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Visual & Performing Arts

S2_Week14_Web02Visual Arts

The visual arts are an important focus at Headwaters School.  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 Middle School offers classes in studio art, photography, and filmmaking.

Studio Art

Middle School Studio Art: Introduction to critical skills in visual expression
An introduction to the language of visual expression, using studio projects to explore the basic principles of visual art and design as a fundamental component of visual communication and expression. Students acquire a working knowledge of visual language applicable to the study of art history, popular culture, and the art of composition and design.


Middle School Photography
This hands-on introductory course will explore the basic concepts and techniques of digital photography as well as introduce more artistic ways to use your images. Through structured assignments and weekly outings, students quickly begin to develop their own perspectives and will use photography to express ideas and emotions.  From learning basic photo retouching/editing, using natural light and learning about historical and contemporary art, photography will contagiously become a way of life.

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


Verite Filmmaking
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
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


S2_Week8_Web04Music 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.
  • In the Middle School, students are allowed to learn rock instruments—guitar, bass, drums, and piano—and still participate in the school jazz band. Most middle school ensembles are either orchestras or symphonic bands, and exclude the instruments most young students are most interested in.
  • The Middle School music class is generally unlike any other class offered in Austin. Students nominate the songs they’d like to learn and the teacher whittles that list down to eight songs that are learned over the course of the semester. Every student is required to sing lead vocals on at least one song, and to play an instrument on at least one song. Other than that, nearly anything goes! In addition to the basics of learning an instrument and learning how to learn material by ear, students learn a number of essential soft skills: how to overcome stage fright; how to work with a group to accomplish a shared goal; and how sustained, hard work towards an objective can not only be rewarding but can be incredibly fun. In addition, they learn that music really is for everybody, and that anyone who wants to can learn to play something on an instrument—regardless of whatever natural “talent” they may think they have.
  • 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.

Middle School Music
A fun, performance-oriented course, students enrolled in Middle School Music will have the experience of assembling a concert program and learning music together as a group. Students will have the opportunity to sing, dance, and play together on music they have chosen and helped arrange themselves. The class will culminate in a once-a-quarter concert at which all students will have the opportunity to sing a solo or play an instrument. Attendance at one end-of-semester concert after school hours is required. 

Middle School Jazz Band (After-School Elective)
Open to Middle School musicians of all levels, MS Jazz Band serves as an introduction to playing an instrument with a group of other musicians. Students will learn music fundamentals such as scales, key signatures, and basic chord theory and will prepare a basic repertoire for performance. 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.