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 course where students complete a portfolio of original artworks in a variety of mediums, including drawing, painting, mixed-media, photography, and digital art. Experimentation, revision, and the effective use of the Principles and Elements of Design are emphasized as is documentation of the process of creating art. The  AP 2-D portfolio is comprised of two sections: selected works consist of three of the student’s best artworks submitted in their original form; the Sustained Investigation portion is a body of 15 artworks investigating a strong underlying visual idea. Students are expected to work extra hours outside of class and take complete responsibility in time management and project completion.  Student artwork is submitted digitally and is judged and scored by a panel of art experts.

    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.

  • AP Studio Art Drawing

    AP Studio Art Drawing is similar to AP 2-D Design, but the judging and scoring of artwork has a slightly different “lens” than the Design portfolio. In Drawing, mark-making, and representation of form in both drawn and painted artwork are emphasized whereas in 2-D Design, design and composition are paramount. Unlike AP 2-D, purely photographic artwork would not be part of a Drawing portfolio unless there were drawn elements in it. Digital drawing is accepted as is mixed media. Experimentation, revision, and the effective use of the principles and elements of design are emphasized as is documentation of the process of creating art.

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

  • 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.

  • Concert Choir

    The Menlo Concert Choir 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!

  • Chamber Choir

    Chamber Choir 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. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Push Play: Making Music 1S OR 2S

    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 1960s 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. Watch a video overview of this course here.

    Open to Sophomores, Juniors, and Seniors

  • Beginning Piano Lab: The Gourmet Ear

    This class is structured for those who wish to learn how to play piano
    in an accessible and fun way. Basic theory and listening included!

  • 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. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Dance I: Just Dance

    Designed for any level dancer, students will gain a solid foundation and appreciation for the love of dance! Throughout the year we will study multiple styles including jazz, contemporary, musical theatre, hip hop, and even TikTok dances. The focus of the course will be on the development of a technical foundation, understanding rhythm and musicality, strength and flexibility, choreography retention, and most importantly how to have FUN while moving your body! Class structure will include a warm-up designed around proper body alignment, across the floor movement, and choreography sequences focusing on applying proper technique and artistry. Students will collaborate with others and create their own choreography. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Dance II: Advanced Dance Technique and Performance

    Building upon the foundations of Dance I, students will further develop their technique and dive deeper into dance as an art form. Styles of dance that will be studied include jazz, contemporary, world styles, musical theatre, ballet, and hip hop. Classes will include warming-up, stretching, movement sequences across the floor, and learning choreography. Students will build skills to develop their artistic expression through improvisation and creating and analyzing choreography. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert.

    Prerequisites for this course include Dance I or permission from the teacher.

  • Dance III: Composition, Production, and Contemporary Forms

    This year-long course is designed for students who have demonstrated an advanced level of dancing and are passionate about growing as an artist. Students will focus on furthering their technical abilities through multiple styles including, but not limited to, contemporary, jazz, ballet, modern, and hip hop. This course will also challenge students through complex movement sequences, varied performance qualities, dynamic energy shifts, and exposure to improvisational techniques. Choreography and learning how to compose an original piece of work will be a focus of the course, including how to properly stage, light, costume, and design a performance. Enrolled students will be expected to perform and participate in the Dance Concert.

    Prerequisites for this course include Dance I or Dance II, and a placement application, which may include a video submission showcasing the student’s abilities as a dancer. This is only offered as a year-long course.

  • Drama

    Discover your individual voice through this introductory course on the fundamental elements and process of theatre including history and design. Explore today’s theatre through improvisation, observation, and performance. Through theatre games and daily exercises, build confidence and an understanding of what your unique perspective can bring to any material. Voice and movement within units include musical theatre and scene work. By year’s end know the purpose of a scene, understand objective, character development, and have a solid overview of theatre from a performance and business point of view. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Production - Page to Spieker Stage (1S)

    The first hands-on experience exploring and combining design, science, engineering, craftsmanship, art, and presentation inside the new Spieker Center for the Arts, this course is an opportunity to think big. It will cover digital theatrical LED lighting, live sound, production organization and management, set design, tools, construction, scenic painting, costume and prop design. Each student will be encouraged to find his/her own areas of interest. Learn how to safely use the diverse technology and tools of our new theater to take student projects from concept to completion. Students can also learn from working live events, concerts, dance, or theater. We will focus on collaboration, basic skill sets, and creativity. Watch a video overview of this course here.

    Semester 1 Class (but may be offered 2nd Semester as needed)

  • 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. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • 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.

  • The Art of the Fight (1S or 2S)

    Students will learn how to tell stories that have conflicts that escalate to physical violence—safely. For both film and stage, stories often involve conflicts that become physical. From slaps to swords and beyond, students will learn and practice standard stage combat skills and learn how to choreograph fight scenes. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Photo 1 (Year-long)

    This introductory class uses both digital SLR cameras and smartphones to teach students the basics of photography. Students explore classic photographic project themes, like light, darkness, still life, landscape, portraiture, and others with each weekly project. Students are encouraged to experiment, and given the freedom to interpret and discover their own personal interests and styles. Open to all grades. Students provide their own smartphone and apps. (This is a year-long course.) Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Photo 2 (Year-long or 1S or 2S)

    This class is for students who want to learn more advanced photographic techniques and editing processes in both analogue and digital photography. Students learn to use manual controls in both film and digital cameras to experiment with focus, depth of field and exposure. While learning the analogue process emphasis is placed on image and print quality using the dark room. While learning the digital process students learn advanced photo editing software to edit and manipulate images. With each project, students explore classic photographic themes; light, darkness, color, still life, landscape, portraiture, composition, abstraction, texture, reflections, patterns, and many others. Students are encouraged to experiment, and are given the freedom to pursue their own personal interests and styles.  Students are provided with in-class use of DSLR camera, lenses and software tools.

    Pre-requisite: Photo 1

  • Photo 3: Independent Projects (Year-long or 1S or 2S)

    This class is for experienced photography students who want to develop and improve their personal artistic practice by doing monthly projects of their own design. Students choose their own media, equipment, subjects and methods. Emphasis is placed on improving existing skills or developing new ones, exploring new and creative methods, and using alternative processes and imaging systems. With each monthly project, students are encouraged to produce creative, ambitious, innovative and high quality personal photo projects. Students are provided with technical support and in-class use of equipment.

    Pre-requisite: Photo 1

  • Intro to Digital Animation

    This introductory course is for students who want to learn to make 2D and 3D computer animations. Students will learn the principles of animation while acquiring skills in professional computer animation software. Students will practice telling narrative stories through storyboarding, character development, sequencing, and modeling. Students will be given the freedom to experiment and discover their personal style. Open to all grades. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • 9th Grade Men’s Chorus (FAX) (2S)

    FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

    Men’s Choir is a non-auditioned group that is open to all freshman men! No previous experience is necessary! Students will learn and arrange contemporary music. Singers will have the chance to travel, practice feeling confident onstage, and learn about basic singing technique. Building friendships in a singing group is a great experience! Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • 9th Grade Women’s Chorus (FAX) (1S)

    FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

    Singers will have the chance to perform for different communities and benefit from being able to learn music that is designed for women’s voices. No previous experience is necessary! Students will learn and arrange contemporary music. Singers will have the chance to travel, practice feeling confident onstage, and learn about basic singing technique. Building friendships in an ensemble is a great experience! Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • The Art of Design (FAX) (1S or 2S)

    FRESHMEN ONLY -  A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

    Explore creative design through photography and studio art. Build artistic confidence and discover ways to communicate through the visual arts. Students experiment with sketching and 2D mixed media (combining text, drawing, painting, collage, and photography) creating a variety of seasonal design projects that involve identity and personal expression by using both manual and digital tools.

  • Beyond Words (FAX) (1S or 2S)

    FRESHMEN ONLY - A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

    Mountains and minds can be moved with words. It’s not what you say, but how you say it. We all have stories to tell, ideas to share, and connections to make. The way we communicate is, in large part, who we are. Did you know that communication is only 7% verbal?!? 93% is non-verbal of which 55% is body language and 38% is tone of voice! This class studies the core principles of communication—both as the receiver and the sender. We will strengthen our own natural skills while exploring various techniques used by history’s great orators like Dr. Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Maya Angelou, and more. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • Hip Hop: Foundations, History, and Cultural Context (FAX) (1S or 2S)

    THIS IS PRIMARILY A 9TH GRADE CLASS AS IT IS PART OF THE A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS OPTION (FAX)

    All levels welcome! In this semester-long course, students will learn different elements of hip hop including technique, movement, musical rhythm, tempo, and phrasing. The course will focus on the historical context required to develop the skills needed to practice and perform this popular dance form. Class structure will include warming-up, stretching, and learning choreography, with a focus on developing performance qualities. Students will be introduced to terminology, important historical events, people who contributed to hip hop, and its lasting impact on pop culture. Second-semester students will be given the opportunity to perform and/or participate in the Dance Concert. Watch a video overview of this course here.

  • How Music Works: Exploring and Expanding Your Musical Taste (FAX) (1S or 2S)

    THIS IS PRIMARILY A 9TH GRADE CLASS AS IT IS PART OF THE A BLOCK FRESHMAN ARTS EXPERIENCE (FAX)

    Studies show that musical preference is most strongly impressed during your teenage years. So what better time than now to learn more about how music works? Let’s explore your musical taste and dive into those sounds! Learn about how beats, chords, and melodies work together to create music that resonates with you. All genre preferences are welcome and you will listen to lots of music you never knew about. No previous musical training necessary; you will learn to analyze what you hear. This class can also benefit advanced musicians who want to gain a deeper understanding of the music they are formally studying. The primary goal of this class is to expand your love and appreciation for music. Watch a video overview of this course here.