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North Hills Monthly

Arts at Shady Side Academy

Oct 06, 2016 01:03PM ● By Mary Margaret Fisher

At a time when other schools are cutting arts programs, Shady Side Academy's commitment to the arts has never been stronger.

 Arts education builds valuable lifelong skills such as creativity, critical thinking, self-confidence, cultural understanding and an appreciation for diversity. That's why the arts are an integral part of a Shady Side education, alongside academics and athletics. SSA’s balanced program intertwines the arts at all levels of learning, through classes and activity options in music, theater and visual arts. Concerts, performances and exhibits fill the school calendar each year.

 Many SSA faculty members are professional artists, musicians and performers in their own right, who share their passion and experience with students. Exceptional arts facilities, such as the Hillman Center for Performing Arts and the Benedum Visual Arts Center, provide dedicated, age-appropriate spaces for students to explore their creative sides.

 Many Shady Side graduates have gone on to impressive careers in the arts. SSA counts a Tony winner, two Grammy nominees and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee among its alumni.



All students learn to understand, participate in and enjoy the art of music as a lifelong activity. Junior School students have general music classes and also take instrumental music classes in grades 2-5, where every student learns to play an instrument. At the Middle School, the study of the creative process and self-expression in music fosters self-confidence and develops an appreciation for the historical and cultural aspects of music. All students take music classes, choosing either a large performance ensemble class (band, chorus, strings/keyboard) or general music. Students also can audition for more advanced ensembles. The Senior School offers a wide range of music courses, from large performance ensembles to small, audition-based ensembles, including Concert Choir, Chamber Choir, Concert Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Ensemble and String Orchestra.



Junior School students learn dramatic skills and develop self-confidence through grade-level performances. Students in grades PK-2 perform annual class plays related to a thematic unit of study, while students in grades 3-5 stage performances as part of the capstone event of an interdisciplinary project. In the Middle School, theater is an option during the daily athletic/activity period, giving any student the chance to be part of the fall play or winter musical. Through daily rehearsals, students hone performance skills and learn all aspects of a theater production. The Senior School presents three theatrical productions each year: the fall play, winter musical and spring Original Works Theatre Festival, featuring student-written, one-act plays. Students can become involved as cast members, assistant directors, dramaturgs, stage managers, set designers, crew members and more. An acting course is also offered.


Visual Art

Junior School students explore a variety of materials and media as they develop self-expression, confidence and appreciation for the visual arts. Techniques include drawing, painting, printmaking, ceramics, multimedia sculpture and textiles. Art projects are integrated with other subjects through interdisciplinary units. In Middle School art classes, an array of media, technical and evaluative skills, concepts and vocabulary are introduced. Students learn 2D design, drawing, painting, collage, relief printing, 3D media, folk art, one-point perspective, embossing, engraving and assemblage. At the Senior School, visual art courses include 2D and 3D studio art, as well as advanced electives in architecture, ceramics, digital imaging, drawing, glass, metal, painting and photography. Shady Side is one of only a few schools in Pittsburgh to offer a warm glass class, where students learn the techniques of fusing, slumping and casting.  

 Learn more about Shady Side Academy’s arts programs at

Visual Arts at Shady Side Academy Senior School