The arts curriculum at Overlake is designed to inspire life-long involvement in and appreciation for the visual and performing arts.  Overlake offers a tactile, balanced, and discipline-based arts program that develops students’ abilities in perception, comprehension, creativity, and aesthetic values.  Our goal is to provide students with a broad spectrum of opportunities to develop these skills and encourage divergent thinking and self-expression. The range of offerings includes drama, stagecraft/technical theater, vocal and instrumental music, traditional and experimental two and three dimensional visual arts courses, digital art making, and design classes. Required courses in the arts are meant to encourage all students to explore venues that are perhaps new to them, while also allowing for specialization and more in-depth study in a particular area of interest.

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 drama 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.

Curriculum Requirements:

Four semesters (2 credits) of arts courses are required for graduation; two semesters of required options plus two semesters of electives. The 2 required courses must be chosen from the designated arts tracks, listed below.

Students choose a combination of two tracks: Art and Drama, Art and Music, or Drama and Music. The remaining two semesters can be any two electives from drama, music, or visual art.


Choose 1 semester
from the following:

Studio Art

Choose 1 semester
from the following:

Advanced Drama*
Advanced Musical Theater*
Improvisation Workshop
Performing Arts Workshop
Video Production

Choose 1 semester
from the following:

Music Appreciation
Chamber Choir
Concert Choir
Concert Band
Jazz Band

*Requires special teacher permission.


Art | 5th Grade Art

This trimester course is designed as an introduction to Visual Art. Activities are devoted to expanding drawing and design skills as well as working with three-dimensional problem solving. The primary focus of the course is to explore the different approaches to making art, to nurture imagination, and celebrate the expressive and fun "what-ifs."

Art | 6th Grade Art

Semester elective.

This semester course continues the student's development in drawing and design with more in-depth color mixing, pattern development, and the terminology used in higher-level art courses. The students will work on several in-depth projects involving both two and three dimensional mediums. Projects will focus on expanding their design awareness and problem-solving skills.

ART | Art & Technology

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

In Art and Technology, students will be using various forms of high and low tech machines to create imaginative artworks. They will learn the basics of Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop and will be working on digital photography, short films, simple animation, and much more. In addition, students will have the opportunity to design their own projects based on their experiences with the technology they are exposed to.

Art | Drawing Basics

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

Drawing is an introductory course which focuses on developing skills through the exploration of various drawing materials such as: graphite, charcoal, ink, pastel, watercolor, and mixed media. This course emphasizes process and innovation. Drawing is a fundamental activity in the visual arts which involves critical thinking, learning to ask questions, and making judgments.

Art | Experimental Design

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

This course pursues a "more experimental/less realistic" approach to both 2D and 3D art, emphasizing invention over replication. The course will cover the fundamentals of design via 2D and 3D projects, and will include a unit on color. Materials typically include colored pencil, oil/chalk pastel, acrylic paint, spray paint, paper mache, tinfoil, wire, plaster gauze and foam board. True to the course's intent, we might also use such things as straws, cloth, rubber bands, pillow stuffing, and even old toy parts!

Art | Painting

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

Painting is an introductory course which teaches basic painting skills and includes the study of value, color, space, and texture. Through the process of creating several paintings, students become familiar with these elements and explore their relationships. Acrylic paint used a variety of painting surfaces will be the primary medium. Encouraging individuality, critical thinking, and innovation will be emphasized.

Art | Video Production

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

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.

Art | Woodshop

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

Woodshop introduces students to the safe use of power and hand tools, mechanical drawing, and woodworking skills. Students are taught woodshop protocol and safety precautions when working in the woodshop. Cutting boards, boxes, and step stools are examples of projects made during the term, in addition to a creative project of their own choosing for their final project.

Art | Drawing & Painting

Upper School semester elective. 9th graders with permission only.

Studio Art recommended, but not required. 

This course pursues skills in both drawing and painting. The first project is focused on the basics of 2D rendering: light/shadow (chiaroscuro), volume/perspective, proportion/balance, and positive and negative space. The second project explores the language of paint - hue/saturation/value, transparency/opacity, both literal and optical mixing - and exploring the use of soft and hard edge concepts. The third project is an individually customized pursuit, involving drawing and/or painting, and art history. Roughly mid-way through the semester is a unit on the relationship between light (RGB) and pigment (CYMK) and the painting techniques surrounding Impressionism. All materials are provided.

Art | Graphic Design

Upper School semester elective. 9th graders with permission only.

Studio Art recommended, but not required. 

In this course, students will learn the basics of design as a means of communication. Students will use Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, as well as hands-on materials, to produce logo designs, posters, book jackets, candy bar wrappers, and more. In addition, students will learn about different designers and what it means to work in the Graphic Design field as a career.

Art | Industrial Design

Upper School semester elective. 9th graders with permission only.

Studio Art recommended, but not required. 

This class will introduce students to industrial design - the process of creating products and systems that are about function, value and aesthetics for the benefit of the designer and the user. Students will develop concepts and specifications through drawing, making prototypes, using applied math, and analyzing data found through trial and error. A variety of materials will be used, including paper, metal, wood and plastics. All projects will involve brainstorming sessions, layout, critical thinking, problem solving and experimentation through design. Students will look at industrial designers from the past to the present in order to make connections with current design principles and innovation.

Art | Introduction to Photography

Upper School elective.

In this class, students will work with traditional darkroom and film techniques, as well as newer digital image making technology. Students will explore the basics of manual cameras using black and white film and printing their own photographs. The will also work with digital SLR cameras, cell phone cameras, and more, as they create a portfolio of images uploaded to their own web site throughout the course of the semester.

Art | Intermediate Photography

Upper School spring semester elective.

Introduction to Photography. 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.

Intermediate Photography students will continue to explore what began in Intro to Photography. This course will focus on a deeper exploration of digital photography through the use of cell phone cameras, apps, digital SLR cameras, Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom.

Art | Sculpture & Architecture

Upper School semester elective. 9th graders with permission only.

Studio Art recommended, but not required. 

Students will move beyond the basic 3D concepts introduced in Studio Art, pursuing in greater depth both additive (combining/constructing) and subtractive (traditional sculpting/carving). The concepts emphasized will be balance (symmetry vs. asymmetry), structural soundness, positive and negative space, and surface activity (including BOTH relief/texture and value/color). Three major projects will be required, the first from plaster, the second from ceramic clay, and the third a "Habitat" made from both provided (foamcore, plexi, wood, metal) and found materials. If time permits, a final project will be a “mixed media transformation": a 3D transformation from one found object (or group of same objects) into another, entirely new object.

Art | Studio Art

Upper School semester elective. Some sections available zero block.

This course is a general introduction to the visual arts. It allows students to sample a wide variety of activities before committing to more in-depth, specialized elective. This course includes topics (i.e., perception/composition/pigment and light) through drawing, painting, photography, two- and three-dimensional design, and art history. The course will culminate in a final project incorporating a combination of techniques/materials from the above-described topics.

Art | Advanced Studio Art

Upper School semester elective. Instructor signature required; limited enrollment due to the highly individualized nature of the course.

Studio Art and at least one elective in the areas listed in the course description below.

This course is for juniors or seniors who have already taken Studio Art (or the equivalent) plus an US visual art elective in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Sculpture, Architecture or Black/White Photography, and have the desire to work more independently and with greater depth. It is also ideal for those who'd like to combine two or more of those categories [eg., drawing or painting ON a photograph, or building an architectural concept WITH drawings, paintings, or photos]. In addition to the prerequisite, this course is for students who have exhibited the discipline and motivation necessary for such independent work.

Art | AP Art History

Upper School elective. To receive the AP Art History designation on a transcript, students must take both semesters of the AP Art History course. Students who only take the fall or the spring semester will have “Art History” on their transcript.

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. Students should expect to study on weekends and during holidays. 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.”

View the College Board AP Art History Course Description.

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 | 5th/6th Grade Beginning Band

After school elective. Monday/Wednesday, 3:15 - 4:15pm.

Beginning Band is an after school elective class designed for students in the 5th or 6th 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 mallet percussion (students wishing to play snare drum will begin on keyboard percussion and move to snare drum in the Sixth Grade Band or 7th/8th Grade Band).

Music | 6th Grade Band

Full-year elective.

The 6th grade band is a two-semester course designed for students with previous experience on an instrument. The focus of this course is to increase individual and group performance skills on the following instruments: flute, clarinet, trumpet, trombone, keyboard percussion, 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. The Sixth Grade Band will perform at two concerts during the school year.

Music | 6th Grade Choir

Semester elective.

The 6th grade choir is a spring 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 the Spring Concert in May.

Music | Beginning Strings

After school elective. Monday/Wednesday, 3:15 - 4:15pm.

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

Full-year recommended; May be taken as a one-semester course, with permission of the instructor.

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

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

The Seventh and Eighth 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 | Intermediate Strings

Semester elective.

At least one year experience or instruction on a string instrument.

Intermediate Strings is a course for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade players beyond the introductory level. Students should have at least one year of playing experience on violin, viola, cello, or string bass. Class is held three times within the 8-day schedule rotation, on designated club days. In addition, every Tuesday morning, there will be an optional rehearsal during zero block (7:20am - 8:05am) for any available players. This rehearsal will provide a weekly opportunity for students to gain additional experience with the String Orchestra players for more advanced training and sectional work. Emphasis in this course will be placed on ensemble building as well as technical proficiency, tone production, and musicianship.

Music | String Orchestra

Full year recommended; may be taken as a semester course.

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

Full year recommended; may be taken as a semester course.

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

Full year recommended; may be taken as a semester course.

The Overlake Concert Choir is a performance ensemble class designed for all grade levels in the upper school, regardless of previous singing experience. 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 cooperation, and sight singing.

Music | Jazz Band

Upper School full-year elective.

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

Previous choral experience is recommended, but not required. A full year commitment is required.

By audition only. Auditions will be held in the spring of the previous year for enrollment the following year.

The Overlake Chamber Choir is a select ensemble open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors by audition only. This course will emphasize healthy vocal production, ensemble skills, music theory, strong leadership, sight singing, and effective, positive group dynamic. Musical focus will be placed on a variety of styles and languages, and the study of more advanced choral repertoire.

Music | Music Appreciation

Upper School semester elective.

This course focuses on the basics of music theory and music history through active listening and exploration of different time periods and forms. Students will learn to recognize and analyze musical elements – including sound, rhythm, notation, melody, harmony and texture – in a wide variety of musical styles. Students will experience music from the Middle Ages, Renaissance, Classical, Romantic, 20th and 21st centuries through live and recorded performances. From Mozart to Lin Manuel-Miranda, students will explore selected topics in depth, including a project on Music in Film. Required attendance at three live musical performances throughout the semester is part of the course structure; two of these performances will be scheduled with the instructor as a group activity, and the other may be scheduled individually. Because of the length of the course, Western musical tradition will be its primary focus.

Theater | 5th Grade

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

Semester elective.

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

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

Previous drama classes and/or performance experience is necessary for enrollment in this course; priority will be given to 8th graders.

This course explores acting through rehearsal and performance of the 7th & 8th grade play. Students explore voice, movement, and characterization, and then apply these skills in a dramatic context. 

Performance dates: November 9 and 10, 2018. Some after school rehearsals are required during the weeks prior to the public performances. Course may be repeated with permission of instructor.

Theater | Actor's Toolbox

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

This class is an opportunity for students to explore many different styles of acting. Students will have a chance to try their hand at stage combat, experiment with masks, work with physical theatre, polish their comedy skills and delve into realism. Actor’s Toolbox is a class for students who love drama and want to further develop their skills on stage.

Theater | Improvisation Workshop

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

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 | Speech and Debate

7th and 8th grade semester elective. Students will be required to participate in at least one out of three Pacific Northwest Middle School League Debates which will be on a Saturday.

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

7th and 8th grade semester elective.

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 | Improvisation Workshop

Upper school semester elective.

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 | Performing Arts Workshop

Upper school semester elective.

This course introduces a range of performance skills from visual storytelling to improvisation and dramatic text interpretation. Through exercises and games, students develop kinesthetic awareness, concentration, and confidence in public speaking and presenting to an audience. Various dramatic forms are investigated, including modern realism and scenes from Shakespeare. The medium of film is also explored through film scenes shot in close-up and played back for analysis.

Theater | Stagecraft

Upper school semester elective. Students will be required to spend four hours outside of class at work parties or similar production events over the course of the semester.

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 | The Theater Experience

Upper school semester elective. Students will be required to attend one performance outside of school with the class and one independently over the semester.

What is the purpose of theater? What makes theater “good?” How has theater changed over time? These are some of the questions we will be considering in this class exploring the theatrical experience. Students will be seeing and evaluating theater, reading plays, exploring different theater genres, looking at production values through the ages (including costume and scenic design) and discovering why theater has been used as a popular voice for ideas throughout history. This is not a performance-based class, although there will be some performance requirements. This is a great class for dedicated theater students who are looking to strengthen their base of theater knowledge, as well as those who appreciate drama but are looking for an alternative to scene study and production classes.

Theater | Video Production

Upper school semester elective. Students who have taken Video Production in Middle School or in Upper School may take this course as “Video Production II” which will give them the opportunity to explore filmmaking at a more advanced level. Students may write screenplays, use a video lighting kit, and produce more in-depth film projects.

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.

Theater | Advanced Drama

Upper School semester elective. Instructor signature required. Performance Dates: TBA. Students who are in Advanced Drama who also participate in Spring Sports will need to discuss options with the instructor before enrolling.

Performing Arts Workshop or prior theater experience. 

This semester-long class is designed for acting students with particular interest and experience in 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. Advanced Drama provides emphasis on acting methods, script analysis, movement and vocal work, and performance preparation. Past productions include The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged), Nicholas Nickleby, MuseumRadium Girls, and Almost, Maine. 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.

Theater | Advanced Musical Theater

Upper School semester elective. Instructor signature required. Performance dates: January 18-19, 2019.

Performing Arts Workshop or previous theater experience. 

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 Once On This Island, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, and Big Fish. 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.


Erin Gabriel
Arts Department Chair
425-868-6191 x671