All students are required to earn a minimum of one and a half credits in Fine Arts courses. This requirement must be fulfilled by selecting courses in at least two out of three areas: studio art, drama, or music. Students are required to complete one course by the end of Grade 10 and are encouraged to go beyond the minimum requirement. All credits earned in the arts courses count toward the twenty-one credits needed to fulfill overall diploma requirements. All courses earn one-half credit per semester unless otherwise noted. Click here to learn more about the arts at Potomac.
- AP Music Theory
- Concert/Jazz Band
- Honors Concert/Jazz Band
- Concert Chorus
- Handbells (Semester)
- Honors Handbells Ensemble (Year)
- Jazz Arranging (semester)
- String Orchestra
- Music History 1: The Classical and Romantic Temperaments (semester)
- Music History 2: 20th Century Music History (semester)
AP Music Theory is an elective course for advanced-level musicians seeking detailed knowledge of music to enhance performance skills, learn the basics of composing/arranging or prepare for a college major in music. Students will cover the theoretical concepts required for a proficient score on the Advanced Placement Music Theory exam; they will take the exam that same school year. Students will work regularly on aural skills: sight-singing, harmonic and melodic notation, rhythmic dictation and chord identification. They will expand and maintain their working music vocabulary. Additional resource materials (scores, recordings, videos) will supplement the text and workbook (Benward & Saker's Music in Theory and Practice). Students will sing, play and analyze melodies, chord progressions and compositions created by their classmates.
Concert Band/Jazz Band is available to all students who have had previous experience playing brass, woodwind or percussion instruments or dedicated students who wish to learn an instrument. This course is designed to develop ensemble skills, musical literacy and instrumental facility by rehearsal, personal practice and performances. Students in Concert Band explore a diverse selection of literature while focusing on specific individual skills in a group setting. Students enrolled in this course have the opportunity to participate in a variety of activities such as on-campus performances and outside festivals. Jazz Band is made up from Concert Band members and rehearses during the same block. Students interested in Jazz Band explore different styles of jazz through combo and big band works.
Honors Concert Band/Jazz Band is available to select students, by audition and approval of the instructor, who already meet the requirements of and have completed one year of Concert Band. This course is designed to develop advanced ensemble skills, musical literacy and instrumental facility through the process of rehearsal and performance. Students in Concert Band Honors explore and perfect a diverse selection of literature while focusing on specific individual skills in a group setting. Concert Band Honors members participate in all Concert Band activities and are further required to participate in outside experiences such as District Festival or Solo and Ensemble Festival. Additionally, Band Honors students will be required to complete weekly practice journals, sight reading assignments, and performance reflections, and they will also be expected to attend outside performances of local ensembles.
Concert Chorus is a non-auditioned ensemble. Singers who are familiar with basic vocal and ensemble skills are encouraged to develop these abilities, learn new techniques, become co-performers in the ensemble and make creative musical decisions. New singers may see the teacher for help. While opportunities for individual performance and recognition exist (solos in current choral repertoire, accompanying, student conducting, the school musical, student-led a cappella groups, divisional assemblies, etcetera), Upper School choral performers principally learn music through participation in the Concert Chorus ensemble. The teacher facilitates singers’ growth by assigning appropriate music, encouraging additional ensembles and creating performance opportunities such as festivals and tours. Students are assigned to a vocal section according to range and ability; as they progress, they will be assigned to more advanced harmonies and semi-choruses. As students gain facility, they will be encouraged to sing solos or to lead sectionals.
The Upper School Handbell Ensemble is an instrumental performance class using English handbells. The course builds upon foundations from elementary and secondary music classes through the unique, teamwork-based approach, required specifically for this instrument. Students meet four to five times weekly based upon both class schedule and necessary small-group projects, and participate in group performances during the months of November, December, April, and May. Understanding of advanced rhythms and musical notation is expected for participation in this ensemble, though private lessons are available if more study is necessary. Also, for students looking for more of a challenge during this academic time, opportunities for solos and smaller ensembles are available. Students will be assessed primarily through music-theory assignments, small group presentations, demonstration of the learned material, and participation in all performances.
The Honors Handbells Ensemble is an advanced instrumental performance class focusing on significant handbell literature using a full five to seven octave range of handbells and handchimes. Performance opportunities include on-campus concerts and events as well as off-campus festivals and tours. Opportunities for solo and chamber music performance will also be available. This ensemble is the pinnacle of Potomac’s handbell program.
Prerequisite: At least 2 years of prior ringing experience, including one semester of US Handbells, and with permission of the instructor. Auditions are possible, pending the number of students interested.
Jazz Arranging introduces students to the musical elements and formal devices found in 20th-century jazz; they will study its rhythms and articulations, analyze its harmonic progressions and chord substitutions, and observe its common melodic outlines. They will learn the characteristics of jazz’s four instrumental families, practice a variety of harmonic voicing techniques, create written-out melodic improvisations, and discover ways to provide formal focus and contrast in an arrangement. Additional resource materials (scores, recordings, videos) will supplement the basic texts. Students will analyze melodies, chord progressions and arrangements created by their classmates. The text is Tomaro & Wilson’s Instrumental Jazz Arranging.
Prerequisite: AP Music Theory.
Upper School String Orchestra is an instrumental performing course for students learning a member of the orchestral stringed instrument family (violin, viola, cello or bass), building on the knowledge and skills gained in Intermediate School Strings. Students meet four times per week in mixed-instrument groups. Group performances are given in November, December, May, and June. Students will refine previously learned techniques and learn new ones required to perform advanced string orchestra literature. Students will use these skills to play music from many musical periods and in varied styles. Performance repertoire includes symphony orchestra classics arranged for string orchestra, classical pieces originally written for strings, and contemporary string compositions. Additionally, students will have the opportunity to rehearse and perform chamber music and full orchestra compositions. Students will be assessed primarily through demonstrating the desired skills during class either individually or with members of his/her section. Individual, recorded progress assessments may be used as well. Students will perform in all required concerts.
The Classical style of Haydn and Mozart represents the best and most enduring music of the late eighteenth century; its concertos, operas, quartets, sonatas and symphonies reflect the Age of Enlightenment’s ideals of “pleasing variety” and “natural” simplicity while responding to the social and economic changes brought on by the Industrial Revolution and the rise of public concerts. Influenced by the fervor and restlessness following the French Revolution, Beethoven’s bold innovations lead Western European music from Classical artisanship to Romantic virtuosity and individualism. Chopin’s nostalgic Mazurkas, Albéniz’s nationalistic Iberia, Schubert’s anguished Winter’s Journey, Berlioz’s supernatural Symphonie fantastique and Tchaikovsky’s exotic Nutcracker demonstrate just a few of the dramatically conflicting elements found in nineteenth-century Romantic music, while the towering operas of Verdi and Wagner provide two very different views of the Romantic spirit. This course compares the Classical and Romantic temperaments found in Western art music while surveying some of the masterpieces composed between 1750 and 1900. The text is Mark Evan Bonds’ A History of Music in Western Culture. This course can satisfy either a History requirement or an Art requirement
Twentieth-century Music History chronicles the progression of musical style from Debussy’s rejection of classical procedures to the polystylism of Corigliano, Schnittke and Zappa. Representative composers and pieces will be introduced through class discussion, score examination, directed listening and the viewing of video performances. Principal topics include Impressionism, Primitivism, Futurism, Expressionism and Atonality, Neo-Classicism, Neo-Romanticism, New Objectivity, Serialism, popular music (jazz, rock, fusion, Broadway, film music), electronic- and computer-generated music, Aleatorism, Minimalism, Post-Modernism and the New Simplicity. Students will note the changing attitudes to sound, harmony, melody, rhythm, form and texture while gaining a broader understanding of music’s role in contemporary society. Assessments include chapter quizzes and a final research paper on a prominent twentieth-century composer. The text is Mark Evan Bonds’ A History of Music in Western Culture. This course can satisfy either a History requirement or an Art requirement.
- Ensemble Theater (semester)
- Director's Workshop (fall semester)
- Acting I (spring semester)
- Stagecraft (spring semester)
- Theater History (spring semester)
Ensemble Theater is the introductory course in the theater program. It presents an overview of the concepts and techniques of theater, with a focus on the building of performance skills through ensemble work. At the heart of the course is the understanding that performance is a discipline, based on the mastery of skills and the ability to synthesize those skills to produce consistent performances. Students are introduced to basic theater vocabulary and a wide range of fundamental acting techniques. The exercises offer many opportunities for students to improve their skills and explore new approaches to skill development. During the course of the semester, students are introduced to the non-performances concepts and disciplines associated with theater production, technical theater, history, dramatic literature, and criticism. One of the fundamental goals of the course is that, through self-reflection and critical assessment, a student will be able to discuss, analyze, and evaluate his or her own performance. Daily participation and reflection create an environment in which a student can engage with others in the creation and assessment of an ensemble performance.
Designed to respond to the increasing interest in student directed theater, Director's Workshop, a practical course in directing techniques, examines the skills necessary to mount a theatrical production. Topics include play selection, development of a working concept, script analysis, creation of a rehearsal schedule, audition strategies, integration of design and technical elements, blocking and stage movement, rehearsal techniques (including the use of improvisation as a rehearsal tool), and stage management skills. An emphasis will be placed on communication – director/actor, director/designers, director/technicians-- and the importance of developing a common theater language. Course readings will include basic theories from the traditional to the experimental. The course is discussion-based, allowing for both a class-generated understanding of concepts and individual interpretation.
Prerequisite: Ensemble Theater or permission of the instructor.
Acting 1 is designed for students who are looking to refine their understanding of performance as a discipline. The course focuses on text-based acting, and presents a variety of approaches to performance that guide students toward identifying their own acting method based on their responses to the activities. Text analysis, scene and monologue work, character work, improvisation, and theater games expose students to a variety of skills that can be applied to traditional and experimental theater forms. Increased literacy in the body of dramatic writings is fostered by exposure to plays and discussions of performance. Students keep a journal to record their responses to the exercises and reading material. Daily reflection and preparation are major components in the level of an individual student’s achievement in Acting 1.
Prerequisite: Ensemble Theatre.
Stagecraft introduces the beginning theater artist to theories and practices of theater technology. Each stage design must produce an environment for the action of a performance, based on the vision of the director and the needs of the actors. We examine the creative and collaborative 46 process by which the physical production comes together: from the design and construction of scenery, to the basics of lighting and audio production, to details of theatrical organization and stage management. We learn to use the tools of the trade and perform the tasks required to complete a successful production. Success for each student is measured by the acquisition and application of new ideas and skills. The success of the whole group is manifest in their effective design, fabrication and coordination of staging and effects for a show.
This course may count for either a Theater or a Visual Art distribution credit.
Theater history is an integral part of the understanding of modern theater as an art form. This course presents an overview of important periods in the development of primarily European theater, from pre-history and the foundations of performance through to the late Renaissance. In addition to theater literature, the course focuses on acting styles, architectural and technical developments, and performance theory. In lieu of a traditional theater history textbook, students read plays that are representative of the historical periods that are being discussed.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
- Architecture 1 (semester)
- Architecture 2 (semester)
- Architecture Independent Study (semester)
- Honors Art History
- Ceramics 1 (semester)
- Ceramics 2 (semester)
- Ceramics Independent Study (semester)
- Digital Design (semester)
- Drawing & Design 1 (semester)
- Drawing & Design 2 (semester)
- Drawing & Design Independent Study (semester)
- Painting 1 (semester)
- Painting 2 (semester)
- Painting Independent Study (semester)
- Photography 1 (semester)
- Photography 2 (semester)
- Photography 3 (semester)
- Photography 4 (semester)
- Sculpture 1 (semester)
- Sculpture 2 (semester)
- Sculpture Independent Study (semester)
Students in this course design structures and spaces for human activity. They work through a series of open-ended, progressively more complicated design assignments, each of which offers a new puzzle in three-dimensional problem-solving. In working on these assignments, students learn the fundamentals of architectural drafting and model-making. Sample projects include a refugee shelter, the redesign or an urban multi-use building and an original treehouse. Throughout the semester, students are encouraged to make revisions and improvements, as needed, to all completed work. Progress is measured by each student according to the achievement of his or intentions, by students and teacher together in routine design class reviews and by the teacher within the context of course expectations. Field trips and guest speakers supplement the studio experience. Students may elect to pursue additional semesters for advanced study.
In this course, students keep developing their skills in drawing, designing three-dimensional structures, scaling, and model-making. Students conceive and plan their own long-term projects, with the guidance of the instructor. Recent examples include: a scholarly conference center, a large multi-level house, a site-specific hotel, a house on stilts in a tropical lagoon, a house in a mid-Atlantic wetland, a contemporary cliff dwelling and various structures designed in 3D software programs. Experimentation and exploration are strongly encouraged. Both the purely aesthetic and the more applied and practical roles of architecture are examined. Reflection and evaluation occur routinely in peer review and class discussion. Progress is measured by each student according to the achievement of his or her intentions and by the teacher in periodic conversations with each student. Field trips and guest speakers supplement the studio experience.
Prerequisite: Architecture 1.
Visual Arts Independent Study courses invite advanced students to design their own curricula in chosen fields, with guidance from one or more faculty. Emphasis is on the pursuit of original ideas and the development of increasingly mature methods and techniques. Students plan and execute their long-term projects independently, maintaining ambitious standards and an efficient pace of work. Progress is measured by each student in independent reflections, by faculty and students in periodic conversations and by faculty within the broader context of Independent Study expectations. Architecture Independent Study students develop their three-dimensional concepts, plans and models at increasingly higher levels of conceptual complexity. They also work to perfect drawing and model-making skills. Each Independent Study is a unique collaboration between student and teacher.
Prerequisite: Architecture 2 and permission of the instructor.
The history of art is the history of expressive responses to great mysteries and great events. Art History students learn to observe keenly and mindfully, to see relationships between works from different places and times and to express their thoughts coherently in speech and writing. This course examines art with an emphasis on painting, sculpture and architecture in the Western tradition, from the ancient Middle East and the Mediterranean Basin to Western Europe and America. Consideration of artworks takes place through daily examination and discussion of slide images, weekly readings in our text, periodic museum visits and hands-on studio experiences. Assessment takes the form of quizzes, short essays at home and in class and occasional cumulative tests.
This course is open to seniors and to juniors and can satisfy either a History or an Art requirement.
In this course, students explore their design ideas using clay. They learn hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques as they sculpt, build and throw; they also learn to glaze their work. Students invent, revise, and discover, learning not only about ceramics but also about themselves as artists. Frequent demonstrations of technique by faculty, advanced students, or visiting artists offer strategies and inspiration. The class may take a field trip to sketch ceramics in a museum, dig clay from Pimmit Run or participate in an outdoor raku-kiln firing. Grades are based on a student's daily effort and diligence in the studio, the care and original thought behind their work, their willingness to make revisions, their participation in group discussion, and a generous spirit towards other students in the studio. Students may elect to pursue additional semesters of Ceramics for advanced study.
This advanced course is a second semester of Ceramics in which students further explore their interests in hand-building, wheel-throwing, sculpting and glazing. Projects are typically larger, more complex, and more challenging. Ceramics II students are expected to be reflective and articulate about their intentions and decisions and, at times, to guide and encourage other, less-experienced students. Students may take a field trip to sketch ceramics in a gallery or museum (for example the Freer and Sackler Galleries), or they may help organize and execute an outdoor raku-kiln firing. Grades are based on a student's daily effort and diligence in the studio, the care and original thought behind their work, their willingness to make revisions, their participation in group discussion, and a generous spirit towards other students in the studio. This is a semester course.
Prerequisite: Ceramics 1.
Ceramics Independent Study (semester) Studio Arts Independent Study courses invite advanced students to design their own curricula in chosen fields, with guidance from one or more faculty. Progress is measured by each student in independent reflections, by faculty and students in periodic conversations and by faculty within the broader context of Independent Study expectations. Ceramics Independent Study students work to develop their throwing and hand-building skills and to augment their understanding of glazing. Projects reflect increasingly higher levels of complexity in design and competence in execution. Independent Study students help model methods for other students, help maintain studio equipment and help plan events like the annual outdoor raku reduction firing and the annual Upper School student art show. Each Independent Study is a unique collaboration between student and teacher.
Prerequisite: Permission of the instructor.
This course invites students to learn and apply design principles and the user experience to a variety of digital formats, including graphic, video, and web. Through a series of open-ended projects, students will learn to produce functional and creative digital media designs integrating a variety of programs and techniques. While learning these design skills, students will also discover and deepen their own interests, generate purposeful design solutions and emulate a real-world client scenario. Students will study and evaluate digital models to guide their design decisions and appreciate best practices and trends. Each project will strive for an authentic audience to simulate a client-designer relationship so that students will learn the importance of meeting the needs of each project and engage in a feedback loop of response, reflection and revision. No previous experience is expected of students, but independent curiosity and experimentation will be elements of a successful engagement in this course.
This course invites students to develop their skills and to explore a range of graphic media including graphite, charcoal, pastel, and ink. Students work from both observation and imagination. Drawing from the still life, landscape, the figure, and the portrait helps to strengthen observational skills. Students also work on abstract and formal design subjects, exploring the possibilities of line, texture, color, shape and composition. While strengthening skills, students are also developing their own interests, ideas, and habits of work. Students may elect to pursue additional semesters of Drawing & Design for advanced study. Museum and gallery visits and sketchbook assignments supplement class work.
In this advanced course, students keep developing their drawing skills, while working from observation and from imagination. In a variety of media, students stretch and explore new ways of expressing what they see and feel. Long-term projects typically include work on large-scale pieces and close, accurate representational studies. Experimentation and exploration are strongly encouraged. Both the purely aesthetic and the more publicly persuasive roles of drawing are examined. Reflection and evaluation will occur routinely through peer review and class discussions. Progress is measured by each student according to the achievement of his or her intentions and by the teacher in periodic conversations with each student. Museum and gallery visits and guest speakers supplement the studio experience.
Prerequisite: Drawing & Design 1.
Studio Arts Independent Study courses invite advanced students to design their own curricula in chosen fields, with guidance from one or more faculty. Students plan and execute their long-term projects independently, maintaining ambitious standards and an efficient pace of work. Progress is measured by each student in independent reflections, by faculty and students in periodic conversations and by faculty within the broader context of Independent Study expectations. Students explore one or more media in depth as they gradually develop their own long-term projects. Examples of past Drawing & Design Independent Study subjects include portraiture in drawing and painting, abstraction from nature forms, close study of representational methods and combination of drawing and digital design media. Each Independent Study is a unique collaboration between student and teacher.
Prerequisite: Drawing & Design 2 and permission of the department.
In this course students explore elements if painting like color, light, line, value, texture using pastels, watercolors and acrylic paints. Through a series of varied assignments, students sharpen their powers of observation, learn to handle paint effectively, and develop their ideas. Subjects include still-life, figures, portraiture, landscape, and imagined imagery. Working with increasing levels of autonomy, students discover and develop their own interests and style. Throughout the semester, peer reviews help students assess progress and develop a language for speaking and thinking about art. Grading will take into consideration the following: original thinking and imagination, daily engagement in studio work, willingness to make revisions, development of aesthetic judgment, personal growth as an artist, and a cooperative spirit towards others in the studio. Museum visits give students the chance to study master works.
Prerequisite: Drawing & Design 1.
This advanced course invites each student to develop a personal vision as an artist while honing technical skills with watercolor and acrylic paints. Formal concerns, including composition, brushwork, and color, are addressed. Assigned challenges help students develop self-expression, personal imagery, and content. Subjects range from representation to abstraction, depending on interests. Students will have increasing autonomy throughout the semester; experimentation and exploration are strongly encouraged. Each exploration may extend for several weeks. Persistence through difficulties and self-reflection are core components of this class. Progress is measured by each student in moments of individual reflection and in routine studio discussions with the teacher. This course gives students a strong foundation to pursue an Independent Study in Painting. Museum trips and visits from local artists may supplement the studio experience.
Prerequisite(s): Painting 1.
Studio Arts Independent Study courses invite advanced students to design their own curricula in chosen fields, with guidance from one or more faculty. Progress is measured by each student in independent reflections, by faculty and students in periodic conversations and by faculty within the broader context of Independent Study expectations. Examples of past Painting Independent Study projects include work from the model, work from still-life, portraiture and self-portraiture, landscape study and large-scale painting in acrylics and oils. Each Independent Study is a unique collaboration between student and teacher.
Prerequisite(s): Painting 2 and permission of the department.
Photography I introduces students to the art and craft of black and white photography. Using a 35mm single-lens reflex camera, students learn to manipulate the camera controls and the film to incorporate aspects of movement, focus, composition and light in their images. Proper film processing and darkroom techniques are the centerpiece of this class. All students begin by exploring elements of pictorial design and composition using graphic and digital media. Then, various open-ended photo assignments invite students to explore their visual surroundings while they expand and solidify their technical skills. Photography students keep notebooks containing work prints, negatives and contact sheets.
This course is designed as an extension of Photography 1. Varied exploratory assignments increase each student's confidence and facility with photographic processes: understanding camera controls and following darkroom techniques. Emphasis is always on developing a more perceptive eye. Students continue to investigate the importance of light, composition, the frame, movement, depth, and space. They turn their attention to still-life in controlled conditions, outdoor landscape imagery and portraits of friends and family. Successful work is technically correct and expresses the individual vision of the photographer. Students and teacher gather around a table about once every two weeks to critique and discuss new work and to consider assignments.
Prerequisites: Photography 1 and permission of the instructor.
Photography III offers an opportunity for experienced students to pursue a personal vision in black and white imagery or in digital media through assignments and independent study. Each student begins to develop a portfolio of high quality prints. Emphasis is on both the pictorial impact of students' imagery and an increasingly close attention to technical details. Successful work is technically correct and expresses the individual vision of the photographer.
Prerequisites: Photography 2 and permission of the instructor.
Photography 4 invites advanced students to learn and apply more complex techniques and more personal aesthetic standards to building a portfolio of their work. Emphasis is on developing long-term projects, with the guidance of faculty, while maintaining high independent standards of quality. Students typically pursue their subjects in depth and may cross back and forth between digital and print media in search of new possibilities. Examples of past subjects include digital wide-format landscape, digital landscape collage, print and digital portraiture and large-negative print photography. Photography IV students will sometimes be asked to guide younger students, to discuss their own work with these students and to help maintain shared lab equipment.
Prerequisites: Photography 3 and permission of the instructor.
This course provides instruction in a variety of materials and methods of sculpture. Students use clay, plaster, wood, stone, and other non-traditional materials in a series of open–ended projects. These explore such topics as abstraction of natural forms, transformation of scale, bas–relief design, rendering of the human figure, and experimentation with environmental sculpture. Methods include modeling, carving, casting, and assemblage. Progress is measured by each student according to the achievement of his or her ideas and intentions, by students and teacher in routine studio class conversations and by the teacher within a context of course expectations. Students may elect to pursue additional semesters of Sculpture for advanced study.
In this advanced course, students keep developing ideas and skills in designing and crafting forms in three dimensions. More resistant and demanding materials like limestone, marble and hardwoods are available for exploration, and various power tools are introduced. While there are some assigned works in each semester, students are invited to develop their own long-term projects with the guidance of the teacher. Experimentation and exploration are strongly encouraged. Reflection and evaluation will occur routinely through peer critique and class discussions. Progress is measured by each student according to the achievement of his or her intentions and by the teacher in periodic conversations with each student. Museum visits and guest speakers supplement the studio experience.
Prerequisite: Sculpture 1.
Studio Arts Independent Study courses invite advanced students to design their own curricula in chosen fields, with guidance from one or more faculty. Progress is measured by each student in independent reflections, by faculty and students in periodic conversations and by faculty within the broader context of Independent Study expectations. Independent Study Sculpture students use clay, plaster, wood, stone, and other non-traditional materials in a series of open–ended projects. Some recent long-term projects have included stone carving, wood carving and hardwood furniture fabrication. Methods include modeling, carving, casting, and assemblage. Each Independent Study is a unique collaboration between student and teacher.
Prerequisites: Sculpture 2 and permission of the instructor.