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Students learn by doing. We are a live performance-based department. We begin with training to develop individual skills. These skills are then applied to an evolving mastery of the language and expressive capabilities of music, dance, and theater.

Students must have two years’ choral experience to be admitted into Intermezzo. The repertoire is challenging and covers all styles and periods of choral music. Singers who are enrolled in Intermezzo will have the opportunity to be placed in the Vocal Arts Ensemble.

Essential Elements of Music

Jazz Ensemble

This yearlong course teaches students to understand and appreciate what constitutes the wide sphere of music. Demystifying music, which can be akin to a foreign language for many students, is one of the essential elements of this course. Students are introduced to different genres of music within the curriculum, e.g. pop, classical, world and jazz, while learning what elements of music go into ‘making a style’.

All players must have previous experience with their instruments—saxophone, trumpet, trombone, piano, bass, guitar, or percussion. The ensemble plays arrangements of Big Band and popular music from the 1930s to the present. We emphasize improvisational and jazz small group (combo) performance skills.

Music Theory and Musicianship I We explore the essentials of serious musicianship, including basic piano, intervals, key signatures, transposition, rhythmic notations, and elementary composition of melody. As a final project, students have the opportunity to compose and orchestrate an original piece, and may also collaborate with film students.

Vocal Arts Ensemble This is an advanced vocal ensemble of twenty to thirty-five students with above average vocal ability and an interest in developing ensemble-singing techniques. A wide repertoire is covered (classical, jazz, show, popular etc.) The ensemble performs at school concerts and other on- and off-campus events.

Introduction to Theater This is an exploration of acting craft and styles through the reading and performance of selected works of important playwrights. Students discover— through script analysis, theater games, improvisation, and rehearsals—the skills needed to perform and critique scenes and monologues.

Musical Theater Workshop We focus on the three elements of Musical Theatre, singing, acting, and dancing, in an advanced, highly focused, studio setting. Students not only develop strong performance skills, they are encouraged to explore their own personal styles within the musical theatre genre.

Acting This is an introduction to acting on the stage and in front of the camera. The course helps each student discover talents and creative strengths. Emphasis is on “ensemble as well as individual performance skills. Classes involve


theater games, improvisation, scripted monologues, scene work, and instruction in movement, relaxation, voice, and speech.

Upper School: Electives


Technical Theater Students learn stagecraft, lighting, sound, and costumes via a combination of lectures and projects. They are trained on the proper use of the tools of technical theater, and then gain practical experience by working in the shop and on the run crew of RCS productions.

Modern Playwriting This exploration of the art of playwriting focuses on important contemporary playwrights. We read a selection of 21st century plays, see at least two live performances, and interact with a variety of industry guests. As a final project, students write a ten-minute play and take part in a “Short Play Festival” open to the community.

Dance as an Art We focus on introducing several different styles including modern technique, jazz technique, ballet technique, and hip-hop. The course includes proper warm-up, alignment, center work, traveling sequences, and choreography. In addition, there is an introduction to the history of the different dance styles.

Film Workshop We study the historical evolution of filmmaking, film theory, and analysis, beginning with the very first films of Edison and the Lumière Brothers. In the second semester, students learn the fundamentals of writing, directing, and editing their own short films.

Learning Experience

Performing Arts

Profile for Riverdale Country School

The Riverdale Learning Experience (2019)  

The Riverdale learning experience is influenced by many factors: the growing science of how children learn, the role of character strengths...

The Riverdale Learning Experience (2019)  

The Riverdale learning experience is influenced by many factors: the growing science of how children learn, the role of character strengths...