Arts at GPS

Where Girls Create

Not every girl will become an artist, but each girl learns to be a creator.

The Fine and Performing Arts Program at GPS is a tenet for educating and engaging the whole girl. The arts provide a safe space for a girl to express herself, develop new interests, take risks, uncover hidden talents, and foster deep connections. Beautiful works of art are created but, more importantly, a girl learns to master a creative process that will benefit her throughout life—whether she wants to be a software engineer, a painter, or an accountant.

At GPS, the arts are…

List of 3 items.

  • + Individualized

    A student doesn’t have to love the spotlight to find her place. Each girl is encouraged to foster her creativity in the subject that interests her. We allow girls to tell their own stories, from their own lives, and be their own heroes.
  • + Integrated

    The arts can enhance understanding in other disciplines, and teachers always seek ways to collaborate. This might look like an eighth-grade dance class demonstrating the 5 Atomic Theories through movement, or a sixth-grade visual arts class painting masks that mirror the global cultures being studied in geography. A Latin and dance teacher partner to help sophomores understand the rudiments of Latin meter through movement.
  • + Transformative

    We meet each girl where she is and challenge her to reach her full potential. A student who had never read music now shines as a violinist, one of the most difficult instruments to learn. An eighth-grade girl, who hadn’t danced beyond preschool ballet, was recently selected for a prestigious summer dance intensive program. The GPS Arts program opens girls’ eyes, meets them where they are, and uncovers talents of which they may have been previously unaware.
Watch the video above to see a visual sampling of the nearly 50 visual and performing arts offerings available to all students. 

The Arts at a Glance

  • 38 Fine and Performing Arts classes from 6th to 12th grade
  • 100% participation in Middle School, 77% in Upper School
  • 3 AP art classes offered
  • 5-10: average number of professionals who visit campus each year through the Guest Artist Program
  • Consistent participation in the East Tennessee Vocal Association and the East Tennessee School Band and Orchestra Association 
  • Regularly accepted to Governor’s School for the Arts, Scholastic Art and Writing Competition, performing and visual art intensives, and regional art shows

Thinking Like an Artist

Children who study the arts are three to four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, be elected to a class office, and pursue academic competitions such as a science fair or writing contest. Learning to think like an artist offers advantages to all aspects of a girl’s life.
Watch the video above to learn the unique way we educate and engage the whole girl as she looks to her future.  

Through the Arts, GPS students learn…

  • To develop a craft
  • To closely observe the world around them
  • To stretch their abilities to master new skills
  • To develop a strong voice with an openness to receive feedback from others
  • To persistently push through barriers 
  • To connect, collaborate, and build a sense of community with classmates and teachers
  • To build confidence and respect in themselves and others
“GPS has developed a thriving arts program with 38 classes offered as well as a wide variety of after-school arts programming. Our aim is for each girl to experience the power of creating—through learned skills, risk-taking, collaboration, decision-making, and the often humbling and edifying process of revision. We hope she learns to appreciate that most problems have multiple solutions, that mistakes are a prerequisite for discovery, and most of all, the importance of her creative voice.”

Amanda Byars ’99, Director of Fine & Performing Arts

The Arts Curriculum

Engaging different parts of her brain, the arts are uniquely positioned to support learning. It begins in middle school, with dance, drama, visual arts, and music all required in sixth and seventh grade. From there she can craft her own path, with more than 40 arts classes to choose from throughout her GPS career.

List of 4 items.

  • + Visual Arts

    The fine arts curriculum at GPS offers students a strong foundation in art elements and design principles while developing organizational and group-thinking skills. From sun-filled studios, girls engage in creative storytelling as well as group critiques and research.
  • + Dance

    Among four beautiful dance studios, beginning and advanced dancers can find supportive outlets for discovery and mastery of skill. The girls learn dances from around the world, enhancing their global studies and cultural awareness.
  • + Theater

    In addition to our in-school curriculum, the theater department—in coordination with the McCallie School—stages four coed theatrical productions every year, two in middle school and two in upper school. Opportunities exist for actors, technical crew members, and students seeking leadership opportunities like assistant director or stage manager. Traditional plays take place in McCallie's Black Box while high caliber musicals are performed in our Frierson Theatre. 
  • + Music

    From exploring various types of music and instruments in sixth grade to more formal orchestra, pep band, or choruses in upper school, music lovers can thrive in their chosen musical avenues throughout their entire GPS journey.

Cocurricular Opportunities

Beyond the classroom, opportunities abound for students to pursue their passion for creative storytelling. 

List of 5 items.

  • + Visual Arts

    GPS girls both visit and exhibit their own work in local galleries. During Winter Break, students can participate in trips to visit other renown museums and galleries. Partnerships with nonprofit organizations such as Arts Build afford the girls a chance to create alongside local artists and learn more about their craft. Students may also participate in national talent searches, attend the Governor’s School for the Arts, and interact with visiting artists on campus as part of the GPS Guest Artist Series.
  • + Dance

    Both Middle and Upper Schools may join dance ensembles, giving extra performance experience and training beyond the classroom. These groups perform annually for the student body. Upper School students may audition for Terpsichord, the first high school contemporary dance company in Tennessee.
  • + Theater

    There are numerous opportunities for girls to appear on the GPS stage. A Middle School performance is staged each fall and is a coordinate activity with McCallie School students. At the Upper School level, McCallie students are welcomed into each endeavor and are part of two Upper School productions each year: a mainstage drama in the fall and the musical in the spring.
  • + Instrumental Music

    Students can pursue their instrumental interest through a variety of music activities. GPS participates in Junior and Senior Clinics each year. Soloists and small groups give joint recitals with McCallie School students twice a year to provide more performing experience for the musicians in the program. The Tango String Quartet is known and widely sought after for their talents. GPS musicians can also join the McCallie Tornado Winds Pep Band.
  • + Vocal Music

    Throughout any given year, GPS vocalists have the opportunity to perform at various community events as ensembles and as soloists.
“While I value my experience at GPS in its entirety, I can trace nearly everything I’m doing professionally back to early foundations in the GPS arts program. Perhaps the most important thing I gained was the sense of community it fosters. In the arts, we strive to do our best in ways that are unique to us and celebrate others for doing the same.”
—Jennifer Goldsmith Clements ’01, managing director of Theater Alliance in Washington, D.C.; Marist College (magna cum laude), George Mason University (MFA in creative writing), Fulbright scholar 

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