At San Francisco Friends School, students have opportunities to perform music, act on stage, and present dances from their first day of kindergarten to the last day of eighth grade. Lower schoolers dance, sing and act in classes and perform for our annual Winter Celebration and numerous in-school and parent presentations throughout the year. They take classes in drama, dance and music in every grade in the Lower School as well as for the first half of middle school. In seventh and eighth grade years, students choose arts electives to take each semester with the agreement that they engage in at least one music class, one dance or drama class, and one visual art offering, respectively.
While students act and perform on stage as part of their regular curriculum each year, there are two major lower school dramatic performances each year. In mid-spring, fourth graders present the annual production of "Oh, California!," a play set in and tied to their study of California history. At the end of the year, second graders perform and sing in “Tall Tale Plays” to culminate the year of lower school performing arts. Smaller dramatic projects are also performed throughout the year, such as the third grade collaborative poem interpretation, (2015’s “Jabberwocky”), for example.
In the sixth grade, students present theatrical examples from their study of theatre history such as early human rituals and ancient Greek plays (“Prometheus”). Meanwhile, fifth graders create compositions based on poems about insects (“Cicadas”in 2016) and non-fictional renderings of stories from interviews with seniors living in our nearby community.
In the fall, a select group of middle schoolers stage a full-scale production. Some years the show is lighthearted, as in "Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland" in 2017; other years the show presents a more serious side, as in "The Witch of Blackbird Pond" in 2011. The 7/8th grade Shakespeare elective performs a classic, such as “Romeo & Juliet” at the end of the semester. In the spring, the 7/8th grade students work with a professional playwright to write and perform an original play as part of an elective class (for example, 2016’s “Pin Point O,” loosely based on “Pinnochio”).
The K-3 SFFS music program is designed to inspire life-long participation in music. Throughout the year, music classes take place in the “fishbowl,” our centrally located music studio. Passing by the studio, you might observe our young musicians enthusiastically singing, playing, improvising, composing, reading, writing or moving. The students are challenged to work individually, and collaboratively in small and large groups. Drawing primarily from Kodaly and Orff-Schulwerk methodologies, our lessons are sequenced to provide a foundation of music literacy while allowing for music skills to be used in creative and expressive ways.
In the fifth and sixth grades, students take both vocal music and instrumental music (World Band or Orchestra) each week, plus a semester of general music instruction. The seventh and eighth graders commit themselves to one of three ensembles to be part of each year: Orchestra, World Band, or Chorus. In addition, a small group of students are selected for the Middle School Jazz Band that performs at a variety of school functions for various audiences.
Recent musical selections:
- Carnival of the Animals (Camille Saint Saens)
- Excerpts from The Firebird (Stravinsky)
- Night Train (Duke Ellington)
- Come Together (The Beatles)
- Dugatti Vugbe (Traditional West African xylophone piece)
- Ma Navu (a jewish folk song)
- Dream Keeper (based on a poem by Langston Hughes)
- Highlights from Harry Potter (John Williams)
- Seasons of Love (from "Rent")
- Night In Tunisia (Dizzy Gillespie)
At San Francisco Friends School, the work of our young artists are shared in a number of ways; student work is found displayed on every floor of our school. Our community members, including faculty, staff, and parents, are encouraged to come in to look at the work at their leisure and are invited to visual arts specific events, from K-4 “Milk and Cookie Critiques” to 7th and 8th grade "Electivepolooza," a middle school visual arts celebration. We continually look for new ways for our students to receive feedback from peers, adults, and local artists. Our online arts gallery is available to SFFS families and includes pictures of students at work as well as images of final artworks.