Upper School Creative Arts

Menlo School’s stage production of How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying. Photo by Blair Sanford.

Think Creative.

Menlo’s Creative Arts programs will inspire you, spark your curiosity, and help you develop the critical creative thinking skills that you’ll be called upon to use throughout your time at Menlo and beyond. You’ll learn the fundamentals of the art forms that interest you as you enhance your ability to articulate ideas, problem solve, collaborate, and think creatively. There are a variety of courses to match your skill level, whether you have previous artistic experience or not. 

Course Catalog

  • Art

    Studio Art students are taught foundation level skills while exploring a wide range of art mediums and techniques. The primary focus is on learning and utilizing the Principles and Elements of Design. Students will have direct instruction in drawing, painting, printmaking, and digital art. The first semester will concentrate on 2-D art concepts while the second semester will introduce 3- D art concepts. Students will research various art movements and participate in class presentations.

  • Advanced Art

    Advanced Art students develop mastery of their art skills and utilization of the Principles and Elements of Design. It is encouraged that students maintain an art journal throughout the year as well as develop a portfolio of original artwork. The instructor and guest artists will give hands-on demonstrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed media collage, and digital art. Students create their own challenging projects utilizing techniques they have learned. Included in the course is an overview of contemporary art history as well as major art movements.

    Prerequisite: Permission of the teacher and preview of student artwork.

  • AP Studio Art: 2-D Design

    AP 2-D Design is a rigorous honors level course where students complete a portfolio of 24 to 29 original artworks in a variety of mediums., including drawing, painting, mixed-media, photography, and digital art. The AP 2-D portfolio is comprised of three sections. The Quality section consists of 5 of the student’s best artworks submitted in their original form. The Concentration section is a body of 12 artworks investigating a strong underlying visual idea in 2-D. The Breadth section consists of 12 artworks that demonstrate a variety of concepts and approaches in 2-D Design. Students are required to work extra hours outside of class and take complete responsibility in time management and project completion.

    Prerequisite: Completion of either Advanced Art or Topics in Fine Art and permission of the teacher.

  • AP Studio Art 3-D Design

    AP 3-D Design is a rigorous honors level course where students complete three-dimensional artworks in a variety of mediums including clay, paper, wire, fabric and found objects. Digital 3-D art is also accepted. Artworks are judged through photographs of the dimensional works from different angles. The Quality section of the portfolio consists of five-dimensional artworks that demonstrate mastery of 3-D design in concept, composition, and execution. The Concentration section has an estimated 10 artworks investigating a strong underlying visual idea in 3-D design. The Breadth section includes 2 images each of 8 different artworks that demonstrate a variety of concepts and approaches in 3-D design. As in AP 2-D, students are expected to set aside ample time outside of class hours to complete their artworks.

    Prerequisite: Completion of AP Art 2-D.

  • Topics in Fine Art

    Topics in Fine Art is geared toward those students who have completed Advanced Art and wish to pursue their artistic interests further as they create their own challenging projects. Topics in Fine Art parallels the AP 2-Design course curriculum and introduces students to the AP art material. The course is not an AP level course in that final review of the student art portfolio will not be evaluated by the AP Board. Quality art created in this course may be used as part of the AP art portfolio should the student elect to take AP Studio Art in the following year. Students develop mastery of their art skills and utilization of the Principles and Elements of Design. It is encouraged that students maintain an art journal throughout the year as well as develop a portfolio of original artwork. The instructor and guest artists will give hands-on demonstrations in drawing, painting, printmaking, mixed media collage, and digital art. Students create their own challenging projects utilizing techniques they have learned. Included in the course is an overview of contemporary art history as well as major art movements.

    Prerequisite: Permission of the teacher and review of student artwork.

  • Mixed Chorus (Menlo Choraliers)

    The Menlo Choraliers is a non-auditioned group open to men and women in grades 9-12. It is a great place to form new friendships, participate in fun activities, and sing fabulous music! Students assist with choosing and rehearsing songs during our spring semester, and also help come up with ideas for social activities. Singers are exposed to a wide variety of music from different genres. Our singers perform in many exciting concerts throughout the year. Every few years, the choral program travels so that we can connect with cultures outside our own. (Past tour destinations have included Europe, South America, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand, and even Disneyland.) Come sing with us!

  • Women’s Chorus

    Women’s Choir (Lorelei) has been a tradition at Menlo for many years. It gives young women the chance to experience singing in an all women’s ensemble, where they can focus on forming friendships and and participating in different activities. There are also opportunities to participate in choral festivals and competitions during the year. Students help generate ideas for social activities and community performances. Our singers perform in many exciting venues throughout the year. Every few years, the choral program travels so that we can connect with cultures outside our own. (Past tour destinations have included Europe, South America, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand, and even Disneyland.) Come sing with us!

  • Chamber Singers (Knights & Knightingales)

    Chamber Singers (Knights and Knightingales) gives Menlo students the chance to experience the joy of singing in a small auditioned ensemble. This course is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors, and is comprised of 12 -16 voices. It is a great place to form new friendships while experiencing the fun of choral performance. There are also opportunities to participate in choral festivals and competitions during the year. Students also help generate ideas for social activities and community performances. Our singers perform in many exciting concerts throughout the year. Every few years, the choral program travels so that we can connect with cultures outside our own. (Past tour destinations have included Europe, South America, Canada, Cuba, New Zealand, and even Disneyland.) Come sing with us!

    Prerequisite: Complete any level of chorus or pass an audition with Ms. Linford.

  • AP Music Theory

    The course presumes a somewhat fluent level in musical reading and notation upon beginning, but the class begins with a complete review of music basics. Time is spent discovering how small patterns such as scales, intervals and triads combine to create larger units such as phrases, periods and two- and three-part form. In class, students work on sight singing and ear training; the goal is the ability to read a musical score without singing or playing out loud. Students are also taught to transcribe musical sounds into notation. Regular melodic and harmonic dictation is given in class. Short compositions are assigned throughout the year to illustrate fundamental principles being studied, and the final project is the composition of a longer piece by each student to be included in a concert at the end of the school year. Critical and analytical listening to major works from the classics of European and American composers from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as representative music of Asia and Africa, is a regular part of the curriculum.

    Prerequisite: Pass an entrance exam through Ms. Linford.

  • Jazz Band

    Jazz Band is open to all instrumentalists interested in elevating their musicianship through developing their performing and improvising skills through jazz and other jazz-related genres. In addition to learning standard tunes, students will also learn to create their own arrangements and original compositions for the band. The Jazz Band will perform at casual and formal events throughout the year. Past performances have included music by Art Blakey, Wayne Shorter, Stevie Wonder, Esperanza Spalding, and Vulfpeck. Jazz Band may be repeated for additional credit.

  • Chamber Orchestra

    Chamber Orchestra welcomes instrumentalists who are interested in a creative and collaborative process of making music. The repertoire is based on student interest and the rehearsal process goes beyond developing ensemble skills by integrating the discussion and analysis of history/context, harmony, and form. This ensemble will change the way you approach music and challenge the convention of which genres orchestras can explore. The orchestra performs several concerts throughout the year and past performances have included music by Mozart, Tchaikovsky, Astor Piazzolla, Joe Hisaishi, and Billie Eilish. Chamber Orchestra may be repeated for additional credit.

  • Jazz Dance

    Jazz Dance is open to anyone interested in learning to dance, who loves to dance, or who just loves to move. It is highly recommended for student athletes to help them understand their anatomy, improve their flexibility and alignment and extend their range of movement. The class teaches basic dance terminology, technique, and simple combinations. Choreography is introduced in both semesters and the second semester includes class choreography by the students for the Dance Concert. The class continues to work on progressively more complex pieces in the second semester. Students in all dance classes are encouraged to audition for the performing groups: Knight Dancers, MidKnights, Knight Life and the musicals.

  • Advanced Jazz Dance

    Advanced Dance includes more in-depth technique work and more explosive, controlled movements that require a higher level of strength and alignment. The class works extensively on strengthening, footwork, anatomical terms and new choreography that will lead into a final number for the Dance Concert. This class requires permission from the instructor. Students in all dance classes are encouraged to audition for the performing groups: Knight Dancers, MidKnights, Knight Life and the musicals.

    Prerequisite: Permission of teacher.

  • Drama

    The first semester is intended for both the beginning student of theater and for the student who wants a more in-depth theatre experience. This course provides a brief overview of both the curious non-actor and the experienced younger actor. The course begins with a series of theatre games and exercises intended to give the student a basic knowledge of stagecraft, ensemble work, character development, and movement for the stage. Combining a smattering of theatre history along with an introduction to the aesthetic philosophy of theatre, students will learn an appreciation for all forms of theatre and awareness to the world of theatre beyond the classroom and its relevancy in today’s world. The second semester is designed to build on the practices and techniques introduced in the first semester. Through monologues, scene work, and presentations, this semester provides the opportunity to study, act in, and direct various dramatic scenes from full-length plays, which are examined in detail in their entirety. Students will learn basic technical theatre skills, with a “hands-on” approach to production.

  • Moviemaking

    In this class, students explore and develop their creativity through making movies. The class is individually oriented, so students of all experience levels can focus on improving their specific skill sets and creating a variety of movie projects. Through many hands-on projects, students learn and practice skills such as using lighting effectively, using various microphones and cameras, using green screens, and editing in Final Cut. Students make a variety of movies, from comedies to experimental pieces to thirty-second ads to documentaries. Students learn and practice the IDEO approach to idea development in many of their projects. 

  • Advanced Moviemaking

    This advanced class is for students who have mastered the fundamental skills of moviemaking (i.e., sound, light, camera work and editing in Final Cut) and want to put their skills into action creating quality movies. Students will develop original ideas for all their movie projects; each student is encouraged to pursue the kind of movie that interests him or her the most. Students will work with the instructor to develop individual goals for building their skills and completing projects. Students will have access to the full range of equipment and software that Menlo has as they bring to life the movies they imagine.

  • Photography

    This is an introductory class that covers the use of a traditional 35mm film camera, lenses, and black and white darkroom printing processes through a series of hands-on projects. In the first semester, students learn to use the manual controls on film cameras and darkroom equipment in order to achieve desired results.

    The second semester covers the use of digital cameras (SLR and mobile) and digital editing processes through a series of hands-on projects. Students learn to use modern SLR cameras and to edit photos with Adobe’s Lightroom and Photoshop software tools. Students develop practical shooting and editing skills through directed assignments and a variety of self-defined projects, which are recorded through weekly blogging. Classic themes are explored through landscape, portrait, photojournalism, conceptual and experimental photography.
    Cameras and lenses are provided for use during class. Photo paper and film supplies are available for purchase in the Campus Store.

  • Advanced Photography

    This class extends the study of photography to include advanced digital SLR and mobile photography, large and medium format film cameras and alternative processes. Emphasis is placed on using the highest quality materials, producing and exhibiting larger prints, advanced techniques, and developing deeper understanding through student-defined projects. Students rotate through individual monthly assignments, which are done within and outside of class. Each assignment features a different set of methods, goals or a new piece of equipment. At the end of each assignment, students share, exhibit and critique their results in a group setting. As homework, students maintain a weekly personal blog of their activity. All equipment and supplies are provided.

    Prerequisite: Photography

  • Yearbook: Publication Design I

    PUBLICATION DESIGN I

    Students in this course are part of the yearbook staff. They collaborate with students in the Yearbook Club and any students doing independent studies to create a gorgeous 400-page book each year. New staff members learn about visual design, photography, image editing, and using software for graphic design. Because the book depends on students to create it, the staff must be productive, but the atmosphere in class is casual. It’s a fun change of pace from the usual daily schedule. -Students who go on from Publications I to Publications II can earn a University of California visual arts credit, as well as their Menlo Arts credit.

  • Yearbook: Publication Design II

    PUBLICATION DESIGN II

    (This class receives both a Menlo Arts credit and a UC Visual Arts credit.) In this course, students take part in designing the form and content of the annual book. They learn more about the central principles of design: shape, line, color, repetition and balance. They also dive more deeply into what makes good photography and why in yearbook photography we emphasize faces, action, context and emotion. And they practice shooting and choosing photos to create strong page layouts.

    Prerequisite: Publication Design I

  • Yearbook: Publication Design Leadership

    In this third-year class students build on everything they learned in the first two years and add to that the challenge of managing peers, leading the staff through a year-long trek to create our book. These publications veterans make decisions for the designs for pages and the book overall. It is their responsibility to incorporate all that they have learned about design in their first two years in an aesthetically pleasing and very practical creation.

    Open to juniors and seniors.

  • Push Play: Making Music w/ Synthesizers, Sequencers, and Samplers

    Video intro: shorturl.at/uzCGW

    Ever wonder how Aphex Twin, Skrillex, and TOKiMONSTA make their music? This class will get you working with the tools and techniques of electronic music and no previous experience or knowledge is necessary. Learn to shape sounds with hardware and software that have historical and cultural significance since the 1960’s to present day. Hone your listening skills by recreating familiar beats from your personal playlist. Create new songs from scratch and build a portfolio of your work. Limited to 10 students. Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors.

    Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors

  • Course Title: Improv: Whose Line is It Anyway?

    Course Description: Improv is an art form and a philosophy. In learning improv, one becomes more flexible thinking on the fly and working without a plan. It teaches listening, openness, and spontaneity. And it’s fun! In this class, students will learn to create theatrical scenes on the fly, generating characters and narratives (and hilarity) along the way. They will learn different improv games and forms, all of which will support them as they perform a show at the end of the semester!

    The course will focus on the foundations of good improv, including:

    1. Spontaneity
    2. Affirmation
    3. Character
    4. Emotion
    5. Space Objects
    6. Sharing Control
    7. Status
    8. Endowments
    9. Narrative

    Milestones of the course may include:

    · Collaboration with the Stanford Improvisers

    · A field trip to see “professional” improv in San Francisco

    · A capstone performance at the end of the semester!

    Enduring Understandings:

    1. Saying “yes!” to the unexpected develops selflessness and empathy, teaches listening and openness, and leads to life-changing experiences and relationships.

    2. Failure is an essential part of improv, art, and life, and it must be accepted before any meaningful risk can be taken.

    3. Sharing control and working for the good of the group are hallmarks of great improv and good people.

    Outcomes: In addition to the enduring understandings, students who complete the course will become members of MImps, the Menlo Improvisers. Students will be able to practice with the troupe and play in shows with their fellow improvisers for the rest of their Menlo career.

    The MIMPS, Menlo Improvisors, will make their public debut with an evening of Improv in the new Spieker Center for the Performing Arts.

    Prerequisite – Currently in Drama 1 or have taken Drama 1

  • Freshman Arts eXperience (FAX)

    Starting in the fall of 2020, freshmen will spend one semester in the Freshman Arts Experience. This new program will feature original, all-new classes never seen before. The classes will be playful and experimental, with mixtures of various arts and two co-teachers for each class. They will all have students exploring the layers of their identity in creative, artistic ways. Details of the courses will be explained to freshmen in August.

  • Musical Theatre’s Secret Lab 1S

    Designed to introduce, explore and develop a solid understanding of the musical theatre cannon, both past and present. With on-site and in real-time simulated auditions, we will learn the techniques of acting a song and how to use subtext and monologues to make your performance of a song more believable. We will examine the construction of a song and take a look at it’s various parts. We’ll discuss the voice. We’ll examine a wide range of musical theatre songs and shows that exist and learn which types are best suitable for your skill level. We will learn the valuable tool of providing and receiving constructive feedback as we explore a model for providing others with feedback in a meaningful way.

    This course will provide you with a step-by–step process to pick the best material and prepare fully for a wide range of audition situations. Practical work sessions on ‘how to audition’ will be an important part of this class. We will also look at acting and musical theatre schools, programs and summer opportunities that best suits you.

    It doesn’t matter where you are trying out for a Broadway show, auditioning for college or simply jamming with friends, there is something here to help everyone make the most of the skills they already possess.

    The course will focus on the foundations of a positive presentation including:

    Expanding self-expression
    Building basic principles of acting including character analysis through song with the use of objectives, and obstacles
    The choosing and collecting a variety of songs to perform, audition or enjoyment

    Skills that will be developed include:

    Flexibility
    Spontaneity
    Affirmation
    Song Analysis

    Milestones of the course may include:

    Guest Artist auditors
    Collaboration with neighboring musical theatre high school classes in the Bay area
    A field trip to see a “professional” show in the Bay Area.
    A capstone performance at the end of the semester!

    Outcomes: Students will showcase their work in a capstone performance, “20 musicals in 20 minutes” in the new Spieker Center.

    Prerequisite – Currently in Drama 1 or have taken Drama 1