The Overlake Arts department mission is to engage students in creative thinking through a broad spectrum of opportunities. With the goal of inspiring life-long involvement in and appreciation for the visual and performing arts, we strive to provide spaces where students can be expressive, safely take risks, share ideas, and collaborate in the creative process. Courses in the arts support each student in embracing a mindset that is curious, cooperative, and inclusive of all perspectives.
The arts have a unique place in our school, our community, and our world. We value experiences that will foster compassion and empathy, cultivating an understanding of ourselves and the ever-changing world around us. We believe that students learn best in an environment that is participatory and cooperative, one that honors each perspective while encouraging students to think deeply, critically, and independently about their work. To this end, we value hands-on, experiential learning, with projects and performances designed to challenge and inspire each student as artist, performer, designer, collaborator, observer, and audience member.
Sharing Our Work
Students may see their art works displayed around campus: in our outdoor gallery, the Campus Center or in the Fulton Performing Arts Center.
Choirs, bands and orchestra perform several concerts throughout the school year, and compete in choral and instrumental festivals and contests.
Our theater department presents three or four productions each year with options for Middle School and Upper School students. Most productions are offered as classes with an additional after school rehearsal schedule. All students may audition for the biennial All-School Musical, or help produce it, as a co-curricular option.
Upper School Curriculum Requirements
Four semesters (2 credits) of arts courses are required for graduation; students must choose classes from at least two disciplines from the list below. [Examples: Multimedia Art + Sculpture + Painting + Advanced Drama, or Concert Band (3 semesters) + Photography.]
The following chart lists the US courses available to meet the arts graduation requirement.
Photography 1 or 2
Adv. Studio Art
History of Rock & Roll
Art | 5th Grade Art
Activities in this introductory trimester course are devoted to developing essential life skills such as creativity and innovative thinking. The primary focus of the course is to explore different mediums and approaches to making art through experimentation, practice, and play.
Art | Yearbook Production
Help decide what's covered in the Overlake Odyssey while also developing editing, design and photography skills. Yearbook staff will brainstorm what theme to choose, as well as what topics to include, and everyone works on a variety of pages throughout the year. The main goal of this year-long class is to produce a high quality yearbook. One credit is earned for successful completion of Yearbook.
Art | 6th Grade Art
This semester course aims to develop essential life skills such as creativity and innovative thinking. Students will be offered a variety of choices as they begin to shape their own artistic investigations. We will explore different mediums and approaches to making art through experimentation and practice.
Art | Art & Technology
In Art and Technology, students will be using various forms of “high tech” and “low tech” machines to create imaginative works of art. As they learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, students will utilize art-making apps on iPads and explore digital photography, as well as short films, simple animation, simple machines, and much more. In addition, students will have the opportunity to design their own projects using the skills they gained through experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, and refining, all while having fun in the process.
Art | Drawing Skills
Drawing Skills is an introductory course which focuses on creativity and innovative thinking. Students will practice techniques, set goals, and develop ideas through the exploration of various drawing materials such as: graphite, charcoal, ink, pastel, watercolor, and mixed media. This course provides the time and space for experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting, revising, and refining work over time.
Art | Experimental Design
This course is all about challenges! Students are given a material and a subject and challenged with constructing a 2- or 3-dimensional piece, emphasizing invention and creativity. The course will cover the fundamentals of design through experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting, revising, and refining work. In this course students will use an amazing array of materials from LED lights and motors to discarded books and magazines, to cardboard boxes, wire, and fabric. Sketch books are kept throughout the term to jot down ideas and work on fun (and sometimes pretty funny) exercises.
Art | Painting Skills
Painting is an introductory course which focuses on creativity and innovative thinking. Students will learn various acrylic painting techniques. Through the process of creating several paintings, students have the opportunity to set goals, develop skills, and communicate ideas. This course provides the time and space for experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting, revising, and refining work over time.
Art | Woodshop
Woodshop introduces students to the safe use of power and hand tools, mechanical drawing, and woodworking skills. Students learn hands-on skills while following woodshop protocols and safety precautions. Cutting boards, boxes, and step stools are examples of projects that can be made during the term. In addition, students will have the opportunity to work on a final project of their own choosing, using the skills and tools learned during the semester.
Art | Drawing
US Drawing is an introductory course with emphasis on basic drawing skills using a variety of materials and techniques. Drawing is a fundamental activity in the visual arts which involves critical thinking, learning to ask questions, and making judgments. This course introduces students to a visual art vocabulary that helps to interpret and understand works of art. Students will be challenged to deepen their experience as an artist by experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting, revising, and refining work over time.
Art | Graphic Design
Graphic Design is web sites, signs, products, books, clothing, and more! Basically, it’s everywhere! In this course, students will learn how to use design as a means of visually communicating ideas. Students will learn Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Procreate, and use hands-on materials to produce logo designs, posters, food packaging, book jackets, and more. In addition, students will learn about different designers and what it means to work in the Graphic Design field as a career. This is a great course for those who want to apply their creativity to a practical application and for those who want to learn new skills in the visual arts.
Art | Industrial Design
One semester of any visual art elective.
This visual art class will introduce students to industrial design by developing concepts and specifications through drawing, making prototypes, analysis of data found through trial and error. Students will use a variety of materials to create prototypes of their designs. Students will learn traditional skills such as working with metal, woodworking, and project layout. In addition, students will gain experience and skills for working with CAD software and CNC hardware. Student projects will require creative problem solving, critical thinking, and experimentation through design.
Art | Photography 1
Photography is an incredible way for people to understand and appreciate multiple perspectives and the world around us. This course will help students understand the difference between candids and fine art photography. Over the course of the semester, students will become stronger photographers through experimentation with digital cameras (DSLR), cell phone cameras, and Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop. Each student will build a web site which will act as their portfolio and will be updated with a new page for every assignment. Students do not need to have their own digital camera to take the course.
Art | Photography 2
Photography 1. If you have prior photography experience, but have not taken a course at Overlake, you will need to show examples of your work and get written permission from Danielle Troy.
Photography 2 students will continue exploring digital photography with an emphasis on experiencing multiple perspectives of self and others. This course will focus on creative photography through in-depth skill building as well as more personal choice in the assignments. This course also allows students to explore 35mm black and white film photography and darkroom printing. Tools used for this class will be cell phone cameras, smartphone apps, digital SLR cameras, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. Students do not need to have their own digital camera to take this course.
Art | Painting
US Painting is an introductory course which teaches basic painting skills using a variety of painting materials and techniques. This course introduces students to a visual art vocabulary that helps to interpret and understand works of art. Students will be challenged to deepen their experience as an artist by experimenting, taking creative risks, practicing, receiving constructive feedback, reflecting, revising, and refining work over time.
Art | Mixed Media Art
This hands-on course is a general introduction to the visual arts, with an emphasis on three-dimensional art forms. Students will experiment with materials to create collages with found objects, perspective drawings, and reduction carving of plaster, along with other 3-D techniques and some two-dimensional design. We will emphasize trial and error, experimentation, and skill building. The course covers aspects of visual art making, vocabulary, techniques, and taking creative risks.
Art | Sculpture 1
This hands-on course is an introduction to sculpture in the visual arts. Students spend the semester experimenting with 3-dimensional forms, shapes, balance, techniques, and materials. We will emphasize trial and error, along with experimentation, and move from traditional to experimental skill building and conceptual ideas. Sculpture 2 is offered depending on student interest and availability.
Advanced Studio Art
One semester upper school visual art elective.
Advanced Studio Art is for the student who has taken at least one US Visual Art class in Painting, Drawing, Sculpture, or Mixed Media, and has a desire to explore the medium more fully. This class is an intermediate to advanced level course, and students will be expected to work independently and responsibly on each chosen project. Students will have the studio space to make a body of work in the medium (or mediums) they have selected.
Art | AP Art History
The College Board has completely redesigned this course—only 250 images! The new curriculum is organized around the following units: Global Prehistory; Ancient Mediterranean; Early Europe and Colonial Americas; Later Europe and Americas; Indigenous Americas; Africa; West and Central Asia; South, East, and Southeast Asia; The Pacific; and Global Contemporary.
The course has two primary goals: first, to teach students to visually analyze works of art; and, second, to teach students to understand works of art within their historical context—i.e., its intended use, audience, and role in a particular society, sociopolitical concerns, gender issues, patronage, function and setting.
The AP Art History course is the equivalent to a beginning college course. The material and concepts covered, as well as the time required for reading and research, will reflect this designation. The AP Exam is in the spring. Students who do not take the AP Art History exam are required to take a final exam.
“After taking this class, you will never look at the world in the same way.”
Music | 5th Grade Music
This trimester course provides exposure to a broad range of music skills, and an introduction to instruments and the voice. Students will actively participate in an exploration of musical styles through various games and activities designed to develop a strong foundation for future music courses. A celebration of different musical cultures will also play a key role in the curriculum of this course. Students will have the opportunity to sing as a vocal ensemble as well, with options for performance at the end of the year.
Music | Beginning Band
Beginning Band is an after school elective class designed primarily for students in the 5th - 8th grade who wish to play a concert band instrument. Students will be guided in the selection of an appropriate instrument and taught the fundamentals of tone production, counting rhythms and note accuracy. The following instruments are taught: flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, electric bass, and percussion.
Music | 6th Grade Band
The 6th grade band is a two-semester course designed for students just past the introductory level. The focus of this course is to increase individual and group performance skills on the following instruments: flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, electric bass, keyboard percussion, bass drum, and snare drum. Students will review the fundamentals of playing their instrument and will continue with the basics of tone quality, intonation, articulation, and dynamics. This band will perform at two concerts during the school year.
Music | 6th Grade Choir
The 6th grade choir is a one-semester class designed for all students regardless of previous singing experience. This ensemble is an excellent foundation for students interested in vocal development during their middle school years. The study of basic music theory and sight singing will be emphasized as students prepare repertoire for one concert performance at the end of the semester, with other opportunities to be determined.
Music | 6th Grade Strings
6th grade Strings is a course for string players just past the introductory level. Players should have at least one year of experience on violin, viola, cello, or string bass. Students will continue their instrument study, with emphasis on technical proficiency, tone production, musicianship, and ensemble-building. Opportunities for performance will be twice yearly at the Winter and Spring Orchestra concerts, with additional performances throughout the school year, as available.
Music | Beginning Strings
Beginning Strings is an after school elective class designed for students in the 5th, 6th, 7th, or 8th grades who wish to play a string instrument (violin, viola, cello, or string bass), but have had little or no previous experience. In the first classes, students are guided in the selection of an appropriate instrument. In the early part of the first semester we will learn the proper way to hold both the instrument and the bow. Note naming, rhythm counting, and tone production will be the foundational work, with the introduction of a variety of songs and exercises rehearsed throughout the semester. Beginning Strings will have the opportunity to perform during the Winter and Spring Orchestra Concerts.
Music | 7th & 8th Grade Band
This course is a continuation of the band curriculum, designed for students wanting to continue their studies on their instruments in Concert Band or Jazz Band in the upper school. Students will focus on the basics of good tone quality, intonation, balance, blend, technical accuracy and musical style. The seventh and eighth grade band will perform at two school concerts per year. At least one year of playing experience is required for enrollment in this class.
Music | 7th & 8th Grade Choir
The 7th & 8th grade choir is a course designed for students with varied degrees of singing experience. Participation in this ensemble will continue to develop students’ performance skills and strengthen their foundation for further exploration in vocal or choral ensembles at Overlake. As a group, we will work on the basics of healthy vocal technique, teamwork, creating a safe space for expression, good musicianship, and sight singing. Students will rehearse repertoire in preparation for one concert, with a possibility of other performance dates to be added, if time permits.
Music | 7th & 8th Grade Strings
This course is for 7th and 8th grade string players with 1-2+ years of playing experience on violin, viola, cello, or string bass. Emphasis in this course will be placed on ensemble building, as well as technical proficiency, tone production, and musicianship. The 7th/8th Strings ensemble will perform at least twice a year in at the Winter and Spring Orchestra Concerts, with a variety of additional performances to be scheduled during the school year.
Music | String Orchestra
At least two years previous strings playing experience.
The Overlake String Orchestra is open to string players in grades 7 through 12 with at least two years of previous playing experience, or permission of the instructor. This ensemble plays three concerts a year featuring music for string orchestra and small chamber ensembles, as well as selected works including woodwinds and brass, and concertos featuring student soloists. There are opportunities to perform in solo and ensemble festivals at both the middle and upper school level. Emphasis is on developing and improving ensemble and individual performance skills, as well as sight-reading ability. Repertoire will include music from a variety of composers and genres.
Music | Concert Band
Skill proficiency on one of the instruments listed below.
This course is designed to advance performance skills in a symphonic ensemble setting, and to offer further leadership experience to upper school students wishing to hone their skills and technique on their instrument. Emphasis is placed on refining the basic skills of intonation, dynamics, articulation, balance, blend, and phrasing through rehearsal and performance of a variety of concert band, pep band, and jazz repertoire. There is no limit to the number of instruments that can participate in this group. Concert band instruments include trumpet, trombone, French horn, baritone, tuba, flute, clarinet, oboe, saxophone, percussion and string or electric bass.
Music | Concert Choir
The Overlake Concert Choir is a performance ensemble class designed for all grades in the upper school, regardless of previous singing experience. This is a great course for singers of all skill levels, particularly those who wish to begin the study of voice and choral singing. Students will rehearse choral literature in many styles and languages in preparation for the Winter Concert (December), the Spring Concert (April or May), school assemblies, graduation, and other performance opportunities throughout the year. This course will emphasize healthy vocal production, ensemble skills, basic music theory, strong group dynamic and collaboration, and sight singing.
Music | Jazz Band
New players interested in auditioning must currently be enrolled in Concert Band. Auditions will be held in the Spring of the previous year for enrollment in the fall. Interested students should see the director for a set of audition music as early as possible in order to prepare an audition.
The Overlake Jazz Band is an active ensemble, performing frequently on and off campus for a variety of audiences. The musical focus will include a variety of jazz standards from the big band and be-bop eras as well as contemporary swing and jazz/rock compositions. Students in Jazz Band are required to commit to a rigorous rehearsal/practice schedule and several community performances throughout the year. In addition to performance repertoire, classroom activities will include the study of improvisation, memorization of scales, and the opportunity to work with guest artists. Proficiency on saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, guitar and drums is required.
Music | Chamber Choir
By audition only, spring of previous year. Previous choral experience is recommended, but not required.
The Overlake Chamber Choir is a select vocal ensemble open to all upper school students by audition only (the audition will include matching pitch, sight-reading, a short melodic exercise, and assessing the student's ability to sing independently within a 4-part ensemble.) Members should possess skills in musicianship, teamwork, collaboration, and leadership. This course will emphasize healthy vocal production, ensemble skills, music theory, sight singing, and creating a positive group dynamic. Musical focus will be placed on a variety of styles and languages, and the study of challenging choral repertoire, both accompanied and a cappella.
Music | History of Rock & Roll
The 1950s saw the growth of a new kind of popular music called Rock and Roll. This class will explore the many genres that were connected to this new creation, including rhythm & blues, jazz, country, and gospel styles. Students will also examine the musicians and performers that made the biggest impact during the 50s and 60s, and into the current world of popular music.
Theater | 5th Grade Drama
This trimester drama class combines skill building in acting and movement to develop ease and range for creative self-expression. Students explore through exercises, games, improvisations and script writing. Students develop skills in relaxation, kinesthetic awareness, memorization, employing creative problem-solving skills, and working effectively as part of a group.
Theater | 6th Grade Drama
Students in sixth grade drama learn techniques to improve their physical and vocal performances. Students develop skills in presenting for an audience, kinesthetic awareness, memorization and working effectively in a group. Units of study may include storytelling, Shakespeare and scene work.
Theater | 7th & 8th Grade Play Production
Previous drama classes and/or performance experience is preferred for enrollment in this course; priority will be given to 8th graders. Course may be repeated with permission of instructor.
This course explores acting and collaborative ensemble work through rehearsal and performance of a play or musical. Students explore voice, movement, and characterization, and then apply these skills in a dramatic context. This course culminates in a fully-staged play on the Overlake mainstage.
Performance dates: November 2023, exact dates TBA. Please note: Some after-school rehearsals will be required of students enrolling in this class during the months of October and November.
Theater | Broadway Showcase
This course will explore voice, movement, and character building through the music of the Broadway Theater. We will build strong ensemble skills in singing, dancing, and acting, in addition to rehearsing smaller scenes and musical numbers for a final showcase performance at the end of the semester. A wide range of music will be explored, from the Golden Age of Broadway to contemporary musical theater and cabaret selections. No experience is necessary, but students should prepare to take risks and work collaboratively and generously with one another as we build our repertoire together.
Theater | Improvisation Workshop
This class combines many forms of improvisation to explore characterization and dramatic structure. Students develop skills in relaxation, kinesthetic awareness, trust, and effective group work. Learning and developing skills in Theater Sports forms and Canadian Improv Games are a major component in this class. Individual and group-prepared improvisations using different themes are rehearsed for presentation to an audience. There is a final sharing at the end of the term for an invited audience.
Theater | Intermediate Acting
This is a perfect course for anyone wanting a deeper study of acting technique and exploration into the world of theater. Over the course of the semester, students will explore physicality and vocal work through method acting techniques, including Laban/Bartenieff movement analysis, Tadashi Suzuki, Stanislavski, and Misner. Course projects will include creating movement-based theatre, monologue study and performance, and scene work and performance.
Theater | Speech and Debate
In this course we will focus on strengthening public speaking skills, research skills, building an argument with evidence, and rebutting an opponent’s argument. Students will have an opportunity to test out their skills by competing in the Pacific Northwest Middle School Debate League. Students will be expected to research current events, work cooperatively in small groups and be willing to make their voice heard.
Theater | Theater Tech
This class is dedicated to learning the fundamentals of theatre design and technology. Students will become familiar with the different areas of design: costume, scenic, lights and sound, and they will have time to experiment with the tools we use to bring these designs to life. Students gain a deeper understanding of how theatre technology supports a performance and will have a chance to showcase their skills by working on practical projects for school productions.
Theater | Video Production
In this class, students will have the opportunity to develop story ideas through the medium of digital video. This course emphasizes hands-on skill development through learning and practicing camera and editing techniques. The class explores story from a cinematic point of view and considers live action film-making and animation through class projects. Students will explore editing with Adobe Premiere for live action projects and iStopMotion or Flash for animation.
Theater | Dance 101
Dance 101 is a semester-long course designed to get students into their bodies using technique and improvisation. Students will understand how their bodies are used to create character, tell stories and develop a sense of bodily awareness. We will study coordination, rhythm and patterns through various genres of dance such as hip hop, musical theatre, West African, etc. No experience is necessary, just a willingness to try your best! There will be a culminating piece in which the students have the opportunity to share their work with one another.
Theater | Improvisation Workshop
The class is designed to give students tools to develop their skills in acting through exploring mask /movement work, truth in comedy and a variety of improvisation. Students practice “thinking on their feet” through exercises, games and both short and long form spontaneous scene building. The class will explore the craft of comedy through exposure to great sketch comedy work by Buster Keaton, Monty Python and others. Exploring Improvisation through mask work is also a component of the class. The origins of farce and considering commedia dell'arte characters are also part of the explorations in this workshop. Developing active listening skills and working well with fellow performers and an audience will also be part of the work and fun in this course. Students may choose to participate in local area High School Improvisation tournaments.
Theater | Musical Production
Previous theater experience is recommended, though not required.
Previously called "Advanced Musical Theater", this semester-long course is designed for students with particular interest in musical theater performance. In this course, students will have the opportunity to integrate their skills in acting, singing, and dance in a challenging and intricate musical theatre production. Past productions include The Spitfire Grill, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Big Fish, and The Addams Family. Students taking this class must approach their craft of acting with professionalism and leadership. The cast will be required to commit to a rigorous rehearsal schedule in the final weeks before performance which includes after school and weekend commitments.
Performance dates for the Musical will be in early January 2024.
Theater | Play Production
Prior theater experience is preferred, but not required. Availability for after school rehearsals is required during the weeks prior to performance.
Previously called "Advanced Drama", this semester-long class is designed for acting students with particular interest and experience in acting and stage performance. This class culminates in a production that will be presented for the school community as well as for the public. Students taking this class must approach their craft of acting with professionalism and leadership. The course will focus on auditions, script analysis, acting methods, movement and vocal work, and performance preparation. Past productions include Macbeth, 12 Angry Men, Nicholas Nickleby, Museum, Radium Girls, Almost, Maine and Our Town. The cast will be required to commit to a rigorous rehearsal schedule in the final weeks before performance which includes after school and weekend commitments.
Performance dates for the Play will be in mid-April 2024.
Theater | Stagecraft
In this course, students will work as a production team to design, coordinate, and construct the technical elements for productions and concert events in the Fulton Performing Arts Center. Students will be involved in all phases of each project. The design process includes script analysis, brainstorming, design selection and creating construction drawings or models. The construction process involves skills of carpentry, painting, rigging flown in scenery, and special effects. Additionally, students develop working knowledge of lighting and sound aspects of theater. Finally, Stagecraft is involved in the strike of all scenery, properties, lighting, sound and special effects. This course is designed for students who wish to have a hands-on experience in “making theater happen.”
Theater | Storytelling in Drama and Film
What are the similarities and differences between how stories unfold in movies and on the stage? In this course, students will explore a variety of plays and movies through written scripts and screenplays. Through reading, analyzing, and staging, students will compare and contrast the ways in which authors, directors, and playwrights bring stories to life.
Theater | Theatrics
In Theatrics, we will explore a variety of different ways to create theatre. Students will explore acting methods, voice over work, musical theatre, stage combat, gore makeup, and even a directing unit! Come experience a new way to look at the world of theatre. No experience necessary, but a willingness to engage with new ideas is a must!
Theater | Video Production
This class emphasizes hands-on skill development through learning and practicing camera and editing techniques. Students explore visual storytelling from a cinematic point of view and consider various film styles. Participants have the opportunity to develop several story ideas using digital video and stop motion animation. Adobe Premiere, Flash and iStopMotion are some of the programs students utilize to create movies.
Arts Department Chair