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Visual & Performing Arts

The visual and performing arts are an important focus at Headwaters School. Unlike many schools that require one or two years of study in the arts for high school graduation, we believe that practice in these creative forms is imperative for development.  In our high school we require four years of study in the arts and provide options for advancement in many creative genres.

Visual Arts

Students who learn to express themselves through art tend to be more confident, happy and focused academically.  Current research supports the concept that analytical education is alone not sufficient to prepare young people for an ever changing world. According to  the Washington Post, “In our competitive and evolving economy, being logical and analytical is no longer enough. Left brain is out. Right-brain noodling, the kind of processing that is intuitive and creative and synthetic, will soon rule the day.”  The Headwaters High School offers classes in studio art (from beginning painting, drawing, sculpture and printmaking to International Baccalaureate (IB) and AP Studio Art), film-making, media arts, journalism, and digital photography.

Studio Art

High School Studio Art: Critical skills in visual expression
The Studio Art course at Headwaters enables students to become visually literate. The course teaches students to use and understand art as a form of visual and tactile communication and to have confidence and competence in reading and evaluating visual images and artifacts. It also aims to develop students’ design capability, their capacity for imaginative and original thought and experimentation, and their capacity to learn about and observe the world in which they live. In addition to these aims, students will develop their ability to articulate and communicate ideas, opinions and feelings about their own work and the work of others. Students will study art-making techniques, art history, aesthetics, and art criticism. Students will work in the mediums of drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, and design.

AP and Advanced Studio Art
The AP Art program is designed with the goal of preparing students who are highly motivated for a potential career in art and/or design or who are interested in attending art school. Students who had previously shown a passionate interest in visual art and who expressed a willingness to work exceptionally hard to develop their skills further are invited to participate in the program. During the first semester, students are given a series of projects to complete which will allow them to experiment with a variety of media, techniques and concepts. Students are expected to develop strong skills in the use of materials and techniques, as well as conceptual and compositional planning.

IB Studio Art Higher Level/Standard Level
The IB Diploma Program visual arts course encourages students to challenge their own creative and cultural expectations and boundaries. It is a thought-provoking course in which students develop analytical skills in problem-solving and divergent thinking, while working towards technical proficiency and confidence as art-makers. In addition to exploring and comparing visual arts from different perspectives and in different contexts, students are expected to engage in, experiment with and critically reflect upon a wide range of contemporary practices and media. The course is designed for students who want to go on to study visual arts in higher education as well as for those who are seeking lifelong enrichment through visual arts.

Supporting the International Baccalaureate mission statement and learner profile, the course encourages students to actively explore the visual arts within and across a variety of local, regional, national, international and intercultural contexts. Through inquiry, investigation, reflection and creative application, visual arts students develop an appreciation for the expressive and aesthetic diversity in the world around them, becoming critically informed makers and consumers of visual culture.


High School Photography
This introductory course will explore the basic concepts and techniques of digital photography and it’s application in constructing a creative working method, one that expresses ideas and/or emotions and is rooted within the fine arts.

Students will produce photographs based on structured assignments.  A brief overview of the history of photography from creation to contemporary practice will be presented through slideshow presentations relevant to course assignments in hopes of constructing a lineage for each topic to be explored, i.e. portraiture, photo documentary, etc.  The course will finish with a final project of the student’s own interest.  Students will be amazed at the quality, intent, and personal aesthetic they will accomplish by the end of this course.

Advanced Photography
Generating artwork that is truly one`s own and developing a personal aesthetic are ongoing processes for any artist in any medium. This class is designed for students who have already taken High School Photography and would like to develop more personal expression in their art. Studying the works of master/contemporary photographers and focusing on emotional weight in imagery will be topics of discussion. Students complete challenges designed to develop a personal voice, hone their editing skills, and pinpoint the unique elements in their work. Each semester students will produce a body of work that is meaningful to them through either traditional photography or digital mediums. Semester 2 the class will learn how to put on an exhibition of their own work at a gallery in Austin.

IB Visual Art (concentration photography, printmaking, site-specific)
IB Visual Art: Concentration in Photography, Printmaking, Site-Specific Art is a two-year course where students study the theoretical practice of visual art, explore various forms of art-making, and participate in curatorial practice. The course is intended for self-motivated students who are serious about the practice of art. In addition to class-work, students are expected to devote additional time towards independent study. The course is a two-year commitment.

Take a look at what our Photography program is up to on Tumblr.


Headwaters TV Production
In this course, students will have the unique chance to produce Headwaters’s first ever TV show. They’ll work with a separate class of production designers to create props, makeup, costumes, puppets, and an overall aesthetic that makes our show visually engaging. Every student will leave the class having produced, directed, written, storyboarded/shot, and edited at least one project. It’s going to be fun.

Advanced Film
In this course, students will have the unique chance to make and watch movies all year long. The focus is on making sure that every individual edits, sound designs, shoots,production designs, and directs at least one movie that they show at events and festivals.

IB Film
In this course, students will have the unique chance to make and watch movies all year long. In year one, the focus is on making sure that every individual edits, sound designs, shoots, production designs, and directs at least one movie that they show at events & festivals. We will also use some of our time prepping for the IB Film Portfolio to be turned in during year two.

Verite Filmmaking (Middle & High School)
In this specialized course, students will have the unique chance to make cinema verite films as wells as films that simply showcase something that feels real, true, and important to us.

Non-Sync Filmmaking (Middle & High School)
In this specialized course, students will have the unique chance to make films sans synchronized sound (i.e., location sound or dialogue). Instead, we will focus on advanced cinematography as well as intricate layers of sound design that is creating using professional editing software, including Premiere (for moving pictures), After Effects (for special effects), and Flash (for animation). The ultimate goal will be to find outlets such as the internet, film festivals, and community events to share our movies.

Performing Arts


Music is an integral part of Headwaters School curriculum.  Over half of our students are currently taking coursework in vocals, jazz, world music, or theory.  Music is one of the most integrative arts courses as it crosses paths with history, culture, math, art, and philosophy.  Headwaters School music program covers almost every instrument and offers courses from beginning music to International Baccalaureate (IB) Music.

The Headwaters music program is unique in many ways:

  • We focus our program on learning jazz and improvisation. While students do gain important fundamental skills such as sight reading and scales, the main thrust of the program is creativity and improvisation. Student performers learn to create music from within themselves, not just to re-create notes from a page.
  • Instrumentation and repertoire is flexible in nearly every ensemble at Headwaters.  We try to work with students’ interests as much as possible, and give them as much leeway as possible to explore the music that interests them.  We also try as much as we can to make the repertoire we learn connect with the music that students listen to on their own—even as we try to broaden their horizons and get them to love jazz, classical, and other types of music that they might not hear on a daily basis. Learn more about the music program on our Music Blog.

IB Music (SL) or Music Theory
Through this music course, students develop their knowledge and potential as musicians, both personally and collaboratively. Involving aspects of the composition, performance, and critical analysis of music, the course exposes students to forms, styles, and functions of music from a wide range of historical and socio-cultural contexts. Students create, participate in, and reflect upon music from their own backgrounds and those of others. They develop practical and communicative skills that provide them with the opportunity to engage in music for further study, as well as for lifetime enjoyment. For more information on the IB program, see this link: http://headwaters.org/ib.

Jazz Band (11th–12th Grades)
Designed for students with at least one year of experience playing in a jazz ensemble of some kind, Jazz Band II provides students with the opportunity to advance their playing to the next level. Besides regular practice on music fundamentals—including scales, key signatures, and some basic jazz theory—students will learn increasingly challenging repertoire and develop their ability to work together to conquer said material. For students seeking an additional challenge, an honors option with weekly assignments and additional repertoire is available. Sectional rehearsals are required one day per week after school and attendance at performances outside of regular school hours is required.

Jazz Band 9th–10th Grades
Designed for students with at least one year of experience playing an instrument, Jazz Band I introduces students to improvisation and the jazz style. Students will learn the basics of improvisation, composing, and jazz theory, while learning to work creatively with a group of other students. Sectional rehearsals required one day per week after school. Attendance at performances outside regular school hours is required.


Chorus: Unity Through Harmony (After-School Elective, Fall Semester)
Open to students of all musical backgrounds and ability levels, the chorus rehearses and performs music from every genre and tradition, including classical, jazz, world, pop/rock, and Broadway. Students learn to harmonize and improvise in the course, and there are ample opportunities for students to rehearse and perform solos, duets, and more. Students must commit to two one-hour after-school rehearsals, and one major concert held outside of regular school hours. Additional performance opportunities abound for interested students—all chorus students have the opportunity to rehearse solos of their choice with the chorus director as accompanist and vocal coach.


Engaging in a theatre arts program teaches leadership, self-confidence, teamwork, and creativity. In our Middle School drama classes and High School musical production, students develop techniques in acting, production, design, directing, script analysis, and collaboration. Students learn to build creative confidence and grow their artistic expression. Recent productions include The Wiz (May 2014) and Godspell (February 2013).