Upper School Arts

Upper School students take at least one arts elective every trimester. Chorus, band, and piano are year-long courses; the other arts courses have a specific focus each trimester.


The curriculum focuses on traditional studio arts, establishing a strong foundation for further study in high school and beyond. In the fall, students study compositional elements of painting and drawing—line, value, texture, shape, form, space, color, balance, rhythm and movement, variety, emphasis, and unity. During the winter, students create hand-built pottery projects and work on the pottery wheel. The spring term develops printmaking techniques, including block printing, silk screening, and monoprinting using the lithograph press.


Upper School band builds on the instrumental skills developed in Middle School, while always welcoming new musicians. Students advance their ability to ready music and play more challenging pieces. In the process, they strengthen both their confidence and collaboration skills and discover a lasting joy in playing music. Band students who are ready to expand their range of skills also have the opportunity to audition for the Upper School jazz improvisation ensemble.

Band students can choose to study a woodwind, brass, or percussion instrument, including:

  • Flute
  • Clarinet
  • Alto Saxophone
  • Tenor Saxophone
  • Baritone Saxophone
  • Trumpet
  • Trombone
  • Baritone Horn
  • Guitar*
  • Bass Guitar*
  • Drums*

*Students who choose guitar, bass guitar, or drums are also required to study a woodwind or brass instrument.


The chorus program helps students develop vocal strength and clarity, the ability to work as an ensemble, and confidence on stage. Every year, members of the Upper School chorus perform two concerts and stage a full-scale musical. The Upper School musical is a unique experience, and the effort brings the community together as students, teachers, and parents collaborate to make the show a success.

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Our performing dance companies are an audition only dance experience open to students in grades 4 - 9. Students in Pride (grades 7 - 9) and Pride Extreme (grades 8 - 9) receive intensive instruction in theater dance, ballet, lyrical, and tap. The overall goal is to develop well-rounded dancers who are able to incorporate both technique and performance for optimum execution. Pride-X represents GCDS at performances in the Fairfield area and beyond.

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Graphic Design

Upper School students take their knowledge from the Middle School and work in a variety of mediums. They practice video editing by working with existing video or filming their own original footage on GoPro cameras. They create their own video game concepts and covers, as well as board games with custom designed cards, money, boards, and pieces. Students also have the opportunity to learn 3D graphic design and to print their creations on the lab's MakerBot 3D printer.

Music Technology

In music technology students compose and arrange original music and soundtracks using state-of-the-art synthesizers and computers. Upper School students enjoy the journey into this exciting world of electronic sounds as they create imaginative music for their iTunes playlists, learning the principles of multi-track recording. These include techniques that allow the young composers to record, edit, playback, store, and print out their pieces. No prior keyboard, synthesizer, or Mac computer skills are required.


Ninth graders have the opportunity to take photography as their arts elective. Through class discussion, hands-on practice, and the study of work by professional photographers and photojournalists, students develop both the technical and aesthetic skills of photography. Students explore composition and framing, light control, and shooting techniques for a wide range of subjects from portraiture to landscapes. By the end of the course, students are proficient in taking projects from concept to finished work and have the foundational skills to pursue advanced photography in high school and college.


In individual lessons, students can build on skills from the Middle School or start learning piano for the first time. The lessons are tailored to their level and students have the opportunity to play in a variety of musical styles from classical to jazz, to expand their sight-reading and ear-training skills, and to practice composing their own pieces.


Each project—from a bean-bag chair to a hand-appliquéd quilt—teaches fundamental skills ranging from embroidery stitches to understanding the three types of fabric grains. Practice with a measuring tape trains their eyes to see dimension, and the opportunity to create their own fabric print deepens their understanding of color. In ninth grade, experienced students have the opportunity to pursue advanced techniques such as draping and fashion design, as well as to incorporate wearable technology into their designs.


In shop, Upper Schoolers work with power tools and learn more advanced techniques such as joinery, veneering, and steam-bending wood. The fall and winter projects change in order to introduce students to different aspects of woodworking. This spring project focuses on Adirondack chairs. Students can make an Adirondack chair, settee, rocking chair, footstool, or side table.

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Upper School


Upper School

Explore Grades 7 - 9

Upper School

Our Teachers

Dedicated Educators

GCDS Concert Series

The bi-annual Michael Wood Memorial Concerts bring exceptional musicians to campus.