The Arts

At Meridian, art classes are uniquely student-driven. For nearly every trimester between 6th and 12th grades, students decide whether to pursue visual art, music, or creative writing. In addition, students frequently take part in suggesting and designing selections offered from term to term and year to year. Courses vary widely, focusing on distinct themes, styles, or materials, and teachers also offer independent studies for more experienced students. Classes are small, flexible, and individualized to the dynamics of the group.

Visual Arts

Meridian Visual Arts classes focus on helping students feel comfortable in the creative and critical studio environment, whatever form that may take now and in the future. While methods include formal instruction with a broad range of two-dimensional and three-dimensional materials, the underlying goal is not to create traditional artists. Students who initiate and select from the offered courses will have standard observational skills, understanding of elements and principles of design, and scaffolding of materials woven into the particular discipline they are focusing on. At the same time, the open structure emphasizes and encourages the artist’s ability to discuss and interpret their work and the work of others, supporting their growing ability to respond to assignments with originality, individualism, and confidence. By providing students with foundations in materials and techniques and conceptual challenges, students grow in their preparation for the work that they do in the visual arts and across all disciplines.

To provide the groundwork for the many options that follow in Divisions 3 and 4, Meridian has created required visual arts courses for each Middle School Division. For one or two trimesters each year, students learn a consistent curriculum, while still having the flexibility to select a more personal option for the remaining terms.

All Division 1 students at Meridian take foundations classes designed to provide the fundamentals of both 2-dimensional and 3-dimensional design. On alternating years, to align with the first trimester of the Humanities Heroes and Villains curriculum, students take an introductory Ceramics course. The handbuilding techniques that they learn and practice facilitate the execution of a Greek-style, coil-built pot that illustrates an invented origin myth. During the other year in the cycle, Division 1 students take a one term 2-dimensional Foundations class to provide a survey of commonly-used materials, skills, and concepts that encourage students to begin to develop their own styles and voices.

Division 2 students begin each year with a two-trimester course, interdisciplinary arts class designed to help them think about how studio art, music, and creative writing can be created together. Co-taught by the music, studio art, and creative writing teachers, this collaborative class starts with an existing text. Students learn about script-writing, song-writing, and set and character design, culminating in a performance created and delivered completely by the students.

As students advance to high school grades, their options expand to include course sequences in Adobe Illustrator and Ceramics. In addition, discipline- or material-specific offerings are planned by the art department based on student input, offering a project-based approach that reinforces and reiterates key questions and frameworks while reducing redundancy.

Visual Arts Courses

+ Division 1 and Division 2 Courses

  • Two-Dimensional Art Foundations (required for Division 1 in even years): Which commonly used materials, skills, and concepts are essential to communicating basic ideas through art? What else can encourage us to develop our own styles and voices?
  • Continued Two-Dimensional Art Foundations: What would you like to build on from your 2D Foundations class from Term 1 or 2? How can you bring more choice and originality to those emerging skills?
  • Introduction to Ceramics for Heroes and Villains (required for Division 1 in odd years): Working with clay can be both predictable and unpredictable. What methods are best for getting to know its characteristics, constraints, and limits? How can you use what you’ve learned to plan and create a Greek-style pot that illustrates your origin myth?
  • Portraiture: What does it mean to make a self-portrait? How can you communicate a sense of personal identity through visual art? How does the approach change when you are portraying someone else?
  • Sculpture: What qualifies as sculpture? Do all components have to be original? How will an understanding of human sculptural creation from ancient to contemporary times influence your own work?
  • Telling Stories Through Art: How can we communicate a concept, experience, or point of view through graphic novels, comics, and other forms of narrative illustration?
  • Printmaking: How does working in multiples, series, and repetition change the way we approach our art? How can these characteristics support the concept we mean to communicate?
  • Interdisciplinary Arts Performance (required for Division 2): How can we bond numerous creative platforms to create one final work that is interdisciplinary, collaborative, and performative? As inventors and translators of text, music, and images, how do we work together to accomplish a shared vision? (Required for all Div. 2 for two terms)

+ Division 3 and Division 4 Courses

  • Sculpture: What qualifies as sculpture? Do all components have to be original? How will an understanding of human sculptural creation from ancient to contemporary times influence your own work?
  • Portraiture: What does it mean to make a self-portrait? How can you communicate a sense of personal identity through visual art? How does the approach change when you are portraying someone else?
  • Mixed Media: Where do art and craft intersect? Do they? How can we think beyond traditional drawing and painting to create works that reflect our diverse and resource-filled environment?
  • Introduction to Adobe Illustrator: How can we use the computer as a tool to help both our skills in and understanding of design and illustration processes?
  • Advanced Adobe Illustrator: What have you learned in Adobe Illustrator that made you want to learn or explore more? What are the designs, pictures, compositions, effects that you want to translate? Come independently motivated to problem-solve and create your own projects.
  • Introduction to Ceramics: How can we incorporate our own style and interests while balancing emerging understanding of technical processes in clay? How will you approach form versus function in your pottery?
  • Advanced Ceramics: After learning the basics, how can you design your own projects that demonstrate both technical success and original invention?
  • Contemporary Explorations: How do artists today pull inspiration from their social, cultural, and political environments? How can we create work that is both intentional and spontaneously responsive to new information and understandings?
  • Contemporary Narrative: How do contemporary artists, animators, and writers communicate a concept, experience, or point of view through graphic novels, comics, and other forms of narrative illustration? What creative methods feel most natural for you to communicate your own original ideas or stories?
  • Printmaking: How does working in multiples, series, and repetition change the way we approach our art? How can these characteristics support the concept we mean to communicate?

Music

The Meridian Music Department is fairly non-traditional in that it's constantly changing to fit the needs of the student body. Our fairly non-traditional student body also happens to be uniquely passionate about ukulele. Each year begins with a potential list of subjects that is ultimately voted on and tailored for each Division. Class sizes range from 1-10 and can accommodate every and all talent levels. That level can even be just the willingness to try. Because classes are based on division and not experience, song arrangements and assignments are custom made to push each student to the peak of their ability. Certain disciplines follow a loose tracking, only to give beginners enough time to learn the basics. At all levels, students are encouraged to request and fuel our performance material.

At Meridian, music classes explore a variety of styles and genres. Each course attempts to apply technique, theory, history and performance to the given discipline. As performers, students learn how to talk about music and communicate with other musicians in an ensemble. They also learn how to navigate their own strengths and limitations, and to participate effectively within their skill set. The cowbell should bring just as much sass to the stage as the lead singer. Ultimately, the Meridian goal is to consistently create music that sounds great. Students learn to listen to music with respect and perform with pride, presence and swagger. Most importantly, the students get to experience the intangible power of music. At Meridian, we refer to it as 'the feels'.

Along with these classes, many students are also part of the Meridian Band, an after school collaborative group.

Music Courses

+ Intro to Guitar

Guitar class is a standard high school offering. Playing this instrument requires patience, determination and hand strength. Students will learn a handful of songs that reinforce a basic set of the most popular chords. Songs are arranged specifically for beginners with extra time for chord movement and simple strumming patterns. Song selection is heavily influenced by each class and does not normally include 'Hot Cross Buns' or 'Ode to Joy'. Students will learn how to read a typical chord chart and lead sheet. They will expected to navigate standard music directions such as repeat signs, fermatas, ritardando and D.C. al coda.

+ Intermediate/Advanced Guitar

Those who make it out of introductory guitar with working fingers can move on to more advanced study. This class can be tailored to any level or area of interest. Some students want to use the guitar to get a better handle on theory and others want to tackle the Beatles songbook. The goal is always a deeper understanding of music and a stronger bond to the instrument.

+ Hand Drumming

Drumming class at Meridian is just the study of rhythm and how to apply those rhythms to a variety of sounds. Students will have the opportunity to play cajon, doumbek, bongos, djembe and a host of fun auxiliary instruments. Occasionally, a song will call for buckets, chairs, bottles or service bell. At the core of every beat is a collection of simple rhythms. Students will learn to read, write and play these rhythms. To help internalize beats, classes use an exercise requiring their hands, feet and voices to simultaneously perform different rhythms. As the students progress, the beats become more complex. Eventually, students should be able to play independent rhythms in each hand, play a full drum kit beat on one drums and recreate grooves they hear in a song.

+ History of Heavy Metal

So you're the kid who likes heavy metal... what do you like about it? What draws you to that sound? How can you tell you're listening to metal? Can you define it? This class aims to explore heavy metal through the creation of a “family tree”. Decide which groups to include, organize generations and assign parentage, all based on a mutually agreed upon definition. The class includes group discussion, individual research and lots of listening. Find out who influenced Led Zeppelin and how that ever could have led to KISS.

+ Listenting to Music

Critical listening is a skill most people forget to apply to music. In this class, students learn to recognize instrumentation, genre and form through a series of listening sessions and assignments. The class culminates in a SONGWEB project. Starting from the same 'nucleus song', each student weaves a musical web connecting songs through shared musical traits. These traits could be anything from a saxophone solo, to the use of a similar drum break, to a literal sample or cover. Finally, students complete objectives within the web... a song from each decade 1920-present, a song from every genre of music, a full album by a band of their choice, only using songs with piano, etc. The result is a fascinating and enlightening web of music.

+ Singing

Each singing class has a unique structure based on enrollment, interests and experience. The overarching goal is to develop a strong ensemble sound. Singing in a small group is an exercise in trust. The class learns a number of songs together and through that process, develops their own group sound. To strengthen the whole, the first part of class typically focuses on the individual voice. Learning how to stand, breathe, and warmup properly is essential for a good tone. Meridian singers strive for healthy full-body singing. Being part of a vocal group can be very personal and powerful. Special emphasis is placed on committing to and serving the music... “bringing it”.

+ Intro to Ukulele

Most members of Meridian's ukulele army start in this class. Ukulele is an ideal instrument for teaching general music ideas. The portable, affordable instrument is capable of melodic, harmonic and rhythmic playing. Aspiring singers can also use the uke for easy self-accompaniment. The introductory level begins with the most common chords and simple strumming patterns. Students will learn a few scales and begin reading melodies both from TAB and music notation. By the end of the two-trimester class, a ukulele student should be comfortable reading a simple chord chart and have the confidence to play along at the annual Becket campfire sing-a-long.

+ Intermediate Ukulele

This class builds on the introductory course by adding more complex chords and rhythms. Once the hand-eye-hand-instrument-string-fret coordination is established, a student can be expected to move from tricky chord to tricky chord without much hesitation. At this level, the arrangements for class often include small melodic lines that become part of the song. A player will move from strumming to plucking a few notes and back to strumming. Sometimes a few students will be playing one thing while the rest are playing something else. Splitting up the group into smaller parts requires ukulele players to know their parts well and play with more confidence.

+ Advanced Ukulele

The goal of the advanced class is to create self-sufficient musicians. At this point, the class should be able to sight read a lead sheet or come up with a strumming pattern after listening to a song. Not only do the students play complicated music, but they are asked to create their own arrangements and even write out charts. After all the time spent as part of Meridian ensembles, students should leave with the confidence to collaborate with other musicians outside of school or after graduation.

Creative Writing

This one-trimester elective gives students an introduction to writing fiction, poetry, and memoir. Given Meridian’s community-wide Spanish policy, there is also a unit on the theory and practice of literary translation. The course has a strong focus on workshopping and feedback, thinking critically about art, and responding to others' work in a clear, analytical, and helpful manner. Over the course of the year, students work together to create a literary magazine that features their own writing as well as that of their peers in the Meridian community. This project exposes students to the nuances of editing and publishing from the standpoints of both the publisher and writer.