Fine & Performing Arts

Philosophy

Browning has long sought to provide boys with a balanced and culturally enriched educational experience, and the arts have played a major role in that endeavor. Academic courses that assure a certain level of competence in the history and critical analysis of art and music are a required part of the curriculum. However, it is equally important to foster a deeper appreciation for the arts that may not be found in the confines of the traditional classroom. To this end, students working in the art studios set their hands to drawing, painting, sculpture, and related media, and display their work in school exhibits and publications. Browning choruses and instrumental groups perform at various assemblies and concerts, and individual student musicians are encouraged to perform. Theatrical performances by all age groups are mounted for assemblies and evening productions, and often the energies and talents of school artists, musicians, and thespians are pulled together into one, unifying effort. In addition, professionals are invited to Browning to share their experiences in the arts. These guest lecturers include talented alumni who return to share their expertise and nurture a new generation of Browning students. 

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THE ARTS PROGRAM

Form IV Foundation in Art
This semester-long course is required for boys in Form IV. The goal is to expand students’ artistic abilities by having them explore a variety of techniques, with emphasis on drawing and sculpture. Students learn two-point perspective and make drawings of imaginary cities using pencil and ink in the form of pens and brush. For the second half of the semester we examine the human skull and discuss how it is significant to art history. After making detailed drawings students sculpt a skull using clay. After this they are give a block of wax to carve one out. After the the wax sculptures is complete they are sent to a foundry and come back bronzed.

Studio Art I—Drawing
Students investigate different drawing materials and techniques, including graphite, charcoal, pen, and ink. Emphasis is placed on control and intentionality of mark making along with accurate observation. Drawing projects include landscape in Central Park, still life, grayscales, a self-portrait, and an illustration of a scene from their own life. A traditional approach to these subjects is introduced and students are encouraged to express themselves in a way that reflects their thinking.

Studio Art II—Painting
This elective is offered to Form VI students who wish to explore the skills and basic techniques involved in traditional acrylic and watercolor painting. The types of painting studied include landscape, still life, abstract painting, color theory, and portraiture. The class works from life as well as photo- graphic resources.

Studio Art—Ceramics I and II
This course gives the students the opportunity to learn and explore the skills involved in working on the pottery wheel, as well as different hand-building techniques. Different forms are explored and students are encouraged to add a creative interpretation to traditional shapes. All works are created in stoneware clay and students have access to a sophisticated palette of glazes. 

THE MUSIC PROGRAM

Form IV Music Survey
Music Survey is a required semester-long course that explores Western European music from the madrigal of the late Renaissance to the atonal and serial compositions of the twentieth century. Aspects of musical form, compositional technique, and cultural influence of this music are explored using the text “Listen” by Joseph Kerman and Gary Tomlinson. Students submit notes of lectures, participate in discussions and listening activities, and complete study sheets that focus on. Links to performances of our repertoire are provided in the syllabus found on the course’s webpage. A written test with several listening identifications culminates the investigation of a particular unit’s material. 

In addition to work in the classroom, the boys attend the final dress rehearsal of an opera at the Metropolitan Opera and write a review of their experience.

Forms V–VI African Drumming
The African Drumming course is a yearlong half-credit elective for boys in Forms V and VI. The class is designed to develop technical skill in playing the djembe as well as build a sense of community and generosity among the boys. Proficiency on the instrument is a major component of the coursework, but developing sensitivity to the varying levels of ability found in the group is also a fundamental focus of the training. The Drumming Circle performs each year for various Browning events. Because this is a performance-based class, regular attendance is imperative for success.

Forms III–VI Upper School Chorus
The Browning Upper School Chorus is a yearlong half-credit performance elective open to all boys in the Upper School without audition. Basic singing technique is emphasized through the study of music ranging from popular to classical. Three-part arrangements for men’s (changed) voices are the standard, but mixed-choral arrangements (S-A-T-B) are sung with InterSchool forces in joint concerts held during the academic year. The chorus performs for a number of school functions including the Holiday Program, InterSchool Choral Festival, Alumni Day, Prize Day, and Graduation.

Forms III–VI Browning Ovation Orchestra
The Browning Ovation Orchestra is a yearlong half-credit performance elective open to all Upper School boys with permission of the instructor. Boys study technique on their particular instrument and work together to create a uni ed and balanced ensemble sound. Chamber music from the standard classical repertoire, arranged for the particular complement of instruments in the class, is studied and brought to performance level.

Forms III–VI Browning Jazz Ensemble
The Browning Jazz Ensemble is a yearlong half-credit performance elective open to all Upper School boys with permission of the instructor. Boys study technique on their particular instrument and work together to create a uni ed and balanced ensemble sound. Jazz and stage band music from the standard repertoire, arranged for the particular complement of instruments in the class, is studied and brought to performance level for a concert in the late spring.

Forms V–VI Independent Study In Music Theory
This course is a yearlong half-credit elective for boys in Forms V and VI with permission of the Department Chair. Boys meet once a week with the instructor to work from the theory text, “The Language and Materials of Music,” by Kendall Briggs. Substantial weekly written assignments provide practice in mastering the topic under examination. 

First semester topics explore the basic notational conventions used for both instrumental and vocal music; the organization of note values, sounds, and silences over a pulse; the whole-step/ half-step internal structures of major, minor, and diatonic church modes; the phenomenon of the “circle of fiths”; the naming of harmonic intervals; figured bass notation; triads and seventh chords in major, minor, diminished, and augmented forms; the triad and seventh chord in a four-part texture; keyboard, choral, and open score spacing; Bruckner’s “Law of the shortest way”; and the four types of melodic motion between voice parts.

Second semester topics explore techniques to avoid parallel fiths and octaves; the proper resolution of the leading tone; chord movement in root position; special issues in harmonic minor progressions; composing harmonic progressions employing the ascending and descending “circle of fiths”; the four kinds of cadences; freely-composed progressions in root position; first inversion chords in harmonic progressions; progressions connecting first inversion chords to other first inversion or root position chords; progressions using faux bourdon scalar motion in the bass; and realizing figured bass lines using both root and first inversion chords.