realistic drawing, another student may have an innate sense of design or an invigorating sense of color, while another student may have a natural “feel” for clay or 3-D design. This is why a variety of approaches, materials and content are offered. Students have a chance to shine, while also being challenged to build new strengths.
Visual Art is part of a bigger cultural picture – and we help students discover the commonalities between art and the other disciplines through our Interdisciplinary Projects which span several departments at SBP, including all the Arts. Whether the focus of these projects is on Asia or the Harlem Renaissance, some basic features are present in all of them, such as a culminating event to the studies that puts student work in front of a “real world” audience of school, family and community. Other features include multiple perspectives on one theme, partnering with outside institutions such as the Newark Museum or the American Orchestra, field trips, expert visitors and experiencing teachers as learners. In alignment with Middle States goals, reading and writing play a daily role in the Visual Arts courses as students read and write to learn.
The theatre program offers students an opportunity to discover and nurture their creativity, while developing their skills as theatre artists. As members of an ensemble, actors and technicians collaborate to give physical life to the play. Everyone is regarded as an artist. While long hours and demanding expectations characterize the work, the theatre also provides a refuge for those seeking a place to belong, as long as they are willing to give of themselves to the rehearsal process. Two major productions by the Drama Guild, as well as acting and technical theatre classes during First Term, and original, experimental work during Spring Phase, mean that it is possible for the dedicated student to participate in some aspect of theatrical production throughout the academic year. Plays produced range from Shakespeare to classics of the American stage, as well as contemporary pieces from around the world.
Visual Arts Courses
Two sections are offered both Fall and Winter semesters to Freshmen exclusively. The class is a hands-on exploration of the traditional genres of fine and commercial art such as portraiture, still life, abstraction, poster design, children’s books, graphic novels, logo design, etc. Introduction to most traditional media such as pencil, marker, ink, pastel watercolor, scratch board, collage, linoleum block printing and hand-built clay sculpture. The class engages students in traditional artistic process from brain-storming, thumbnail sketching, to color theory, mixing and color schemes and elements of design to determining proportions and measuring. Projects are small to medium scale. Student projects are connected to art history as well as broader historical themes through short readings and videos to help students place their work in a broader context. Project themes vary year to year depending on the theme of our Interdisciplinary Project. But the school year culminates with the public exhibition of all student artwork. For their final exam, students learn the fundamentals of art criticism - how to analyze and write about the historical artwork, “The Scream” by Edvard Munch, that lends itself to interpretation while remaining accessible to beginners.
One section is offered both Fall and Winter semesters to Upper Division students (10th-12th grades). While many students have already taken Introduction to Art during their Freshman year, it is not a prerequisite. Because of this, fundamentals are emphasized early in the semester. The class is hands-on work in the traditional genres of fine and commercial art such as portraiture, still life, abstraction, poster design, children’s books, comics, log design, etc. Emphasis on drawing as a thinking medium underlies all projects in media such as pencil, marker, ink, pastel watercolor, acrylic paints, linoleum block printing and hand-built clay sculpture. The class also engages students in the traditional artistic process from brain-storming, thumbnail sketching, to color theory, mixing and color schemes and elements of design to determining proportions, enlarging and measuring. Student projects are connected to art history as well as broader historical themes through readings and videos to help students place their work in a broader context. For these older students, more emphasis is placed on generating their own themes through research and conceptualizing. Final projects involve long-term, large-scale mural projects to be hung in the school Cafeteria. Mural themes vary year to year depending on the theme of our Interdisciplinary Projects. But the year culminates with the public exhibition of all student artwork and murals. For their final exam, students learn how to write Art Criticism - by analyzing a complex art historical work, such as “Guernica” by Pablo Picasso.
“Art and Nature.” Students learn how to create landscape painting and drawing in different styles and techniques. They learn about historical landscape artists from different periods and cultures. Emphasis may vary year to year from Chinese landscape to Hudson River School landscapes. Painting/sketching out of doors (“plein air” style) is emphasized.
Sequential narrative art in the form of children’s books, comics and graphic novels has been offered in recent years. It allows students to combine creative writing with visual storytelling. Emphasis is on traditional creative processes and techniques. Pen and ink and watercolor are the main media used. Studying popular comics, graphic novels and children’s books is the way technique is identified and modeled for use by students in their own work.
The Pep Band and Drumline perform music most often associated with marching bands and sporting events, such as fanfares, rally cries, and high-energy numbers meant to excite a crowd. Previous experience is recommended for Pep Band, but Drumline is open to beginners as well as advanced students. Members work to develop practice routines that they will use throughout the year in other ensembles. These classes run only during Summer Term. Drumline also runs as an informal activity during Fall Term.
7th and 8th grade students interested in learning a wind, brass, or percussion instrument can sign up for group lessons (4 or 5 students per day) that will take place once a week during their activity period in Fall Term. The school has a large number of instruments available for student use including flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, trombone, baritone, tuba, and snare drum.
The Wind Ensemble performs traditional and contemporary wind band music as well as transcriptions of classical favorites. The group consists of 9th through 12th graders who have had a year of instrumental training at St. Benedict’s or in an equivalent band program. Students work to develop ensemble skills, reading skills, and individual instrumental technique. This course is offered during Winter Term.
The St. Benedict’s Chorus is for high school students interested in developing their vocal skills. Sight singing and reading skills are a large part of the class. Students sing repertoire from a wide variety of traditions. Students experience music as service and as celebrity, performing in Convocation, Mass, at fundraisers, and in concert. This course is offered during Winter Term.