Performing Arts

Suffield Academy offers robust programs in music, theater, and dance. Students have numerous opportunities to excel in the arts—both onstage and behind the scenes. Each year Suffield produces two major theatrical productions, three popular guitar shows, a one-act festival, a new playwrights festival, several jazz and ensemble performances, multiple choral performances, and a full dance production. These provide students with hands-on experience in performance, lighting, sound, stage management, set construction, and house management. Our extensive performing arts facilities include state-of-the-art theater, set design shop, recording studio, dance studio, and music center. The performing arts program supports experienced actors, dancers, and musicians, as well as those who want to get involved in the arts for the first time.
Suffield’s performing arts curriculum teaches students to:
» Understand performance as a form of communication and expression
» Discover the joy derived from creating and performing works of art

Course Descriptions

List of 15 frequently asked questions.

  • + Chamber Ensemble

    Term: Full year
    This group is for strings, woodwind players, and pianists interested in playing classical chamber music. It includes music arranged for various sized ensembles from duos to as many as a dozen players.
  • + Chamber Singers

    Term: Full year
    This is a small group of mixed (male and female) singers. Basic music reading skills and vocal technique are covered while working through a vast range of challenging choral literature. Anyone who would like experience singing in a mixed ensemble is encouraged to join.
  • + Jazz Ensemble

    Term: Full year
    This groups serves as an introduction to playing jazz with an emphasis on learning how to improvise. Basic styles, musical forms, and scales are introduced.
  • + Advanced Jazz Ensemble

    Term: Full year
    This group is for students who have some background in improvising in the jazz idiom. The emphasis is on small group (combo) playing with most of the time spent on improvising and the scales and theory involved in that discipline.
  • + Wind Ensemble

    Term: Full year
    This group is for brass and wind players who wish to play in a small concert band style setting. Repertoire is drawn from all styles of music with some student input involved.
  • + Recording Basics

    Term: Term by Term 
    This class serves to introduce students to the basics of the recording studio. Topics will include microphone types, uses and placement, use and care of equipment, and an introduction to ProTools. The basics of live recording, mixing and mastering will be covered, and students will help record the winter guitar show.
  • + Women's Choir Honors

    Term: Full year
    A small ensemble of 10-15 singers, Women’s Choir rehearses and performs challenging SSA and SSAA literature while working on basic music reading skills and vocal technique. Anyone interested in singing in an all-female choir is encouraged to join.
  • + Music Theory & Composition Honors

    Term: Full year
    This class moves quickly through the basics of
    music into tonal harmony, analysis, and simple composing.
    The curriculum includes listening and development of skills through dictation. It also delves briefly into serialism and other techniques and uses Siblelius and GarageBand software.
  • + Public Speaking

    Term: Fall
    This class will study the principles of public speaking. Students will critically examine their own and others’ speeches through interactive practice. This class studies oral versus written communication in order to help students prepare speeches that are easier to deliver and understand. The class’s focus on understanding the key parts of an argument and drafting clear and concise arguments translates directly to other academic assignments.
  • + Advanced Vocal Techniques & Staging

    Term: Full year or term by term
    This is an advanced class in music performance and theatrical staging. It will serve as part vocal masterclass and part theater studies. Students will study proper vocal health and the physical mechanism of singing. The will also look at the understanding of song and the interpretation needed to bring the music to life on stage. This course covers a wide variety of music genres including pop, rock, classical, and musical theater. It meets year round and provides the Suffield community with three performances each year. This is an audition-based class. Prerequisites: One of the following: Chamber Singers, Women’s Choir, Acting, Musical Theater, or permission of the instructor.
  • + Acting: Techniques

    Term: Fall
    This is a general introduction to the acting skills and techniques used in varied dramatic settings, from classical to contemporary, from tragedy to comedy. Students will understand the concept of believability and establish that concept as the groundwork in acting. The core project of this class focuses on character development. Students will develop and explore a character of their own creation through a series of improvisations with classmates. The core elements of character, conflict, objectives, tactics, and obstacles are rooted in this process.
  • + Acting: Ensemble

    Term: Winter
    Building on the base established in Acting: Techniques, studentswill work with texts written in the realistic style and explore techniques developed to train actors for performance in contemporary plays. Special emphasis is given to scene studyand ensemble performance work.
  • + Acting: Special Topics

    Term: Spring
    This is a topic course that will cover alternative and more advanced acting techniques. Such topics include: advanced improvisation, acting for film, auditioning, and playmaking. This course will culminate in a student performance showcase.
  • + Play Directing

    Term: Fall
    Major principles of play directing are studied. Through comprehensive script analysis, students become familiar with the structure of a play as a basis on which the various elements of theatre can be organized to achieve dramatic unity. Practical application of directing practices introduces students to the techniques employed by a director to communicate with actors and audience, including principles of composition, movement, stage business, and rhythm.
  • + Private Lessons

    Term: Full year
    Private instruction by adjunct faculty is offered on most instruments. Students will receive information about sign-up and cost with registration materials that are mailed in early June. Students are expected to take lessons for a full year, practicing and attending lessons regularly.

Performing Arts Department

List of 4 members.

  • Photo of Thomas Dugan

    Thomas Dugan 

    Chair, Performing Arts Department
    Emerson College - B.A.
    Emerson College - M.A.
    Read Bio
  • Photo of Thomas Gotwals

    Thomas Gotwals 

    Bradford C. Gooch Chair in Music
    Oberlin College - B.A.
    Oberlin Conservatory - B. Mus.
    Yale School of Music - M. Mus.
    Read Bio
  • Photo of Gis-Ximena Nahmens

    Gis-Ximena Nahmens 

    Chair of the Languages Department
    Universidad Catolica Andres Bello - B.A.
    Rochester Institute of Technology - M.S.
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  • Photo of Chelsea Kane ’09

    Chelsea Kane ’09 

    Performing Arts Department
    Providence College - B.A.
    Boston University - M. Mus.
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Suffield Academy   185 North Main Street   Suffield, Connecticut 06078   Phone 860.386.4400  |  Fax 860.386.4411