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Fine Arts at the Prep

The arts play a leading role in campus life at St. John's. Whether you are an aspiring musician, actor, director or artist, you'll discover exciting ways to explore your creativity here, with expansive fine arts classes in the High School and Middle School and after-school programs. And if you love seeing great plays, concerts and art exhibits, you'll find plenty to enjoy as well!

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"We are all working artists. Our passion and experience gives us a unique perspective on what it takes to tap your creativity. We encourage each student’s unique abilities. Every department in this building does that in some way." -Harriet Malone.

You feel a noticeably creative vibe the minute you you step into the Ryken Center for the Arts. Theater classes and set design workshops take center stage on the first floor, music permeates the practice rooms on the second floor, and light fills the busy art and ceramics studios on the third floor.

"I tell students that their art should evoke a reaction, and if does, they know it works." -Harriet Malone

Whether in drawing, painting, printmaking or sculpture, Harriet Malone encourages students to push boundaries and explore the outer reaches of their creativity. For some students, an interest in art is second nature. For others, it is a revelation that changes everything.

Ms. Malone is justly proud that many Prep students have been recognized in the prestigious Boston Globe Scholastic Art Awards program each year. And just as exciting, many graduates have gone on to become professional artists, designers, architects, photographers, and educators. Among them is Andrew Carr ‘02, who painted a mural depicting the history of the Prep to commemorate the school’s Centennial in 2007.

"I like to say that I teach magic. Transforming water, mud and fire into beautiful objects really helps students think about the roots of ancient civilization. And what boy doesn’t like to play with mud?" -Dale Bryant

Working on the 12 wheels that fill the pottery studio, Bryant’s students make wonderfully creative teapots, mugs, chalices, and ceremonial objects.

Byrant makes sure that there is a place for every student, whether they are beginners or advanced. Like her colleagues in the Fine Arts Department, she encourages students to experiment, think creatively, and work collaboratively - all skills that have become increasingly important in a variety of professional settings today.

"What students find exciting about theater is the ability to create something entirely their own.” -Alicia Greenwood

Drama teacher Alicia Greenwood smiles when she describes the Prep's Drama Guild as a large and quirky family. “They love the sense of ownership and community that comes from working together, cast and crew, to stage a production"

They derive some of the that sense of ownership from a course offered in play production, where the students act as a non-profit theater company.

The success of every production depends as much on what goes on behind the scenes as what takes place on stage.

That's where the stage crew comes in: designing and building sets, working out lighting, and dreaming up costumes that not only look the part, but work well for the actors. To learn the ropes, students can choose theater courses in everything from playwriting and acting to scenic design & lighting, and stage make-up and mask making.

Members of the Drama Guild put on two major productions a year: a musical in the fall, and a 40-minute production for the annual Massachusetts High School Drama Festiva in the spring. Recent productions run the gamut from "How to Suceed in Business Without Really Trying" to "Macbeth."

"Music combines creativity with rigorous discipline. There is a discernment process that has to be learned. It's meant to teach students to take their understanding to a higher level. When a musician can do that, we say he 'has ears,' and that is what we hope our students learn here." -Michael Hamill

Musicians in the making find a wide range of courses at the Prep with a rich selection in everything from jazz combo and chamber music to music technology and songwriting.

Music teachers Michael Hamill and Seelan Manickam share the conviction that every student - whether they aspire to become a professional musican or want to play for personal enjoyment - needs a strong technical foundation.

"More than once, parents have told me that what their sons learn in music will help them in their careers," says Mr. Manickam.

Learning to perform with confidemce is a big part of music education at the Prep. Feeling comfortable in front of an audience and knowing performance etiquette are skills students find useful, but not only in concert.

St. John's offers a variety of ensembles, including the Celtic Band, Men’s Chorus, Jazz Ensemble, Chamber Orchestra, and Spire Brass, among others. And with many concerts on the schedule each year, Prep musicians have appeared locally and as far away as New York, Dublin, Rome, Vienna and Bruges.

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