Upper School Courses

Upper School Fine Arts

The Fine Arts program serves students who are exploring a new art form, those who already have an existing interest in an artistic discipline and those who want to work at a very high level. The graduation requirement is one credit in the Fine Arts. Students may earn additional credits through their election of full- or half-credit courses. The graduation requirement for new 11th- and 12th-grade students is one-half credit.

The Theatre Focus Academy provides additional opportunities for performance, and includes individualized training through lessons, master classes, and field trips. Specialized areas of study include musical theatre, technical theatre, directing, devising new works, screenwriting, acting for film, and other topics of interest.

Note: All half-credit courses fall under the category of Applied Arts I, even if there are several levels of study, for instance, Applied Arts I - Advanced Filmmaking. Applied Arts I courses are offered to all students in grades 9-12, and may be repeated up to 4 years. Applied Arts courses meet 1-4 times per rotation.

Private individual lessons are offered to all student, from beginning to advanced levels, in dance and music. These are half-credit offerings.


List of 4 items.

  • Choreography

    This class provides an opportunity for students who have attained a certain level of technical proficiency to create their own performance pieces. The students in the class perform these works in the final spring performance. Students must attend 3 technique sessions per week. Prerequisite: permission of the Department. Half credit.
  • Dance

    Students receive training in classical ballet, modern, jazz, rhythm tap, hip-hop, and other styles.  Dancers work with St. Stephen’s faculty and guest choreographers in after-school classes. Dance may fulfill a PE, Sports and/ or Fine Arts requirement.
  • Dance Technique

    Students in Dance Technique will focus on acquiring the basic skills, vocabulary and concepts of ballet and modern jazz dance forms.  Students will gain strength, endurance and control of the body while working with a variety of music. Half credit.
  • Private Lessons: Dance

    Individual lessons in dance are offered to all students from beginning to advanced levels. Half credit. 


List of 3 items.

  • Filmmaking

    Students acquire and practice knowledge and skills needed to be effective and efficient visual storytellers. They learn and practice digital photography using both SDLR cameras and long format AX-10 camcorders. As they write, shoot, and edit their footage, students learn techniques of video production and post-production. Half credit.

    As students develop and produce short film projects, they learn camera language and narrative structure. As they study video editing, students learn the fundamentals of editing, including how to use the latest video-editing software. By the end of the year, each student must develop and produce two short projects. Half credit.
  • Intermediate Filmmaking

    Students refine their filmmaking skills first by shooting scenes from professional movies, and then by refining their visual approach as they explore complex lighting and sound recording techniques.  Students develop and produce two short film projects. Half credit.
  • Advanced Filmmaking

    In Advanced Filmmaking, students produce narrative and documentary films intended to be submitted to domestic and international film festivals.  The class focuses on advanced story structure and character development through multiple revisions informed by a workshop environment.  Students explore advanced lighting and camera techniques taught by industry professionals. They also learn how to work effectively with actors. Half credit.


List of 8 items.

  • Choir

    Open to all students, the choir performs in chapel and for special events throughout the year, including the Festival of Lessons and Carols, ISAS Arts Festival and the Spring Concert. Students sing literature from many stylistic periods as they also learn ensemble skills.  No previous vocal experience is required.  Members of the Madrigal Singers, the auditioned small ensemble, must be members of the choir.  Half credit. Note: Auditions for the Madrigals are held in May preceding each new school year. Contact Kendra Lipman to schedule an audition time.
  • Guitar Ensemble

    Open to all students who play guitar, this ensemble gives students the opportunity to strengthen their music reading, listening and memorization skills in a small group setting. Specially written or arranged music provides all players parts that help them develop their overall musicianship. Half credit.
  • Jazz Band

    Open to students who play brass or woodwind instruments, drums, guitar, bass and keyboard, the jazz band performs for special events throughout the year, including Mardi Gras, ISAS Arts Festival and Winter and Spring concerts. Member of the Jazz Combo, a smaller ensemble, are also members of Jazz Band.  Half credit.
  • Orchestra

    Open to all students who play string, woodwind, brass or percussion instruments, or keyboard, this ensemble performs the standard literature for string orchestra and full orchestra. The orchestra performs for special events throughout the year, including ISAS Arts Festival, and takes an international tour every 2 years.  Collaborative performances with professional musicians and other St. Stephen’s ensembles round out the orchestral experience. Chamber music ensembles are created for  members of the orchestra who have an interest in performing the standard chamber music repertoire of trios, quartets and quintets. Half credit.
  • Thunder Drums - Percussion Ensemble

    This auditioned ensemble performs for school and community events throughout the year, working with original material created for them, and performs at ISAS Arts Festival and in  concert in the spring.   By audition only.  Private percussion lessons are required to be a member of Thunder Drums. Half credit.
  • Advanced Music Theory

    Beginning with a review of musical notation, the course covers rhythm, scales, intervals, tonality, melodic organization, harmonic progression, and style analysis, including contemporary American music.  It proceeds through seventh chords, modulation, and secondary dominants.  Ear training, sight singing, basic keyboard skills, and composition help students use theoretical knowledge to enhance analytical listening and performing skills.  Prerequisite:  rudimentary knowledge of musical notation.  Grades 11 and 12.   (Grade 10, by permission of the Department) One credit.
  • Applied Music

    This class is open to Grade 12 students with superior instrumental or vocal skills. It includes the study of solo music literature and performance practice of several stylistic periods of music.  Prerequisite:  permission of the Department.  One credit.
  • Private Lessons: Music

    Individual lessons in piano, voice, guitar, strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion are offered to all students from beginning to advanced levels. Half credit.


List of 3 items.

  • Photography: Film and Darkroom

    Students learn to use a 35mm camera, develop film, enlarge photographs and prepare photographs for presentation. Artisanal processes as well as standard chemical darkroom procedures help students more fully understand the aesthetics of this art form.  Students must have a working 35mm film camera. All levels. Half credit.
  • Introduction to Digital Imaging

    As photography evolves into a digitally-dominated medium, proficiency in the digital darkroom becomes increasingly important for serious photographers, as well as for those who use photographic images in other ways. The digital darkroom enables artists to perfect their vision and explore ideas using current technological tools as applied to the fundamentals of photography.

    Digital Imaging provides an introduction to the tools and concepts of contemporary photography. Students will learn to use Photoshop to digitally process their images. They will learn post-production techniques and tools such as layering, paths, color and contrast, histograms, and levels as they create their finished works. Students must have a digital camera. Half credit
  • Advanced Digital Imaging

    Advanced Digital Imaging provides students with further instruction in the many options and aspects of the digital darkroom. Half credit.


List of 6 items.

  • The Art of Public Speaking

    This course explores the art of public speaking in the 21st century. The primary focus of the course is on the research, writing, delivery, and reception of speeches and other forms of presentation. We begin by learning about the communication process and basic body and voice techniques utilized in effective communication. We will work through an extended speech-creation process, allowing students to explore and experience the process thoroughly. We then apply these techniques to a number of different speech and communication styles, including informative and persuasive speeches and a final project of the student’s choice. Half credit.
  • Theatre I

    This course explores an introduction to acting and theatre. We will investigate the job of an actor - to live truthfully under imaginary circumstances - through developing the actor’s tools. In addition to the primary goal of developing our artistic selves, we will explore analysis of dramatic literature, critique and response to performance, defining contemporary theatre, and the various jobs available in theatre. Throughout this course we will utilize games, improvisational activities, acting exercises, performance analysis, text analysis, scene work, and text adaptation to better understand the craft of acting and the nature of theatre. Half credit.
  • Advanced Theatre

    This course explores theatre performance, training  and all aspects of the creative process. Students will collaborate as a theatre company to explore a number of different training approaches. Through our rehearsal process, we will explore methods for developing character and story and various techniques related to specific styles of theatre. This class helps students develop self-awareness both as humans and as artists, inviting them to consider how they work best in theatre and in the world. May be repeated. Half credit.
  • Dramatic Literature

    Open to all students, this class will be a wide ranging survey of dramatic literature, from Greek plays to current screenplays and movies, King Oedipus to Marvel. Students will strengthen their ability to analyze narrative structure and character, become confident public readers, and have a great time sitting around a table reading awesome texts and drinking tea. The class will be a great support for all creative writers, artists, actors, and English students. Half credit.
  • Technical Theatre

    This course trains students in the creative and practical elements of the technical side of theatre production, with an emphasis on safe and efficient use of equipment. Students develop an understanding of the functions of stagecraft and stagecraft artists through hands-on application of skills in designing and building scenery, lighting and costumes. Half credit.
  • Senior Seminar

    This course offers the experienced Theatre Focus student an opportunity to study special topics of interest to the group, such as acting styles or playwrighting, and to prepare materials for specialized college auditions.  Prerequisite: Grade 12 Theatre Focus student

Visual Arts

List of 8 items.

  • Visual Studies I

    Students engage in the study of art as they explore the traditional disciplines of design, drawing, painting, printmaking, and sculpture.  In this project-based course, students work with a variety of media as they develop their technical and visual literacy skills.  Gallery talks, workshops with visiting artists and field trips to area museums are offered each year.  Visual Studies I students display their work throughout the year. Open to grades 9-12. One credit. 
  • Visual Studies II

    Building on the foundation of Visual Studies I, students expand their understanding of materials and methods, as they use their skills to analyze the aesthetics of their own work and the work of others. Visual Studies II students display their work throughout the year.  Prerequisite: Visual Studies I or permission of the department. Open to grades 9-12. One credit.
  • Visual Studies III

    Visual Studies III students continue to experiment with different mediums and techniques as they identify their personal styles.  Students continue to refine their drawing skills as they work with a range of  traditional to digital media. Visual Studies III is an appropriate time to begin to prepare a portfolio for the college application process or for other formal presentation.  Visual Studies III students exhibit their work throughout the year. Prerequisite: Visual Studies II or permission of the department. Open to grades 10-12. One credit.
  • Advanced Visual Studies

    In Advanced Visual Studies, students are encouraged to independently develop their own artistic goals and pursuits.   With guidance from the instructor, students complete their portfolios, write artist statements, participate in group and individual critiques, and gain experience in exhibiting their work. They also have opportunities to collaborate with peers in self-directed projects.  Prerequisite: Visual Studies III or permission of the department.  One credit.
  • Advanced Art History

    This course surveys art from the prehistoric to the 21st century, emphasizing mastery of aesthetic principles, appreciation of formal elements, and recognition of stylistic developments. Special attention will also be paid to the historical context in which art has been made and from which much of its meaning is derived. Students study reproductions of major works of painting, sculpture, architecture, and photography, and at least one off-campus trip to an exhibit or museum will be offered during the year. Open to grades 11 and 12. (Grade 10 students may enroll with permission from the instructor and the department). One credit.
  • Ceramics

    Students work with materials and techniques used in ceramics through the centuries and up to the present by learning hand building, wheel throwing, and sculptural techniques. The chemistry of clays and glazes, as well as  historical and cultural aesthetics and techniques become part of the process as students create  both vessels and sculptural forms. Guest artists, workshops, and demonstrations are scheduled throughout the year. Half credit.
  • Graphic Design

    From postage stamps to giant billboards, from iPhone screens to IMAX screens, graphic design permeates our environment.  Understanding how to apply basic design concepts to the presentation of informative or persuasive material is crucial to communicating with an audience.  Students must think broadly and creatively as they learn to combine typography, image, space, color, movement, time and form to convey messages in the most effective ways.  This course provides an introduction to design concepts concentrating on learning how to skillfully combine images and text to communicate with an intended audience.  Students will work on traditional design problems leading to a portfolio of pieces illustrating the concepts learned.  Prerequisite: permission of the department. Half credit.
  • Studio Art

    An Applied Arts I course, Art offers students who would like a half-credit option the ability to begin, or further develop their skills in drawing, painting, design, sculpture and other forms of visual arts. Half credit.


Students learn the principles of layout and design as they create a compelling record of the life of the school in the Deacon, The Stephen’s yearbook.  Headline, feature and cation writing skills complement their work in graphic design and photography.  Students learn Adobe Photoshop and Adobe InDesign software, write copy, take photographs, and meet publisher-set deadlines as they cover all aspects of the production of the yearbook.  Grades 9-12. Half credit.
Address: 6500 St. Stephen's Dr., Austin, TX 78746
Phone: (512) 327-1213