We aim to help boys become literate and excited art students—confident creators, informed critics and advocates, and lifelong lovers of art.

The Arts at RL

The Arts program offers a rich texture of experiences—classes, concerts, plays, exhibits, and field trips—to deepen boys’ awareness of art, to nurture their appreciation of it, and to inspire their own creative impulses. Our goal is for students to experience the enrichment and delight that arise from the study of arts and from creative involvement and participation.

Through hands-on individual and group endeavors, students develop the capacity to express themselves in a variety of physical, visual, and aural media. They develop facility with techniques and technologies both traditional and modern. Through instruction and discussion, they are challenged to sharpen their critical, analytical, and perceptual skills and to develop standards for appreciating and evaluating both the world immediately around them and the aesthetic achievements of eras past. The Robert P. and Salua J.A. Smith Arts Center and the Evans Choral room provide the school with a multi-functional theater and excellent facilities for studio art and music. Digital equipment and computers are available for photography, video, and design. Professional artists appear regularly to share their expertise with the school community.

Required courses in Classes VI through IV expose students to a variety of artistic disciplines. Beginning in 2019, the next three years of the arts curriculum at Roxbury Latin will introduce students to the manual, visual, and performing arts. Through three courses taken in rotation within each of the three years, boys will be exposed to offerings in dance, theatre, music, sculpture, architecture, drawing, painting, woodworking, and digital art. In the first year, for example, the seventh grade will explore Digital Design, Sculpture and Dance. The common vocabulary of the arts will be at the root of each rotation, with the school’s motto, Mortui Vivos Docent (“the dead teach the living”), as an underlying theme. In contemporary parlance, the term is “remix”: How do artists look at past works to then reimagine them in the present? Our hope is to instill an appreciation for and understanding of all art forms to allow each boy to become artistically competent—a confident creator, informed critic, and literate student excited by the arts, knowledgeable about them, and informed advocates, as well. Such rich exposure will lead the boys to become life-long learners and lovers of art. In Class III boys choose two half-year electives: Drama, Music, Watercolor, Woodworking, and Art & Technology. Students in Classes II and I may choose full-credit courses in applied art and music.  

Visual Art Courses

  • Introduction to Visual Art

    (Class IV) Students develop their drawing skills in the first semester. Once a degree of confidence is developed, the class moves toward more expressive endeavors in a variety of media. References to masterworks from the past and present provide sources of motivation and inspiration. Highest-quality work is selected for competitive exhibits throughout the year.

  • Introduction to Watercolor

    (One-semester, Class III elective) This course requires no prior experience with watercolor; the Class IV Visual Art course provides the necessary background. Watercolor is the oldest painting method and represents the fundamental nature of painting as we know it. The elusive nature of combining water and pigment makes it an alluring and challenging medium. Students develop an understanding of the medium and an appreciation of its history as an artistic expression. They are challenged to balance their desire to control the medium while taking advantage of the fluid and often unpredictable nature of water. The course teaches formal concepts of design and composition as well as dry- and wet-brush techniques to help students express themselves artistically and competently. Students are guided through the creation of several paintings, exploring subjects of landscape and still life. Materials are provided.

  • Art and Technology

    (One-semester, Class III elective). Ever wonder how works of art and architecture were made? What the technology of the times was that allowed a massive dome to be built without collapsing or a multi-ton block of marble to be excavated, moved and carved to smooth perfection? What about the technique behind Jackson Pollock’s (in)famous drip paintings? In this class students study the technology behind art, examining the innovative engineering and technical practices that have led to the production over time and across cultures of extraordinary works in architecture, sculpture and painting. They will try their own hand at creating similar works. Art and Technology builds upon the students’ prior exposure to engineering and technology (gained in the Class IV Math-Science Investigations course) and combines it with studio practice. 

  • Woodworking

    (One-semester, Class III elective) Woodworking is a craft that produces pieces both beautiful and functional, requiring an eye for design as well as a consideration of structure and engineering. As woodworking success depends upon a knowledge and understanding of the natural properties of the medium, this elective focuses on both the theory and practice of woodcraft. Students are introduced to traditional tools and techniques as well as machine woodworking practices. With opportunities to build guided projects, students are encouraged to customize their pieces based on their own skills and creativity. The course covers the history and evolution of furniture design with a focus on American styles. No prior knowledge of woodworking is required. Students, however, are expected to practice and develop proper woodworking techniques diligently so as to use tools safely and effectively.

  • Applied Art

    (Full-year elective open to boys in Classes I and II) Applied Art incorporates art history with a broader, more complete development of studio work. A natural extension of the Class IV course and covering the history of art from earliest times to the 19th century, this course helps students to learn to recognize and relate to the development of ideas and techniques as they pertain to visual art through the ages. Students work independently on a succession of individual projects (in a variety of media), which are in part stimulated by the class’s study and discussion of a given period in art history.

  • Studio Art

    Studio Art is a half course open to boys in Class I who have already taken Applied Art. Also open to those in Class I who wish to take a Studio Art course concurrently with AP Art History, it meets approximately three periods per week. A boy may take Studio Art in addition to his five major courses. Studio Art is comprised of studio work alone (with references to art history)—there are no assignments outside of class time. The course seeks to advance the individual’s progress within his unique style.

  • AP Art History

    AP Art History is a full-year elective open to Classes II and I, offered jointly by the Art and History Departments. Students study great works of art and architecture across civilizations and through time. It is not a course in “art appreciation,” though students encounter works of great beauty and come to appreciate the extraordinary creativity behind their making. Instead, AP Art History exposes students to the many forces that can and do shape works of art: politics, religion, trade, war, mathematics, philosophy, poetry, technology, engineering, wealth, gender dynamics, even death. Above all, students learn to analyze artworks both visually and historically, articulating how they look, why they look the way they do, how they were used, what they mean, and why they are worth studying. To prepare for the AP Art History Exam, students learn to identify and contextualize works of art and write effectively about them. At the end of the year, they are asked to present, both orally and in writing, original research about a work of art, artist, or tradition of their own choosing. The course uses primary sources whenever relevant and includes visits to museums whenever possible in order to study art works first-hand. Students are required to take the AP Art History Exam in May.

Dramatics Courses

  • Drama

    (One-semester, Class III elective) This is a hands-on class in the elements of theatrical performance. We begin the semester with simple circle exercises, improvisation games, status scenes, and vocal work using the Prologue from Shakespeare’s Henry V or other texts from Shakespeare. We follow this with “story theater” exercises focusing on character and “given circumstances,” in particular narratives based on the familiar styles of crime dramas and dream narratives. The first performance project involves a monologue which all students take part in choosing, rehearsing and performing. Chosen from a variety of sources, the monologues are drawn from a variety of contemporary, classic or Shakespearean plays. These individual projects are followed by an introduction to stage combat in which students prepare scenes with brief dialogue and then extend them with carefully choreographed sequences of stage combat. The course concludes with the rehearsal and performance of two- and three-person scenes, with one or two scenes to be presented to an audience of other Arts 10 Elective students.

Music Courses

  • Class V Music

    Class V Music is an introduction to the principles and history of Western music. The course includes units on basic music theory and ear training, the goals of which are to enable students to read musical notation and to hear internally what is represented by the notes in a musical score. Students also study the history of Western music, in which they must synthesize their listening abilities and theoretical understanding in studying important works from the medieval period to the twentieth century. The course places within a historical context the lives and contributions of the great composers who are central to the development of Western music. Upon completion of the course, students are required to recognize by ear some 20 works of composers ranging from Hildegard von Bingen to Aaron Copland. Supplemental coursework includes attending live musical performances, reading and writing music reviews, and presenting an original research paper on a music-related issue.

  • Music Appreciation

    (One-semester, Class III elective) In this course, students investigate a variety of ways in which music has an impact on our lives. Students begin by researching an artist of their choice in preparation for in-class presentations. The relationship between music and images is explored in units on music videos and movie soundtracks. The course also provides students at all levels of musical ability with opportunities to compose and perform their own works.

  • AP Music Theory

    AP Music Theory is an elective course in composition, analysis, and history offered to Classes I and II. Harmony and counterpoint, the principal elements of Western music theory, are explored in depth, and also placed within the context of the development of Western musical thought from the Middle Ages to the late twentieth century. Individual as well as group projects are aimed at exploring the relationships among music theory, composition, and performance. To this end, students compose a number of pieces, including a major work at the end of the year. In addition to forming sound analytical and compositional techniques, students are expected to develop keen aural perception, sight singing, and score reading skills. They are prepared to take the AP Music Theory Examination in May.