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What Will Your Learning Journey Be?

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Performing Arts at Lawrenceville takes many forms to accommodate a wide range of student interests. We offer more than 20 courses for students to elect during the academic year, private instruction at every level of experience, co-curricular performance opportunities from impromptu mid-day sessions to large-scale musicals, and special-interest student organizations open to all.

All of our courses take root in Harkness learning — a method that encourages independent investigation augmented by dialog and interaction. While our teachers are experts in their disciplines and passionate about learning and their subject matter, they encourage students to express their own perspectives, discoveries, and reactions — to teach themselves as well as each other.

Below, members of our faculty describe their approach to teaching.



Robert Palmer

Robert Palmer, Director of Music
The Alexandra B. Buckley '96 and Robert E. F. Buckley '99 Music Chair


Music is a fundamentally collaborative art form.

Whether it is the act of performing with others or simply the shared experience of appreciating a great work, it is music's collaborative nature that allows the students and teachers at The Lawrenceville School to fully embrace Harkness teaching and learning within the study of music.

At Lawrenceville, we believe in stressing three major components of music — performance, composition, and analysis. Each of these components is vital to a thorough music education. Each offers unique ways for students to achieve. Each is also collaborative, and therefore allows for deep, meaningful, student-centered input and participation — a fundamental tenet of Harkness teaching and learning.

If you happen to visit the Clark Music Center at a time when one or more of our six large ensembles are rehearsing, you would see vibrant examples of student-centered input and instruction. While each of these ensembles is headed by one of our teachers, a second look reveals much in the way of student leadership and depth of participation. Our students are well-versed in guiding their peers in sectional rehearsals, demonstrating good musical technique, making decisions about performance, and, most importantly, helping one another reach their highest potential.

Elective courses in the program focus on other aspects of music. In our Foundations of Music course, it is not uncommon to see many different instances of Harkness teaching and learning within a single class period. Class may begin with a discussion of an assigned reading, often related to the history of music, and students are expected to bring their own thoughts, experiences, and analysis to their seat at the Harkness table.

Musicianship-building activities, such as sight-singing and ear-training are common — group and solo singing, peer-to-peer performance, and, most importantly, peer feedback. This is an area we have stressed in recent years, and it has proven to be one of the most fruitful aspects of our teaching. Composition is a solo endeavor, but revising and refining one's own composition becomes a more meaningful process with the help of peer critiques. Much can be learned from the success and struggles of those with us around the table.

It is also common for the teacher to divide the class and send small groups throughout the Clark Music Center to collaborate on special topics and skill-building drills, such as rhythm compositions, recording projects, or the analysis of a structural aspect of music (melody, harmony, etc.). Any of these tasks benefits from collaboration, and is thoroughly enriched by learning from the experience and knowledge of one's peers.

We have a thriving musical culture at Lawrenceville. Our students bring the Harkness learning they develop across campus to engage, perform, and achieve with each other, reaching a musical level that is only possible in such a collaborative and supportive setting.  

Music at Lawrenceville


How Can We Help You Get There?

Our music curriculum offers foundation courses and electives in performance, music production, composition, and music history and theory. Our program includes six performing organizations: four instrumental and two choral ensembles.

Learn More About Music at Lawrenceville


Harkness in

Derrick Wilder

Derrick Wilder, Director of Dance
The Carol and W. Graham Cole Jr. Distinguished Teaching Chair


It should be no surprise that Lawrenceville Performing Arts is one of Harkness education’s truest homes.

At its heart, Harkness is about collective analysis and group problem-solving. Dance, at its core, is about sharing a journey. It's about a choreographer, dance instructor, and dancers working together. Dancers must learn to collaborate in order to solve problems; otherwise, things can go horribly wrong and people can get hurt. Dancers work as a group to analyze issues arising from movement, music, and space. In order to propel a dance project to performance readiness, the collaborators, in the truest spirit of Harkness, must "workshop" the piece, exploring all the possible repercussions of a particular choice, both good and bad. To engage effectively in this collective process, each participant must commit to listening to – and truly considering – others' viewpoints and ideas. When offering constructive-critical feedback, each contributor to a workshop interchange must be genuinely dedicated to engaging with empathy. This collaborative enterprise can only succeed if all involved "find their voices" and speak up in order to ask critical questions and to affirm others' best observations and proposals.

Sometimes there are difficult riddles to solve – requiring hours of experimentation, consultation, and trouble-shooting – before the collaborators on a dance project find themselves working in synchronicity. Sometimes there are conflicts to work through, emerging not just from competing ideas but from differing worldviews and personalities. Persisting in order to succeed at this kind of collaboration not only helps each Lawrenceville dance project to spring to life but, in a longer-lasting way, imbues each participant with skills essential for growing as an enigmatologist and as a communicator, and for approaching life with an artist’s sensibilities and skills in realms that extend far beyond the performing arts.

Our dance program isn’t just where Lawrentians learn to move their bodies with poise and grace; it is one of the places in which they learn to move their thinking, to change their minds. Our studios and the Kirby Arts Center stage are not just where choreographic visions and bodies take flight, but spaces where the principles of Harkness education soar, unlocking, as we like to say, students' "Passion, Performance, and Possibilities." Harkness in motion! 

Dance at Lawrenceville


How Can We Help You Get There?

Our dance program offers a challenging curriculum designed to facilitate growth and exploration levels appropriate to students' experience. Students develop leadership, communication, confidence, discipline, problem-solving, collaboration, and cultural appreciation.

Learn More About Dance at Lawrenceville



Matt Campbell

Matthew R. Campbell, Director of Theatre
The Allan P. Kirby Chair for Performing Arts

Effective listening is at the core of Harkness learning, and Lawrentians are challenged daily to listen deeply.

The innovative theatre educator, actor, and director Viola Spolin, widely known for her anthology of effective practices for the classroom, aimed to have all her students grounded in the present. I often start out classes with an exercise of hers to engage the students in listening, discussion, and collaboration. One listening activity, known as "sending hearing out," asks participants to sit still, close their eyes, and let the sounds of the immediate environment be heard. As the students grow accustomed to what they are hearing, they are tasked to increase their range of hearing another ten or so feet, and then another, and then another. This building of concentric rings of hearing quickly turns into active listening as the students try to identify more and more of what they hear. When we resume at the Harkness table, the students are abuzz with what they heard, what they thought they heard, and when their hearing switched into active listening as we advanced through each expanding ring.

Effective listening is at the core of Harkness learning, and Lawrentians are challenged daily to listen deeply. They give themselves permission to be silent, to listen to their inner voice, to better listen to others' voices, and to let their own voices be heard. After stepping into the role of Harkness Learning chair, I challenged myself to send my own hearing out with an ear toward the different shapes that Harkness takes. At Lawrenceville, Harkness learning happens in many circles on campus, and the fruits of dialogical learning are heard in team sports, service learning, travel and outdoor programs, the arts, and in student-driven initiatives as much as they are in our classrooms around Harkness tables. The shapes that Harkness learning takes on in the extensions beyond the academic work in the classroom are just as deeply rooted. As our School Mission states, "Through House and Harkness, Lawrenceville challenges a diverse community of promising young people to lead lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose." Certainly the practice of Harkness is fully integrated across all areas of student engagement.

Lives of learning, integrity, and high purpose are shaped in the places students engage, and particularly where Harkness learning is experienced. My colleagues share their thoughts, part pedagogical and part anecdotal, on what shapes Harkness takes in their work, and we listen in to what Harkness means to Lawrentians, both current and alumnae. It is the listening that grounds us in the present. 

Theatre at Lawrenceville


How Can We Help You Get There?

Whether in acting, directing, stage management, or theatrical design, there are many opportunities to be involved in theatre. Students develop vivid self awareness and a comprehensive process for creating stageworthy theatre.

Learn More About Theatre at Lawrenceville


Start Your Journey

If you’re ready to take the next steps towards joining the Lawrenceville community, start with our inquiry form. During the Inquiry and Application processes, you'll be able to connect with faculty and staff in your area of interest.

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