Durham Academy's performing arts programs are for everyone — whether students have their eye on Broadway, or if the thought of stepping on stage is truly stepping outside their comfort zone.
We offer classes in vocal and instrumental music, theatre, technical theatre and dance. In addition to our curricular offerings, students have the opportunity to participate in the performing arts via a student-led a cappella group, a fall play and — the centerpiece of the performing arts program — the winter musical. DA musical productions and students have consistently been consistently selected as finalists for the Triangle Rising Star Awards. For detailed course descriptions, see the Upper School Course Catalog.
- Music Ensemble I & II
- Advanced Music Ensemble: In The Pocket
- Extracurricular A Cappella Group: XIV Hours
Three music performance classes are offered, in addition to a music theory class. Placement in performances classes is by audition, with each class's ensemble comprising instrumentalists and vocalists. The ensembles perform at school assemblies and evening concerts, as well as at school functions like commencement.
The most advanced music ensemble is In The Pocket, which primarily plays all genres of popular music of the 20th and 21st century. ITP regularly performs throughout the school year at standing-room-only concerts on campus, as well as at off-campus venues like downtown Durham's Motorco Music Hall. ITP — a collaborative effort between students and adult members — has collaborated with professional musicians including The Beast and The Old Ceremony's Django Haskins.
In The Pocket has released three albums, the most recent of which is Don't Think Twice.
XIV Hours is Durham Academy's student-led a cappella group, with all songs and rehearsals being arranged by students. XIV Hours has performed across the Triangle for more than a decade in conjunction with Duke University, UNC–Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and numerous high schools and private venues.
XIV Hours has been featured on several Best of High School A Cappella compilations and has released three albums of its own, the most recent of which is It's About Time.
Each March, XIV Hours hosts the WISER A Cappella Jam, which features several high school and collegiate a cappella groups.
The Upper School offers two acting courses: Acting Studio and Advanced Acting: Scene Study. These courses are popular not only with students interested in dipping their toe in the theatre world or refining their acting skills, but also with students who are looking to develop public-speaking skills and gain confidence in interviews.
Fundamental acting skills are developed through games, exercises, improvisations, monologues and scenes in Acting Studio. In Advanced Acting, students apply and extend these skills by focusing on both on-stage and on-camera scenes.
Two technical theatre courses are offered — one focused on production and one on design.
In the hands-on production course, students learn about sets, lighting, sound, production management and costumes by supporting a variety of live events on campus. Coursework involves everything from building sets to setting up lights. Students in the class may have the opportunity to participate behind the scenes in a variety of DA performing arts productions.
The design course is focused on innovative thinking and solving problems as a team, not just in the theatre but in other facets of life. Students learn scale 3D model building, the art and techniques of advanced lighting design, AutoCAD (2d and 3D) and the CNC router.
Each fall, students stage a play, with participation selected by audition. Recent productions have included The Diary of Anne Frank, Almost, Maine and Picasso and the Lapin Agile.
In February, the Upper School presents its winter musical, which generally features a much larger cast than the play, again with participation selected by audition. The musical is a collaborative effort by all performing arts disciplines, with actors, dancers, vocalists, instrumentalists and crew members each playing an integral role. Recent productions have included Merrily We Roll Along, Peter and the Starcatcher and She Loves Me.
The Upper School dance program — comprising four courses for vary levels of experience — introduces students to basic ballet, jazz and modern technique, including proper warm-up, center floor work, traveling sequences, and in-class combinations. Dancers develop self-confidence and body awareness through the development of proper body alignment, balance, flexibility, coordination, strength, and musicality.
In intermediate and advanced classes, students have the opportunity to work in a master class format with various guest choreographers to develop their versatility as a dancer. Dancers perform in two concerts each year.