The St. Columba Difference
In the wake of so many schools dropping their Art and Music Programs we have done just the opposite. We have re-doubled our efforts and added new and exciting programs to help our students shine, thrive and find their creative passion. We are so proud to say that in addition to providing a beautiful academic education, we offer the best program in the arts available!
On stage, behind the scenes, and in the pit, students from the Theater, Music, and Visual Arts Departments work together to build one-of-a-kind productions. From established theatrical works to world premieres of original scripts and music, the students at St. Columba do everything. Set design, script composition, costume design, musical arrangements, light and sound design; students have no creative limit in this unique middle school Fine Arts program.
The only Fine Arts program of its kind in the area, our program offers students unique opportunities in creative expression and performance.
St. Columba Theater Program
The Theater program gives students the opportunity to try their hand at playwriting, acting, design, stage management, directing and technical aspects of Theater. Actors learn essential skills including memorization, voice projection, script analysis, and spacial awareness on stage. We build an “Actor’s Toolbox” by focusing on how to use the voice, the body, and the mind to create a character and tell a story. Students interested in the design aspects of theater research and plan costumes, sets, props, sound, and lighting. They then implement their designs using the appropriate tools, be they tape measure and drill, scissors and a sewing machine, or sound editing software. Those who prefer to be backstage rather than in the spotlight run light, sound, and curtain cues and manage sets and costume changes. Student stage managers work closely with the director and actors and independently call the shows. Advanced students are afforded opportunities to direct. Every student involved experiences the thrill and the challenge of the collaborative art of Theater: a medium in which many disparate pieces become one cohesive work of art.
Bands and Ensembles
In so many schools, a student goes to “Instrument Try-out Day”, selects the saxophone, and eagerly awaits the first day of band. Weeks later, having gained some experience on the instrument, the student realizes that they have made the wrong choice. Longing to be a trumpeter, the student begs the band director to switch instruments. The student is either stuck on the wrong instrument or weeks behind their peers on the new selection.
The 5th grade band rotation at St. Columba gives students the opportunity to sample four instruments for a month each, before making a final selection. Not only does this help students avoid that “stuck” feeling, but also gives all musicians a look into how the sections of the band interact.
After gaining fundamental experience in 5th grade, band members have the opportunity to audition for two ensembles in 6th-8th grade. Both bands explore styles including jazz, rock, blues, reggae, and pop. The premiere Blue Band performs regularly throughout the Durango area, and also travels out of state for festivals and competitions. The White Band is geared toward students involved in many after school activities, and performs 4-6 times per year.
One of the most important aspects of the St. Columba Band Program is freedom of expression. Students are encouraged to improvise starting in year one, and each group has a voice in song selection and style. The St. Columba Band Program builds a love for music and desire to play together that will last students throughout their lives.
In addition to exploring various techniques and media, practicing foundational artistic skills, and expressing personal ideas, middle school art students develop self-direction, creative independence and problem-solving skills . Each quarter, every students must plan, sketch, execute and evaluate at least one personal project, using skills acquired through research, collaboration and experimentation. These projects are entirely self-directed, with little to no boundaries on what a student can create. A smaller, weekly project and sketchbook assignments, is the means by which new skills and concepts are introduced and educational standards are met. Weekly projects include perspective drawing, textured painting, batiking, clay sculpture, and loom weaving.
Because communication and expression are cornerstones of visual arts, once a week students are required to participate in some form of critique. Observing and discussing artworks of the masters, contemporaries and other students reinforces artistic vocabulary and concepts, and develops visual literacy and critical thinking skills. It also provides inspiration for students’ personal and weekly projects. Through critiques and weekly teacher-driven projects, students become familiar with various artistic movements and techniques, providing a foundational understanding of art history.
Early elementary art is designed for exploration and creative expression. The goal of art instruction at St. Columba is to cultivate the artist within every student, specifically developing an appreciation for observing art and enjoyment around the creative process. Students are introduced to a wide variety of materials, tools and techniques, often with an experimental, student-driven approach. Various levels of choice are offered to students, depending on the project, aiming to encourage creative decision-making and problem-solving.
Students continue to practice skills and craftsmanship, and are introduced to new, developmentally-appropriate techniques. Increasingly student-driven, choice-based projects are balanced with the introduction of new techniques and processes, such as coil pottery, the construction of wire armatures for paper mache sculpture, or use of value in drawings to add depth. Students participate in more formal discussions of artworks, developing a sense of cultural and historical meaning applied to certain artworks.