Upper School Arts

All students participate in the fine and performing arts. We believe a profound understanding of the arts is essential to a complete education. We gain this understanding from hands on involvement in the creative process. In addition to offering students formal instruction in the arts, extracurricular activities are available in theatre, music, visual arts, and dance.

All Grades

  • Orchestra: A year-long commitment, Orchestra is open to players of string, wind, brass, and percussion instruments who have demonstrated proficiency on their instrument. Music from Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Modern era is performed. Developing aesthetic sensitivity, the proper technique, timing, tone, and interpretation are stressed. Each student is evaluated in a weekly lesson lab. Performances include a minimum of two instrumental concerts. The Jazz Band, an extracurricular activity, meets twice a week after school to prepare for performances throughout the year.
  • Concert Choir: The Concert Choir sings repertoire from many traditions and genres, e.g., music of Western European masters, multi-cultural music sung in the original languages, Musical Theater, and contemporary songs. Singers attend regular rehearsals and small voice labs. Proper performance practice and age appropriate vocal techniques are stressed. Learning music theory and music history are also part of the syllabus. The Concert Choir performs at two annual school concerts, at various times for school-related functions, and for the wider community. Optional events include Cabaret, All-County Chorus, Area All-State Chorus, and NYSSMA solo adjudication. Students should plan on a year-long commitment to this ensemble. The ability to match pitch is required.
  • Nichols Dance Ensemble: This student dance group provides opportunities for freshman, sophomore, junior and senior students to study dance techniques, create dances, collaborate with peers and perform challenging works. Students may enroll for a full year or for each individual sports trimester. This class takes place daily during the after school sports period (3:45-5:30). Students may receive both physical education and arts credit for fully participating in the classes and contributing to the performances. With the permission of the instructor, students may enroll twice a week for PE Credit only. Because of limitations in space, priority is given to those who aspire to have the daily experience of training as a “team” and performing as a finely tuned ensemble. Students study ballet, classic modern, improvisation, composition, yoga, and dance repertoire. Guest artists teach movement workshops and set choreography for performances. Advanced dancers have the opportunity to work individually and in small groups on solos, professional repertoire, and portfolio development.

Grade 9 Survey of the Arts

In Grade 9, Freshman Survey of the Arts, a comprehensive, interdisciplinary course is required. Students are exposed to dance, music, theatre and the visual arts. Survey of the Arts emphasizes a shared vocabulary amongst all of the art disciplines. Double class periods may be used for guest artist visits and presentations. The course involves a rotation through the music, theatre, dance and visual arts medi­ums. In addition to the Survey of the Arts, Freshman may also take chorus, orchestra or dance for credit.

Grade 10 Foundation of the Arts

All 10th graders are required to take either two semester sophomore electives or a full-year course. The Arts Department offers Foundations of the Arts electives in Visual Arts, Music, Theater, and Dance. Chorus and Orchestra also fulfill the 10th grade requirement.

  • Visual Thinking and Community, Photography (Fall): In this course the students develop their understanding of the basic guidelines of design and composition using a variety of traditional and digital photographic tools. The goal of this class is to introduce students to the language of photography and to become smart image-makers and critical thinkers in our current culture of mass media and prolific mechanical reproduction. Through the application of photographic techniques ranging from the very simple (such as pinhole camera) to the more complex (photo collage) students create images that challenge conventional and personal viewpoints. Through multimedia presentations, we look at other photographers, discuss their work and build a greater understanding of photographic history. This is primarily a hands-on studio class, which includes group projects, group critiques and development of students' personal perspectives and styles. The class includes at least two field trips to a local art center and a meditation on the role of visual art in the community.
  • Visual Thinking and Community, Motion Pictures (Spring): In this course the students develop their understanding of the basic guidelines of composition, using the principles and elements of two-dimensional design in relationship to both space and time. An emphasis is placed on time-based art making techniques such as performance, animation, film, video, photography, and projection. Using a variety of film and video media, students complete projects that include: movie making, media literacy, performance art and animation. The goal for each project is for students to gain experience with new or familiar material, develop a strategy for completing a piece of artwork, and incorporate an art historical reference, or contemporary cultural critique. The class includes at least two field trips to a local art center and participation in the Flick Fest student film festival.
  • Foundation in Drawing (Fall): This course introduces the beginning student to a variety of materials and techniques. The course emphasizes the elements of line, texture, shape, space, and value through the creation of both objective and subjective artworks. Special focus is placed on developing observational drawing skills and hands on experience in an engaging classroom community. Students participate in class discussions, critique and group activities, as well as creating individual projects while keeping a visual journal. Shorter projects introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student driven works. Multiple mediums are explored, including various types of graphite, ink, frottage, printmaking, watercolor crayons, and charcoal. Field trips to local art events enrich classroom experiences and course discussion
  • Fashion Lab (Spring): This course emphasizes learning to think creatively to gain a better understanding of the history of fashion as a voice for the people it clothes. In this maker’s space, students will receive an introduction to sewing, both by hand and machine. Previous sewing experience is not required. Sketches and concept boards will inform 3-dimensional sculptural pieces constructed from both fabric and nontraditional materials. The introduction of multicultural and historical content through the examples of contemporary and influential historical designers will inspire students to respond with designs of their own in a strong classroom community. Fieldtrips, guest speakers and class discussion will introduce issues of identity, race and gender politics and the environmental effects of the garment industry as we discuss how, when, where and why we wear what we wear.
  • Technical Theatre (Spring): This course covers the important concepts of technical production primarily through hands-on experience. The students learn about the principles and basic operation of theatrical lighting, audio, and video systems; theatrical rigging; the theatrical production process and technical theater's role in it; and workplace safety. Participation in school plays and Cabaret is encouraged but not required.
  • Xylophone Band (Fall): In this course, students will create and perform their own music using an ensemble of percussion instruments including xylophones, metallophones, gongs and chimes. No previous musical training is necessary. We will start by learning how to play the instruments. The rest of the course will be devoted to creating our own original compositions under the guidance of the instructor. If time permits, we might arrange a contemporary well-known piece of music for the ensemble. This class places top priority on learning how to listen and communicate musically with each other and the desire to acquire long-term goals through regular practice.
  • Songwriting I and II (Fall and Spring): In Songwriting, students will foster their own personal musical style while developing skills in melody, harmony, music theory, arranging and writing lyrics. Students are not required to know how to play an instrument to take this course. Other class time will be spent in creative activities and discussion, working to understand songwriting fundamentals and the connection between emotion, imagination and song. We will use Garageband, instruments, iPads, voices and other technological devices to record, create and arrange music. This course is essentially split into two semesters (Songwriting 1 and Songwriting 2) and can be taken as Sophomore (half-year), Junior or Senior (full-year) to fulfill your arts elective requirements.
  • Sophomore Foundation of the Arts: Play Making (Fall): This class is designed for students with or without experience in theater. Students learn in a very active, hands on way about the elements of drama through reading and watching plays, group discussion, theater games and exercises, improvisations, and visits from local playwrights. Students develop their imaginations, strengthen their artistic voice, and develop their sense of self by creating 3 short original works. Students work individually and collaboratively.
  • Sophomore Foundation of the Arts: Play Building (Spring): This class is designed for students with or without experience in theater. Through collaborative exercises, improvisation, discussion, and performance projects, students engage in the theatrical process as actors, directors, designers, and technicians. We learn firsthand about the roles that various theater artists play in mounting a production. Creative teams work to design and stage short works from the Play Making class. Visits from local theater artists enhance learning throughout the semester.

Grades 11 & 12 Arts Electives

In Grade 11 or 12, students take an additional Arts elective in either or both years. With permission, juniors and seniors may use two semesters of sophomore arts electives to fulfill this requirement.

  • Acting: Introduction to Acting Techniques: Students engage in exercises that focus on building a character vocally, physically, and psychologically. Acting exercises created by theatre greats Jaques LeCoq, Konstantin Stanislavki, Uta Hagen, and others are explored through improvisation and prepared performance projects. Students also apply Stanislavski’s character and scene analysis techniques to short elliptical scenes and full length scenes from 20th and 21st century American Theatre. Film acting is also explored. Suggested Prerequisites for this course are Foundations of the Arts: Play Making and Play Building.

  • Advanced Acting: This course works to develop the specific tools needed for theatrical performances. Using and ensemble approach, students will discover that voice, body, and mind must work together to tell a story and to bring a character to life. Students workshop and perform scenes using the Stanislavski and Meisner techniques, rehearse and perform the fall production, and in the second half of the year, create a film with the Film Production class. Participation in the Theatre Program's Spring Production is encouraged but not required. The class will attend a number of productions at local theatres throughout the year.
  • Photography: The photography course takes the application of image reproduction and photographic techniques and applies them to the very simple and complex techniques available to us. The course starts with black and white traditional darkroom photography for the first quarter, branching out in the second, third, and fourth quarters to introduce digital imaging, electronic transmission, studio photography, photojournalism, and image analysis and criticism. Emphasis is placed on development of a photographic portfolio that includes at least 25 quality works. Students are required to have either a 35mm or a digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera for this class.

  • Filmmaking and Video Production I: This course challenges students to use the tools of digital filmmaking in the production of original, creative, and thought provoking work. The use of digital video cameras, lighting, microphones, audio editing software, video editing software, and postproduction techniques are introduced and taught through projects. Students are asked to produce several short original works in a range of genres that include animation, narrative, experimental, documentary, and performance/video art. In order to better understand time-based media, super 8mm film production, wet processing, and hand coloring are explored. In addition to making films, video, and audio works, the class spends time looking and analyzing a variety of films and videos by local, national and international artists. In the spring the class curates and produces the Flick Fest, an annual film festival that features work from Western New York and Southern Ontario student filmmakers. The students in the class work to launch the festival at the North Park Theatre. Suggested prerequisites for this course are sophomore art electives Visual Thinking and Community.

  • Filmmaking and Video Production II and Screenwriting: This course builds on the Filmmaking and Video Production 1 class and further challenges students to use the tools of digital filmmaking in the production of original, creative, and thought provoking work. The Advanced Filmmaking and Video Production 2 class explores the process and craft of screenwriting. The students analyze existing screenplays, and critique the resulting films during the first weeks of the course. The students write an original screenplay for a short narrative work in the first quarter. During the second quarter they produce their original work using students in the Filmmaking and Video Production 1 class as their crew. In the spring, the class experiments with 8mm film, video installation and curates and produces the Flick Fest, an annual film festival that features work from Western New York and Southern Ontario student filmmakers. The students in the class work to launch the festival at the North Park Theatre. Prerequisites for this course are permission of the instructor, Visual Thinking and Community, or Filmmaking and Video Production 1. This course must also be taken concurrently with the senior English Elective, Criticism 1.

  • Advanced Photography: Advanced Photography is a class for students who have a serious interest in photography even though they may not have any experience with formal photographic technique. This class moves quickly through the technical strategies involved in traditional and digital photography. The emphasis of this class is on developing original and individual expression through photography. Students are challenged to address each class project through the production of a series of photographs. As a final project, students are required to complete an in-depth investigation on one topic. Both digital and traditional photography is accepted for the final project. The class emphasizes building a portfolio of work, and is a suggested pre-requisite for the AP Studio Art class. Students are required to have either a 35mm or digital SLR (single lens reflex) camera for this class. Prerequisites for the Advanced Photography course are Visual Thinking and Community, or permission of the instructor.

  • AP Studio Art: A capstone course, this class is for students that take their art making seriously, are highly motivated and self reliant. The work of this class is to make art with fluency and conviction. Students must produce a living breathing body of work. This class requires a lot of work and promises great reward and satisfaction for jobs well done. The class builds on techniques and concepts that students have acquired in past art courses in the production of new work. The major project in this class is the production of a series of 12 artworks based on a central interest. The 12 work concentration should develop a theme and challenge the maker and viewer with complex aesthetic and conceptual ideas. Work in this class can include photography, mixed media collage, digital art, painting, and drawing. The portfolio of work must be primarily two dimensional in nature. Students are required to complete a portfolio of at least 25 works. The portfolio includes a concentration (12 pieces), a breadth (12 pieces) and 5 works selected for quality. Suggested prerequisites for this course are Advanced Photography, Visual Thinking and Community, Photography, Drawing, Painting. Open to Juniors and Seniors.

  • Exploring Concepts in Drawing and Painting: This course embraces multiple approaches to a topic by pushing the boundaries of medium and technique to explore ideas through visual communication. Students develop observational skills, explore expressive mark making, use color theory and gain hands on experience while creating a diverse and content rich portfolio. Multiple mediums are explored which may include various types of graphite, ink, printmaking, watercolor crayons, acrylic paint and charcoal as well as more experimental mediums. Students participate in class discussions, critiques, and group activities as well as create individual projects and keep a visual journal. Students may participate in one or more art service projects as part of the curriculum. Shorter projects introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student driven works. Conceptual units may include ideas of identity/portraiture, time/motion, and space. Students are introduced to multicultural and historical means of art making as well as being exposed to local artistic resources through multiple field trips throughout the year and workshops with visiting artists.

  • The Art of Craft: This is a course for juniors and seniors with limited hands on art studio experience, but an interest in making. Through the introduction of fine craft students explore carving, forming, sewing, printing, and weaving both utilitarian and decorative objects over the course of this year-long arts elective. Students actively create individual as well as group designed projects within a supportive and collaborative class community. Shorter projects introduce new concepts and build confidence before applying these ideas to extended student driven works. Emphasis is placed on the exploration of materials to express ideas. Students are introduced to multicultural and historical means of art making as well as being exposed to local artistic resources through multiple field trips throughout the year. Printmaking, fiber, sculpture, as well as installation are explored in the creation of both two and three dimensional projects. A visual journal is also kept.
  • Contemporary Dance I: Junior and senior students study dance techniques that increase awareness of the body as an instrument for dance expression, performance and appreciation. Contemporary dance is currently the container for an art form that embraces movement of the past, and the present. This form encourages experimentation, creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration. Contemporary dance, classical dance, yoga and creative composition techniques are used to deepen students’ awareness of movement as an expressive artistic form. Performance opportunities are available to those who are interested in creating a dance or being a performer in a dance piece. Students work independently and in collaboration with small and large groups on class projects. This class is open to students who have studied dance as well as those who have a more limited experience, but are eager to try!
  • A Study and Practice in Creativity: This full year course focuses on each student practicing creativity and taking a hands on approach to the processes used by creative role models in many fields. This is an ideal course for seniors who have not had a junior year of arts or who have limited experience. Projects and class activities that encourage creative collaboration between peers is a fundamental method of learning. This interdisciplinary course provides the students with opportunities to engage in many creative projects. Additionally, students practice yoga fundamentals and stress reduction techniques. A relaxed mind is a creative mind. Artistic journaling, jewelry making, and reading about the creative process and creative individuals show students that we are all creative and have more unrecognized or unexplored skills to express these ideas than we realize. Creativity found in the arts, science, writing, and leadership is explored through media and internet resources.

Arts Faculty

Kari Achatz

Titles: MS Visual Arts

Amanda Besl

Titles: US Visual Arts

Jessica Block

Titles: Choir Director, Upper School Music Teacher

Bryan Eckenrode

Titles: MS Orchestra

Elaine Gardner

Titles: US/MS Dance

Kristen Kelley

Titles: US Theatre

Andrea Mancuso

Titles: US Visual Arts, Department Chair

Mary Kate Morrow

Titles: MS Music

Kate Olena

Titles: MS Theatre

Cory Shelton

Titles: Middle School Instrumental Music Teacher, Upper School Instrumental Music Teacher

Curt Steinzor

Titles: Technical Director, Flickinger Performing Arts Center