Upper School Performing Arts

The St. Agnes Academy Theatre Arts department is dedicated to developing the students’ natural talents through study, work, and performance. Students in the drama department star in school plays, build sets, work in sound and lighting, and have an active role in all aspects of theatre production. The department offers three drama courses: Drama 1 - Oral Communications, is used to further the students’ public speaking abilities; Drama 2 and 3 allow students to progress from a basic introduction to all things theatrical to advanced script writing, character development, and quality performance. The drama instructor is Ann Neal.

Ann Neal's Philosophy of Teaching
I believe, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that performing arts is a necessary and vital part of a child’s education, but more than that, it is an essential part of a child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development. Children should be given the opportunity to use their imaginations, to create, and to perform what they have created. Through the performing arts, I have seen children do what they did not think they could do and celebrate that feeling of accomplishment. Participation in the performing arts builds self- confidence, which is essential in a world where competition is fierce and being successful doesn’t mean just settling for mediocrity. It is my responsibility to share my love and knowledge of the performing arts with the students that I teach. 


5th-8th Grade Performing Arts & Music

All 5th and 6th grade boys and girls spend a semester in performing arts classes. Vocal music, instrumental music, music appreciation, dance, and theatrical performance are introduced to students in creative ways. Some activities include:

  • The study of the history of Memphis music ending in a student written performance
  • Introduction to the rudiments of handbell work
  • Musical and dance interpretations of children’s literature
  • Composing 12 bar blues
  • Basic vocal music ensemble skills
  • Living museum of famous musicians and actors

7th grade students need exposure to music and they need to practice working together as a group that will achieve a gratifying goal. They like to make noise and they don’t like to wake up in the mornings. This was the inspiration for the Trash Can Band. Students learn rhythms, tones, cooperative creation, patience and “how much is ‘just right’” by playing along with popular music using everyday items such as paint buckets, trash barrels, and generally anything that looks like it could be part of a drum set - but isn’t. They create, perform, and participate in music. Sometimes we know the song before we play along, but sometimes we learn the rhythms and then apply the music to it. It keeps them on their toes and engaged. Every 7th grade student will spend a 9 week quarter beginning each day in the trash can band.

Each 8th grader will spend a nine week quarter in performing arts class. Some of the activities in this class may be:

  • Study of the art of conversation
  • Creation of public service announcements
  • Motivational speech writing and delivery
  • Newscast production
  • Classic film study

Third Quarter’s class will audition, rehearse, and present a play in front of an audience of their peers. 7th and 8th grade Performing Arts are taught by Mike Neal.

Mike Neal's Philosophy of Teaching
The study of performing arts encourages problem solving skills, team work, goal setting, memory skills, self-expression, coordination, self-confidence, concentration, and higher-order thinking skills. Examples of artistic performance should be observed, discovered and experienced. The goal of performance is not to make all students into musicians or performers, but to give each student the opportunity to participate in an activity that gives the gratification of personal success from which confidence is born. Most importantly, it is scientifically proven that people who have music in their lives are happier and smarter. That is why I teach music.


Pk-4th Grade Performing Arts & Music

Participating in a musical ensembles and activities teaches life lessons and enhances the brain’s ability to function more efficiently and effectively. Scientific studies show that the brain’s ability to process information, to solve problems, and to manipulate data is enhanced when engaged in musical activities, specifically when reading music and playing an instrument. Studies also show that singing or playing instruments in groups builds confidence and teaches collaboration, dedication, perseverance, and accountability. Involvement in musical activities and ensembles allows a student to focus more effectively, communicate non-verbally, and receive constructive feedback. Curricula for Music Classes at SAA-SDS allow for and encourage the students to function and behave in and with these attributes in the Music classroom and beyond.

Students in the Early Childhood Center explore and experience the Performing Arts during two class times each week. Emphasis is placed on listening, building musical skills and vocabulary, and engaging in the creative process through singing, playing instruments, movement, dancing, dramatic play, learning about composers, and using American Sign Language. Students interact with Guest Instrumentalists who demonstrate instruments and with Guest Actors and Guest Singers who present drama, musical programs, and opera in the Hook Theater. Programs at Christmas and for Grandparents Day highlight what the students are learning and their enthusiasm for the Arts.

Students in grades 1st-4th expand their musical experiences within continued learning of music theory and techniques within the creative process. 1st and 2nd Grade students learn and play rhythm sequences with body percussion and on pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments, layering rhythms and timbres. They participate with the ECC in live demonstrations and theater productions. 3rd grade students read notes, key signatures, rhythms, tempos, and dynamics while learning to play the Recorder. 4th grade students compose music and play their compositions on pitched and non-pitched percussion instruments, beginning with ostinati and progressing through to melodies with chordal accompaniments. All students learn vocal, choral, and performance techniques. Programs at Christmas and for Grandparents’ Day feature all classes singing and/or playing instruments.

Worship is not a spectator sport! God calls us to worship with our whole selves - Mind, Body, Soul, and Spirit. Liturgical Music Preparatory Class prepares students to participate actively in the worship experiences on campus. SAA-SDS Grades 1-6 meet one time each month in the Chapel to learn the music to be used in weekly and all-school Masses. The lyrics are explored through emphasizing our Catholic identity, the Dominican Pillars, and the presence of God through Jesus in our lives. The students are told that, even though we are "rehearsing" music for Mass, this class is a time of prayer, a time of celebration and thanksgiving, and a time of interacting with God. 7th and 8th grade students prepare for participation through recorded music presented during their Religion classes.


St. Agnes Academy
St. Dominic School

4830 Walnut Grove Road
Memphis, TN 38117
901.767.1377

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