Fine & Performing Arts Department

Programs of Study

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Great interest and involvement is demonstrated by students in the visual arts in Charlottesville schools. All elementary students take art, taught by an art specialist, at least once a week. At the upper elementary and middle school levels, students may choose art as a full-year course. At the high school there are numerous levels and options offered each semester, including Fundamentals of Art, Studio Art, Photography, and Advanced Placement Portfolio Art classes. There are currently three art teachers at the high school. Frequent artists-in-residence supplement the systemwide visual arts programs by giving students the opportunity to observe, work with, and learn from professional artists.

Students’ works are on display throughout the year in all the schools, at City Hall, at several exhibits locally and around the state, and at the annual Systemwide Art Exhibit that takes place for two weeks each spring. Simultaneously with this exhibit, employees exhibit their work in the annual Faculty and Staff Art Exhibit. Much of the year’s exemplary student art is published in The Unfinished Jigsaw, the systemwide anthology of student literary and art work, and over fifty pieces are selected to be framed and hung in the Central Office Art Exhibit for the following year.

Students identified as gifted and talented in the visual arts participate in a program called ArtQuest. This program features special instruction with a variety of unique opportunities geared to develop students' interests and abilities in art. Also, Charlottesville City Schools plans and hosts a Regional Governor’s School for area middle school students gifted in the visual arts. This program is supported by the state and locally. It is an intense program that runs for two weeks each summer, serving forty area public, private, and home-schooled students per year. This tremendously successful program is in its thirteenth year.

A comprehensive, sequential, discipline-based, K–12 curriculum guide was developed by the art teachers that includes art history, appreciation, and criticism, as well as production. This guide was mentioned extensively in a National Art Education Association (NAEA) publication entitled "Exemplary Art Education Curricula: A Guide to Guides."


Elementary students participate in a music class taught by a music specialist at least twice a week. A foundation in music is provided through history, theory, singing, and use of a variety of instruments. Each elementary program includes recorder instruction and a chorus. Professional musical assemblies, field trips, and artists-in-residence enhance the music programs. Fourth grade students go through a comprehensive Fine Arts Introduction and Recruitment Program to help prepare them to select an area of concentration (either art, band, chorus, or orchestra) for a yearlong class in fifth grade. This program involves music and art teachers going into each fourth grade classroom, sometimes with older students, to give a hands-on demonstrations of their instruments and/or describe their programs. The scope of the recruitment program is especially important knowing the caliber and popularity of the programs for which they are enrolling. The attrition rate is extremely low once this important decision is made.

From upper elementary school through high school, a well-developed choral, band, and orchestra program exists where students receive comprehensive instruction and performing experiences. Charlottesville’s performing groups are of the highest caliber and consistently are recognized in district and state competitions as exemplary. Each group has experienced an increase of enrollment over the last several years which emphasizes the fact that the arts are alive and well in Charlottesville! Both the high school and middle school were recently designated as Blue Ribbon Schools by the VMEA. This designation is given when all of a school's performing groups (i.e., in the case of Charlottesville–band, chorus, and orchestra!) receive superior ratings!


The band program begins in fifth grade. Classes are grouped by like instruments in an effort to maximize instruction. The vast majority of students who begin the band program stay with it through high school. The four band teachers (grades 5–12) work as a team to ensure continuity of the program. The upper elementary and middle school band programs have stellar records of achievement earning superior ratings at official district band events. The high school band program has experienced phenomenal success throughout its long history. It has received Honor Band status for over twenty consecutive years and has recently been inducted into the Honor Band Hall of Fame along with its director. Honor Band status means receiving superior ratings for both concert and marching band music. Marching band meets during early morning period for a half credit. A Jazz Band program is available for half credit when marching band is not in session. There is also a Jazz Band program at the middle and upper elementary levels. The repertoire of all levels of the band program is extremely difficult and challenging. The high school band has traveled extensively to numerous states and Canada and has participated in the Cotton Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. With its long history of successes, the band director traditionally brings together over fifty years of alumni, every five years, for a splendid reunion weekend and concert.


The orchestra program begins in fifth grade, with some services extended to fourth grade. The three orchestra teachers (grades 5–12) work as a team to ensure continuity of the program. The middle school orchestra performs with the high school in the fall. The high school orchestra has gained a tremendous reputation, especially over the past twenty years. It has grown from eight members in 1982 to over one hundred twenty-five currently, making it one of the largest high school orchestra programs in Virginia. This in itself is a noteworthy accomplishment, given the school’s relatively small size. Another successful product of the orchestra program has been the emergence of several string quartets over the years. One of the highlights of each year is the full symphony orchestra concert. The full symphony is formed for six weeks each winter when the string orchestra combines with appropriate band instruments. The group often performs from original scores of major symphonic works rather than arrangements. One of the orchestra’s greatest honors to date has been their trip to play at the International Youth and Music Festival in Vienna during the summer of 1998. They placed second in this prestigious competition.


The choral program begins formally in fourth grade. Each elementary school has a fourth grade chorus that meets one hour per week. They perform individually several times each year, but sing together annually each spring at the All-City Choral Festival. Elementary music teachers meet monthly with the three (grades 5–12) choral teachers to coordinate their programs and plan the annual divisionwide festival that includes over five hundred singers. All levels of choruses perform at various occasions around the community. In addition, there are extracurricular choir ensembles. The high school choirs have traveled to numerous states, Canada, and the Bahamas in the last decade, winning many first place trophies. An interesting component of chorus trips has been to include visits to nearby colleges and universities in an effort to inform and inspire students. Among those visited were North Park, Moorehouse, and Spellman colleges, and Georgia Tech, Temple, Georgetown, and Howard universities. In addition to choral music, the high school choral teacher teaches two classes of beginning piano which have become very popular and productive.


Theater productions, often combined with music and dance, are a vital part of elementary education and occur frequently in all the elementary schools. During the upper elementary and middle school levels, students have opportunities to participate in theater-related activities. When students enter the high school, various levels of theater instruction are offered for credit. The high school theater department produces several shows each year. Major productions have thrilled packed audiences over the years. Students have performed challenging works from comedies to Shakespeare. Directing, production, and set design are all important components of theater instruction and students have various opportunities to perform these tasks. Besides major productions, theater students enjoy performing for their peers and teachers, at the elementary schools, and at their annual student-directed Dessert Theater.


Various styles of dance are included at all levels through artist-in-residence programs. Several years ago a dance program was instituted at the high school, taught by a professional dancer/dance instructor. The program continues with two levels of dance instruction and a host of artists-in-residence to give a diversified dance education to students. We have also had a divisionwide residency with the Richmond Ballet for the past four years, in collaboration with Piedmont Virginia Community College, which we hope to continue.