Performing Arts

The Upper School performing arts curriculum offers a range of options for students interested in music, dance, and theater. These include formal semester classes, choral and instrumental ensembles, and other electives. In addition, the Department stages three theatrical productions a year representing diverse genres and playwrights. Music and dance ensembles present formal concerts in the winter and spring, and perform informally throughout the year. Individual music students and ensembles audition for district, state, Eastern, and national music festivals. The Department participates in the Maine Principals Association’s One Act competitions every other year.



This class introduces students to the art of acting. Students discover the “actor’s instrument” by tuning up the body, voice, and imagination with a variety of exercises. Students prepare for self-expression, character creation, improvisation, and scene analysis, and explore different acting styles and techniques to add variety to their palette of artistic choices. Students expand their cultural literacy by reading plays, studying theater history, attending productions, and making observations on everyday life through journal entries. This is a nonjudgmental classroom in which risk-taking and mistakes can be made freely and the necessary “play” can take place.

Music History and Appreciation

This course explores the story of Western music from its origins in medieval Gregorian chant through the Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, and Romantic periods, and into the 20th century with the development of jazz and rock. Students study instrumentation, great composers, and the style, form, and sociocultural connections of music throughout history. Requirements include reading and listening assignments, tests and quizzes, oral reports and discussions, and research projects.

Music Theory and Composition

Students study music theory through its practical applications in composition and performance. Starting with the fundamentals of pitch, rhythm, and score reading, the course quickly moves through scales and modes, intervals, chords, form, harmonization, and part-writing. Course requirements include reading and workbook assignments, frequent composition projects, and assessments in ear training and notation. There is no prerequisite for this course, though it is assumed that students have a strong interest in music study.

Real World Performing Arts

In ancient Greece, the performing arts were a platform for civic debate. The performing arts, or storytelling with word, music, and movement, were seen as a necessary part of a democratic society. Whether it is Shakespeare or The Laramie Project, “We Are the World” (USA for Africa) or protest songs, jazz or hip-hop, stories emerge as artists share their particular truths and serve as catalysts for change. This semester-long experiential class will focus on the power of the performing artist as activist and agent of change. Throughout the semester, students will take on many roles: historians and critics; interpreters of existing monologues, scenes, dances, and songs; and creators of a collaborative, multi-arts performance piece designed to spark action. The class will partner with an organization in the Portland area to give particular focus to the final creative project. 

Music Ensembles

Students may enroll in one of the following yearlong ensembles.

Chamber Ensemble

Chamber music is an intimate form of music-making with no conductor and with one player to each unique line of music. Students work with a coach to explore small ensemble repertoire, with special emphasis on balance, tuning, stylistic interpretation, and individual leadership as the music demands. All string and wind players are welcome. Repertoire will be selected and adapted for the specific instrumentation available for two formal concerts per year, the Waynflete Invitational Chamber Music Festival, and additional informal performances. 


Chorus is open to students who have a passion for choral singing. No prior experience is required. Emphasis is placed on building a cohesive community, vocal training, part singing, stylistic interpretation, music literacy, and musical understanding. Singers will explore music from various styles, cultures, and traditions, including contemporary a cappella and musical theater. The concert season consists of winter and spring concerts plus “run-out” opportunities that may include workshops with touring ensembles and collaborative performances with musicians from other schools.

Jazz Ensemble

Jazz Ensemble is open to all Upper School instrumentalists. The group explores various styles of jazz music, including swing, shuffle, funk, jazz-rock/fusion, ballad, Latin, and rock. Arrangements are drawn from a library that includes works by Don Sebesky, Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Matt Harris, Henry Mancini, and others. Students are strongly encouraged to develop improvisational skills. In addition to formal concerts, the Jazz Ensemble participates in the Maine Music Educators Association Jazz Festival.

Jazz Combo

Jazz Combo is limited to nine players and comprises students who demonstrate a superior level of commitment to jazz performance and musicianship. Jazz Combo membership is by invitation and will be determined in September. Repertory consists of contemporary jazz arrangements from a range of styles that provide opportunities for students to develop improvisational skills. The Jazz Combo participates in the Maine Music Educators Association Jazz Festival and competes at the State High School Instrumental Jazz Festival if invited.

Other Performing Arts Electives

Students may also participate in a number of semester-long electives. Offerings vary from year to year based on student interest.

Dance Technique and Composition

This class is for students who wish to develop and improve their dance technique and expand their skills as choreographers. Barre, floor, and center work are emphasized, helping refine technique and build stamina. Compositional tools are explored through short studies and longer solo and group projects.

Production Technology

Students experience an intense overview of technical elements and will learn how to work as part of a team to design, create, and build the lighting, sets, costumes, sound, and props for plays and musicals. Students also develop backstage skills and explore the workplace safety procedures and production guidelines that help make a show successful. The class includes an introduction to the theory and process of costume design and construction. Activities may include research, play analysis, measurement, sewing, alteration, and learning the terminology of costume design.