Lower School

Beginning in preschool, children learn music through movement, playing classroom instruments and singing. As they progress through the program, they are introduced to the elements of music, including musical notation and literacy, and the form of musical compositions. They also study different composers, orchestral instruments and music in various cultures. Lessons are rich and exuberant, providing foundational learning for a lifelong appreciation of music. Concerts and performances give students the opportunity to apply and demonstrate what they have learned in the classroom. The school also offers the opportunity to study piano, guitar, voice, drama and dance in after-school programs.
In additions to concerts, the students in preschool and kindergarten stage a production of The Nutcracker each year. In addition to learning the music and choreography, the children study various renditions of the tale and retell the story in their own words. The Nutcracker is one of the most-anticipated events of the Lower School calendar each year. In addition, through extracurricular programs, Lower School students can take part in two musical theater productions each year.

Middle School

Coursework in music gives students a deeper understanding of the principles of music and helps them develop their singing voices in a choral setting. Music history and theory are taught alongside sight-singing, rhythm development, proper vocal and breathing techniques, and harmonization skills. The students' work is showcased during in our winter and spring evening concerts and other school events. Music is a full-year required course in grades five and six and a one-semester elective in grades seven and eight. In addition, the Middle School offers an Honors Choir and various extracurricular singing groups.
Coursework in drama introduces students to all facets of theater, including acting, improvisation, history of the theater and stagecraft. It provides a solid foundation for students wishing to pursue drama in the Upper School and helps every student grow in self-expression and confidence.
During the Middle School Unit each spring, interested students in grades seven and eight mount a full-scale production. Students may contribute either on stage or behind the scenes. In addition, there are two after-school musical productions each year. Past performances have included Honk, Grease, Guys & Dolls, The Pirates of Penzance and Sleeping Beauty.

List of 3 items.

  • Grades 5 – 6 Music

    This two-semester required class gives students a deeper understanding of music while engaging them in a choral setting. Throughout each semester, music history and theory are taught alongside sight-singing, rhythm development, proper vocal and breathing techniques, and harmonization skills. The choir works together as a team to prepare a diverse repertoire for a concert at the end of each semester.
  • Grades 7 – 8 Music

    This one‐semester elective class is designed to give students a deeper understanding of music while continuing to engage them in a choral setting. The class delves further into music history and theory. Sight‐singing, rhythm development, proper vocal and breathing techniques and harmonization skills continue to be refined as the choir works together as a team to prepare a diverse repertoire for a concert at the end of the semester.
  • Grades 7 – 8 Drama

    Drama class meets twice a week and offers students the opportunity to study all facets of theater, from theater games and acting to history and stagecraft. The class meets in the Theater, where students are given a firsthand look at the actual production of the Upper School play and musical. In addition, each spring during the Middle School Unit, the seventh and eighth grades mount a production. Interested students may participate on stage or behind the scenes. Past Middle School plays have included HMS PinaforeThe Pirates of Penzance and You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Upper School

Upper School theater courses encourage active experimentation, fostering creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and problem solving. Course offerings include experiential acting classes for students interested in learning about the acting process as well as for students who are experienced performers. In addition, courses are available for students who wish to learn more about aspects of theater production, including direction and stagecraft.
The GSB Players stage two productions each year, a play in the fall and a musical in the spring. In addition, students taking coursework in directing showcase their craft by staging one-act plays each spring. The Joe Show, a student-led talent show, provides further opportunities to performance.
The Upper School offers a choral music coursework and performance opportunities for a range of abilities and interests. Students enrolled in Concert Choir are invited to audition for three extracurricular choirs, The Knight Brigade (boys), The Knightingales (girls) and Knight Voices (mixed). Students are also eligible to audition for an advanced vocal ensemble, The Gillharmonics. These groups meet Wednesday evenings and focus on more sophisticated musical works.

Courses in music theory provide a deep understanding of how music works and the elements of construction. Students in music theory often arrange pieces for the choral concerts, giving them a chance to debut their work.

List of 7 items.

  • Concert Choir

    Concert Choir can be taken as a one-semester or yearlong course. It is designed to develop musical skills, broaden students’ familiarity with musical genres and deepen students’ musical and aesthetic sensibilities. Students learn and develop a vocal music vocabulary and learn musical concepts – including harmony, melody, notation, rhythm and tone color – across the music genres. Concert Choir meets as a class throughout the week. Prior to choral concerts, the class holds additional meetings during the day, and in the evening for group rehearsals. As a performance-based class, each semester culminates in evening performances. The choir performs at additional events throughout the year, including Commencement and admission open houses. In addition, those enrolled in Concert Choir are invited to audition for three extracurricular choirs, The Knight Brigade (boys), The Knightingales (girls) and Knight Voices (mixed). Students are also eligible to audition for an advanced vocal ensemble, The Gillharmonics.
  • Acting I

    This semester-long course introduces students to drama through theater games and activities. These exercises stimulate the imagination, sharpen sensory awareness and develop skills in public speaking, movement and improvisation by providing students with the opportunity to create characters that are fresh, unique and believable. Goals of the beginning class include the development of self-discipline and a sense of responsibility toward others, a stronger interest in the theater and a basic battery of acting skills. Course content includes the following topics: emotion and emotional recall, silent performance, goals and obstacles, working with props and physical attachments.
  • Acting II

    Students in this semester-long course work toward a more advanced set of goals, including a broader mastery of character development, the ability to effectively critique the performance of another student and the ability to identify the individual goals and the overall theme of the plays being studied. Additional course content includes advanced scene and character study, and independent classroom activity with a concentration on specific material of the student’s choice. Students in the course select a one-act play or a single act from a play for public performance.
  • Advanced Acting

    Building on the concepts of Acting I and Acting II, this semester-long course offers more in-depth training in the areas of emotion, character development and motivation. Largely based on the Meisner technique, the Advanced Acting class develops more thoughtful actors who can portray multidimensional characters. Students explore such Meisner-based concepts as the “independent activity,” the “moment before” and the “character backstory.” The final exam in this class is the performance of a one-act play before members of the Upper School.
  • Directing

    In this semester-long course, students learn how to create an artistic vision of an existing play, how to serve as the coordinator of a cast of performers, how to manage the schedule of a production and how to be the single director of a staged performance. Students discover the many nuances of leadership and time management, learn how to distinguish between the wants and needs of performers, and realize the importance of flexibility when working with a variety of personalities. Students experiment with spatial awareness, with areas of strength, with architectural and artistic requirements, with body positioning on stage and with forging a relationship between the actor and the audience.
  • Stagecraft

    This semester-long course gives students the opportunity to participate in the construction of costumes, sets and props for the Upper School fall play and the spring musical productions. Students are taught basic safety and the proper use of the equipment found in the scene shop, costume shop and prop shop, including, but not limited to, sewing machine, serger, table saw, circular saw, drill and pneumatic nailer. In addition, students are given instruction in proper painting technique, understanding clothing patterns, and reading ground plans and elevations.
  • Theater History & Dramatic Texts

    This yearlong course examines the history of Western theater, from ancient Greece through the 21st century. Throughout the course, students read various major works of the Western theatrical canon, including Euripides’ Medea, Shakespeare’s The Tempest and Ibsen’s A Doll’s House. Through these works, students gain a fuller understanding of the period in which they were written. In addition, students develop the ability to make connections from one historical period to another, noting the social, political and religious influences that defined the drama of a particular era, and how it affected the works that followed.

Meet the Team

List of 9 members.

Gill St. Bernard’s is an independent, coeducational day school for students age three through grade 12, located in suburban New Jersey. Each of the three school divisions provides a rigorous, meaningful and age-appropriate curriculum, and all students benefit from the environmental learning opportunities that exist on our 208-acre campus.