Departments & Courses

Visual & Performing Arts

SHC Graduation requirement: One year

UC/CSU admissions requirement: One year

Seniors who participate for all four years in VPA programs may be eligible to graduate with the SHC Arts Distinction award.

Our Mission

SHC’s Visual & Performing Arts Department asks students to work individually and collaboratively to create projects and performances that express individual gifts and talents while offering service and joy to others. By critically analyzing artistic mediums from a variety of cultures, time periods, and movements, students acquire a depth and breadth of understanding about themselves and the human experience.

Our Goals

  • Create in a variety of mediums.
  • Cultivate an appreciation of fine arts.
  • Develop techniques with which they can effectively express themselves in a physical and spiritual manner.
  • Explore questions of beauty and communication in human experience.
  • Practice time management, problem solving, perseverance, and design thinking both individually and collaboratively.
  • Plan and implement projects that bring joy to others and promote an understanding of the diversity of our human family.
  • Reflect on their own creative development as well as on that of other individuals and cultures.

Courses in this Department

This course provides the beginning actor with a thorough introduction to the actor’s craft. Explorations in improvisation, theater games, pantomime, dramatic criticism, reader’s theater, monologue work and scene preparation are followed by more advanced acting techniques such as the use of detailed action, motivation/objectives, subtext, sense memory, and emotional recall. Students will learn aspects of technical theater and create original works on stage and in the classroom setting. All students will perform in class, participate in peer- and self-critiques, and complete reading and writing assignments regularly.

Advanced Acting students will learn the history and cultural backgrounds of world theatre, specifically European, Greek, Latino and Asian theatre. Student actors will explore universal theatrical vocabulary, vocal conditioning, diction and elocution, and body awareness in order to understand the craft of acting and to enhance their own acting process. Advanced Acting students will produce a fall and a spring production at SHC, as well as explore different types of acting as preparation for a wide array of future theatrical experiences. Prerequisites: 1) A cumulative 2.0 GPA and 2 ) 3.0 GPA in Acting 1,2.

This course develops the principles of choreography and the elements of dance for intermediate and advanced dancers, guiding them to find their own voices as choreographers. The course’s foremost objective is the creation and performance of each student’s final composition project. Advanced Dance students explore an array of movement styles, approaches, and patterns to broaden their movement vocabulary. Through dance observation and the expansion of their critical vocabulary, they articulate thoughtful responses verbally and in writing. Advanced Dance and Composition will include improvisation as a tool for creation, and will incorporate lighting design and costuming; the course encompasses Contemporary, Ballet, and Jazz techniques, group improvisation, performing dance studies, discussion, critical analysis, journal writing, and video portfolios. Prerequisites: Audition.

An advanced level course in dance technique and composition, this course follows a rigorous curriculum building on the curriculum taught in Advanced Dance and Composition 3,4.  This course is designed as a continuation of dance education that will allow students a deeper understanding of dance, along with developing technical accuracy, performance experience, and choreographic prowess. Through multiple methodologies and techniques, students will perform advanced dance movement and repertory, and will choreograph their own material in a variety of styles, refer to historical and cultural aspects, and form and defend their personal preferences using dance theory and aesthetic valuing. Performance and choreographic opportunities include an informal workshop presentation during the first semester and will culminate with a student performance which will showcase the students technical growth and original choreography.

Advanced Dance and Composition Honors is an honors level course designed for high school juniors or seniors who successfully complete lower level dance classes including Fundamentals of Dance Technique, Advanced Dance and Composition 3,4, and Advanced Dance and Composition 5,6. Honors students must also also audition for and be admitted to SHC’’s pre-professional performance dance ensemble.  Honors dancers utilize a wide variety of styles that include ballet, jazz, modern, contemporary, hip hop, musical theater, and world dance. Weekly advanced technique classes refine and develop student’s physical alignment, technique and vocabulary. Coursework combines technique classes, dance rehearsals, historical research, analysis, critique, group work, and pre-professional development. Honors students will demonstrate advanced technical dance skills in a variety of styles and demonstrate clear artistic vision and interpretation in performances and choreography they produce.  Choreography created will demonstrate originality and sophisticated use of choreographic principles as well as proficiency in a variety of styles. Students continue to use dance notation during the creative process.

This course introduces students to various media and projects to build a foundation for creating visual art. Students will explore both traditional and contemporary art through drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, graphics, collage, and mixed media. Course work includes museum visits, written reflection and critique, and projects.

This intermediate art course is designed to emphasize in-depth drawing, painting, and sculpture through complex studio projects.  Students will enhance their ability to analyze and understand their own work and technical aptitude.  Complementing the art projects, research, written work, and reading will be incorporated into the course.  Extra fee required. Prerequisite:  Recommendation of Art 1,2 teacher, 3.0 GPA in Art 1,2 and written statement explaining reason(s) for requesting Art 3,4.

AP Art History is a course that develops students’ understanding and knowledge of diverse historical and cultural contexts of architecture, sculpture, painting and other media.  Students will examine and critically analyze major forms of artistic expression from the past and present and from a variety of cultures.  Visual analysis of art is the primary tool that will be developed but understanding the how and why of how works of art function in context will also be important.  This course is designed to prepare students for the AP Art History exam, and a life-long enjoyment of visual art.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

Prerequisites: Cumulative 3.25 GPA recommended.   

Chamber Choir Honors is an elite, small choral performing group which gives students experience in singing chamber and jazz music. This honors choir performs material from various periods of musical history, including jazz, swing, ragtime, blues, rock and funk. In addition to rehearsal and performance, students will learn about the history and events surrounding the creation of this music. Musicianship skills such as sight singing, tone, intonation, scat and advanced harmony will be an important part of the course. Students will be expected to participate in competitions and festivals as well as regularly scheduled concerts, gigs and outside performances throughout the year. Prerequisites: Concurrent enrollment in Chamber Ensemble 3,4 and audition with director.

This course is designed to develop student skills in an elite vocal ensemble which performs advanced level literature from various selected areas of musical history, from chamber music through the classical periods and also includes contemporary styles such as jazz and blues.  In addition to the techniques of rehearsal and performance, students continue to learn the theory and history of the music performed.  Skills of sight singing and advanced vocal technique will be developed.  Required performances are scheduled by the director including three major concerts each semester.  Students enrolling in this class must commit to practice and performances outside of regularly scheduled class time. Prerequisite:  Concert Choir 1,2 and audition

This course is designed for students who have completed Chamber Ensemble 1,2.  It is a course for an elite vocal ensemble which performs advanced level literature from various selected areas of musical history, from chamber music through the classical periods and also includes contemporary styles such as jazz and blues.  In addition to the techniques of rehearsal and performance, students continue to learn the theory and history of the music performed.  Skills of sight singing and advanced vocal technique will be developed.  Required performances are scheduled by the director including three major concerts each semester.  Students enrolling in this class must commit to practice and performances outside of regularly scheduled class time. Prerequisites:  Chamber Ensemble 1,2 and audition

Concert Band Honors students play in both the Jazz Ensemble and the Concert Band or String Ensemble (see course descriptions below). In Jazz Ensemble, advanced instrumental students will learn the art of improvisation in the various styles of the jazz idiom, including swing, rock, funk, and Latin. Students will perform regularly at concerts, social events, and regional festivals. Students generally will have completed at least one year of Concert Band or Instrumental Music or the equivalent. The Concert Band is an advanced performing group open to students who have successfully completed at least one year of instrumental music study on a wind or percussion instrument or students who have learned to read music through piano lessons. Students develop their technique and musicianship through technical exercises, rehearsal, performance, and critical listening, and studies in music theory and music history.  Study and practice of a wide range of musical styles broaden students’ aesthetic and cultural understandings.  In addition to learning concepts of large ensemble performance, students complete solo and chamber music projects. The String Ensemble is an advanced performing ensemble for violin, viola, cello and double bass players. Students develop their technique and musicianship through technical exercises, rehearsal, performance, and critical listening, and studies in music theory and music history.  Study and practice of a wide range of musical styles broaden students’ aesthetic and cultural understandings. In addition to learning concepts of large ensemble performance, students complete solo and chamber music projects. The String Ensemble performs on the winter and spring concerts, school liturgies, festivals and outreach performances. Note: Concert Band requires a considerable time commitment outside of class. In addition to the winter and spring concerts, the band plays regularly at athletic events, parades, rallies, outreach performances and festivals. Extra fee required for uniform and travel.

Concert Choir is designed to develop skills so that students can perform intermediate level literature from various selected musical genres. In addition to the techniques of rehearsal and performance, students learn the theory and history of the music performed. Skills of sight singing, a cappella singing, expanding of the vocal range and basic vocal technique will be developed. Required performances are scheduled by the director including three major concerts each semester. In addition, the chorus will perform at school liturgies and outreach concerts for visiting schools. Pianists and instrumentalists are encouraged to audition. Students enrolling in this class must commit to practices and performances outside of regularly scheduled class times. Extra fee required.
Prerequisites: voice test

Concert Choir is specifically for those who have completed Concert Choir 1,2. The choir performs intermediate- to advanced-level literature from various selected music genres.  In addition to the techniques of rehearsal and performance, students learn a more difficult level of theory and history of the music performed. Music will be performed in four or more parts. Required performances are scheduled by the director including three major concerts each semester. In addition, the chorus will perform at school liturgies and outreach concerts for visiting schools. Students enrolling in this class must commit to practices and performances outside of regularly scheduled class times. Extra fee required.   Prerequisite: Concert Choir 1,2 and voice test

This course is specifically designed for those who have completed Concert Choir 3,4.  The choir performs advanced level literature from various selected music genres.  In addition to the techniques of rehearsal and performance, students learn advanced theory and history of the music performed.  Singing in small ensembles may be required.  Required performances are scheduled by the director and include three major concerts each semester. In addition, the chorus will perform at school liturgies and outreach concerts for visiting schools.  Students enrolling in this class must commit to practices and performances outside of regularly scheduled class time.  Extra fee required. Prerequisite:  Concert Choir 3,4 and voice test

Design 1 introduces students to 2-dimensional design elements, principles and techniques.  Students utilize a range of media such as charcoal, ink, acrylic, pastel, paper, and print materials to explore and combine design elements such as line, shape, texture, motion, value, and hue. A series of individual and collaborative assignments focusing on key design principles such as unity, focus, scale, balance, rhythm, and abstraction provide a vocabulary for creative expression and the foundation for the development of a personal style.  In Design 1, students gain exposure to various design techniques including, but not limited to, drawing, collage, typography, print-making, screen-printing, and digital graphic design.  Cultural and historical references accompany each assignment to give students a contextual understanding of design and inform students’ conceptual development of projects. Design 2 progresses to an investigation of 3-dimensional design.  Students deepen and expand their understanding of design elements and principles by applying them to more complex assignments focused on industrial, furniture and architectural design.  Utilizing sketching, sculpting, prototyping, finished model-making, graphic installations, site interventions and 3-d digital imaging techniques, students build visual communication skills through conceptual assignments and projects based on real-world design challenges. In conjunction with projects in assorted media, students take part in critiques of designers’ works to understand historical precedents and trends in contemporary design.

This course will cover the basic elements of digital photography and design. Students will study the formal, expressive and aesthetic properties of photographic art. They will closely examine the history and development of photography including its relationship to the scientific/technological and European cultural views of the 19th and 20th centuries. Students will analyze the works of African, American, Asian and European and Latin American photographers, with special attention to cultural similarities and differences in representation. Student will be able to link photography to other art forms and disciplines. Students will learn to use manual settings on digital cameras, Adobe Photoshop Elements to save and edit images electronically and various techniques of printing and displaying black and white and color images. Students will learn the basic composition and technical elements of photography and design such as rule of thirds, depth of field, image orientation, color and lighting. Students will produce work that demonstrates an awareness of these elements and work towards development of a distinctive personal style. 

Note: This course fulfills the one year VPA requirement on List F for the University of California.


This course will introduce students to the historical background and cultural relevance of various dance forms and traditions through technique classes, lecture, video footage, written assignments, and practice. Students will have the opportunity to observe dancers and choreographers from local dance companies, including the San Francisco Ballet and the SFB Trainee Program, and will study dance styles including Ballet, Jazz, Modern, African, Hip Hop, Salsa, and select social dances. Students in this course will perform in the SHC Dance Showcase held each May.

This course satisfies graduation requirements for both Religious Studies and Visual & Performing Arts. The course explores the timeline and events in the rise of Christianity, while developing critical skills and aesthetic vocabulary in order to understand how art was (and is) a vehicle for religious expression. Students will study important historical works of art and will create art in a variety of mediums as they respond to the methods, materials, and styles of those works. As they deepen their ability to perceive and to analyze art, students will be expected to articulate their own artistic opinions.

Note: this course meets UC Visual and Performing Arts criteria ("f") and satisfies SHC’s Religious Studies graduation requirement.

Instrumental Music is designed to allow students to discover the world of music through hands-on work with instruments.  This class will introduce beginners to music fundamentals including playing by ear, playing from music notation, ensemble performance, and improvisation.  Students will learn beginning composition, and will compose and perform their own songs. Instrumental Music students perform in the winter and spring concerts, and students enrolling in this class must commit to occasional practices and performances outside of regularly scheduled class time.

In Jazz Ensemble, advanced instrumental students learn the art of improvisation in the various styles of the jazz idiom, including swing, rock, funk, and Latin. Students perform regularly in concerts, social events and regional festivals. Prerequisites & Corequisites: At least one year of Concert Band, String Ensemble, or Instrumental Music, or the equivalent. AP Music Theory suggested. Enrollment by audition, which will consist of playing two scales and a blues tune. Students will be asked to pick two of the following scales: major, natural minor, dominant, dorian, pentatonic, or chromatic; they will be asked  to play and improvise over a blues tune of their choice, such as "Blue Monk" or "C Jam Blues."

Music Appreciation is designed to be an introduction to various musical genres, both western and non-western, including classical, jazz, rock, world music, and popular styles.  There are no prerequisites, and the course is open to musicians and non-musicians alike.  Topics include how music affects culture around the world; how music is used in myriad situations, from communication to mood setting; the role and process of scoring music for entertainment such as movies and live theater; the influence of globalization on music; and how music is conveyed by written and aural means.  This class will survey music of the past and the present, delving into music’s vast history to inform the modern ear and mind.  The Music Appreciation class will also build basic musicianship skills through sight singing and fundamental music theory concepts.

Music Theory AP integrates aspects of melody, harmony, texture, rhythm, form, musical analysis, elementary composition, history and style.  Musicianship skills such as dictation, sight singing, and keyboard harmony will be an important part of this course.  The students will also learn to read and write musical notation.  It is assumed that the student has acquired basic performance skills in voice or on an instrument.  The ultimate goal of Music Theory AP is to develop a student’s ability to recognize, understand, and describe the basic materials and processes of music that are heard or presented in a score.

Prerequisites: One year of Choral or Instrumental ensemble and/or Music Appreciation. Exceptions for students able to demonstrate foundational musicianship acquired through private study. Students seeking an exception must obtain approval from Mr. Kerschner, Director of Choral Music.

Note: this course includes a summer assignment.

The String Ensemble is a performing ensemble for violin, viola, cello, and double bass players. Students develop their technique and musicianship through technical exercises, rehearsal, performance, and critical listening, and through studies in music theory and music history.  Study and practice of a wide range of musical styles broaden students’ aesthetic and cultural understandings. In addition to learning concepts of large ensemble performance, students complete solo and chamber music projects. The String Ensemble performs on the winter and spring concerts, school liturgies, festivals and outreach performances. Note: Extra fee required for uniform and travel. Prerequisites:  One or more years of prior string instrument experience.  

This year-long course provides intensive and increased independent study in drawing and painting. Individual style, technical skill, and a strong conceptual approach prepare the college-bound student.  Critical direction is provided by the instructor. The projects will be complemented by analytical reading, writing, vocabulary, and tests. The creation of a portfolio requires students to work on projects outside of class time so please schedule appropriately. 

Note: Summer assignment required. Materials fee required.

Prerequisites: Art 1,2 and Art 3,4 or approval from instructor.

This course will facilitate students in creating a photography portfolio. The portfolio will be submitted to the College Board and will include quality (demonstrating excellence), concentration (in-depth exploration of a particular style of subject) and breadth (showing experimentation and experience a variety of photographic styles and subject matter).  

Notes: A digital camera is required for this course; course includes a summer assignment.


Prerequisite: Recommendation of the Digital Photography teacher.  If a student wishing to take AP Photography has not taken Digital Photography, that student must have his/her portfolio evaluated by the AP Photography instructor. 

Vocal Jazz is a very elite, small choral performing group which gives students experience in singing jazz music. This jazz choir performs material from various periods of musical history, including jazz, swing, ragtime, blues, rock and funk. In addition to rehearsal and performance, students will learn about the history and events surrounding the creation of this music. Musicianship skills such as sight singing, tone, intonation, scat and advanced harmony will be an important part of the course. Competitions and festivals are part of this course as well as regularly scheduled concerts, gigs and outside performances throughout the year. Prerequisites: Concurrent enrollment in Chamber Ensemble 3,4 and audition with director.

This is a women’s ensemble designed for all levels of vocal ability and musicianship skills. The course provides an opportunity to developing music reading skills, vocal technique, ensemble technique, and performance skills.  A variety of musical compositions representing a wide range of contemporary and historical musical styles are learned and performed each year. Required performances are scheduled by the director including three major concerts and one outreach concert per semester. Students enrolling in this course music commit to practices and performances outside of the regularly scheduled class time. Extra fee required.  Prerequisites:  voice test

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