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. The first three years of the arts curriculum at Roxbury Latin introduce students to the manual, visual, and performing arts. Through three courses taken in rotation within each of the three years, boys are exposed to offerings in dance, theatre, music, sculpture, architecture, drawing, painting, photography, and digital art. In the first year, seventh graders explore Digital Design, The Artistic Process, and Dance. Eighth graders take courses in Photography, Advanced Digital Design, and Drama. Finally, as ninth graders, students experience Architecture, Music, and Drawing and Painting. The common vocabulary of the arts is 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 an informed advocate, 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 from the following choices: Drama, Music, Watercolor, Woodworking, and Introduction to Technical Theater. Students in Classes II and I may choose full-credit courses in applied art and music.  

Visual Art Courses

  • 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.

  • Introduction to Technical Theater

    (One-semester, Class III elective). Behind every great actor is a group of stagehands backstage wearing all black making sure everything runs smoothly. In this course, students will explore all aspects of technical theater: lighting, sound, set design, and more! This course provides a look into the moving parts of theater and how a successful show is created from start to finish. Students will be pushed to create real-world projects utilizing theater equipment and design products. While actors step into the spotlight, “techies” create the entire world around them. The course will require some light reading assignments, but most of the work will be project-based and in-class.

  • 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 is a studio-based art course, emphasizing the discovery and development of the artist. Students will utilize the Studio Habits of Mind philosophy to expand and evolve their practice while deepening their critical eye. Through critiques, the study of art history, and art show installations, students broaden their artistic thinking. This course allows freedom of choice in medium, subject matter, and experimentation. Students can expect to be continually creating and improving their art.

  • Topics in Art

    Topics in Art is a yearlong, half-credit course open to boys in Class I, with approval from a member of the Arts Department. Topics in Art is an independently-driven study in a specific area of artistic passion. The topic is chosen by the student and then worked on throughout the year with the appropriate faculty member. Though not an exhaustive list, potential topics include woodworking, digital arts, studio arts, music composition, production or performance, technical theater arts, and theater arts. This course is designed for boys of varying experience with a desire to advance in a particular area of the arts; students are encouraged, however, to take art electives in their junior year in preparation. A student may take Topics in Art in addition to his five major courses.

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. Two types of stage combat have been offered over the years: rapier and dagger (using dowels in the place of authentic weapons), and hand-to-hand combat. The course concludes with the rehearsal and performance of two- and three-person scenes, and if time allows scenes may be performed before a small audience of classmates.

Music Courses

  • 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, including a unit on songwriting, with an emphasis on lyrics, melodies, chord progressions, and beats.

  • 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 present day. 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.