With a state-of-the-art performing and visual arts centre, The Edge, the girls at St Mary’s have access to superb facilities that allow the development of creativity in all spheres. The 530-seat concert hall or theatre with natural light art studios, music practice rooms and loud practice rooms, dramatic art venues and a superbly fitted dance studio, gives our girls the facilities required to extend their understanding of their creativity.
Visual Arts, Dramatic Arts and Music are firmly entrenched in the curriculum, and the girls are encouraged to explore their talents in a wide range of cultural activities. These include choir, jazz band, string ensemble, marimbas, debating, public speaking and folk guitar, to name only a few. Private lessons in a wide variety of instruments are available to St Mary’s girls.
The current thinking is that pupils can easily be taught skills, but creative and imaginative ideas are increasingly sought after in the workplace. St Mary’s girls are encouraged to explore their cultural talents and become leaders in critical, lateral thought.
It is in the “extras” that a girl is able to discover new interests and develop her talent in a particular area beyond the classroom. We offer a wide variety of these activities as part of our wider curriculum to broaden the scope of each of our pupils. Involvement in these is voluntary. Many of our pupils have discovered a deep interest in and an affinity for them.
The On The Edge Dance Project offers a dynamic and varied programme. A team of qualified teachers provides the girls with the basics in a variety of dance styles, such as hip hop, Afro-fusion, jazz, contemporary, solo Latin and ballroom. The girls are exposed to a variety of fitness techniques to aid strength, flexibility and body awareness. All girls, irrespective of skill or training, are welcome to join these dance classes. The St Mary’s Dance Crew provides a platform for choreography.
St Mary’s has a rich culture of debating and has produced a number of excellent debaters. In 2016, two senior teams and one junior team participated in the preliminary rounds of the SACEE (South African Council for English Education) tournament. So impressive were the girls that they were selected to participate in the Gauteng Provincial Championships.
The Edge building is alive in the afternoon, with offerings in sessions of theatre sports, acting for camera and Trinity drama. Theatre sports are high-energy lessons that will get you thinking on your feet, develop creative stamina and build confidence. Acting for camera requires a distinctly different technique to live performance. With a booming television industry, this skill cannot be overlooked. Trinity College London is an internationally recognised examination board that offers a variety of Drama examinations, such as individual performances, acting in pairs, choral verse, group drama and performance art. Although there is a natural progression through Trinity’s drama certificates and exams from Initial to Grade 8 and then onto Diplomas, candidates may enter at any level. All successful candidates in the Grade and Certificate examinations receive certificates showing their level of achievement as Pass, Merit or Distinction.
“Music is the manifestation of the human spirit, similar to language. Its greatest practitioners have conveyed to mankind things not possible to say in any other language. If we do not want these things to remain dead treasures, we must do our utmost to make the greatest possible number of people understand their idiom” – Zoltán Kodály
St Mary’s School has a very active co-curricular music programme, with a wide variety of instruments taught by a group of dedicated and professional musicians. Their philosophy is to provide a nurturing and caring environment in which the girls can enjoy music and flourish.
Tuition is offered in piano, classical guitar, violin, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, recorder, trumpet and voice. If other instruments are requested, teachers can be sourced. The department subscribes to the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music and enters girls in the May and October examination sessions. Programmes are structured to suit the individual and entry into examinations and eisteddfods is carefully considered, taking into account personality and ability.
Contemporary music is alive and well on campus. The girls relate readily to contemporary genres and enjoy performing them. They provide the girls the opportunity to express their creativity through songwriting, improvisation and performance. Tuition in contemporary music is offered in piano and keyboard, voice, drums, saxophone, electrical and acoustic guitar and bass guitar.
The jazz syllabus of the Associated Board of the Royal Schools of Music, Rock School and Trinity Rock and Pop syllabi are also offered at the school. St Mary’s is the examination centre for the ABRSM jazz examinations in Gauteng. The bands and ensembles perform regularly at school and external functions, competitions and festivals. Original music is encouraged, and musicians are provided with the opportunity to record their work.
The St Mary’s Music department runs a dynamic ensemble programme. Girls playing instruments are encouraged to play in groups to develop their sight-reading skills and ensemble techniques. The Senior School orchestra, marimba bands, jazz band, rock bands, R&B band and keyboard ensembles perform regularly at important school events, external functions, competitions and festivals.
On various days of the week The Edge resounds with the exquisite sounds of the various choirs on campus. Vocal ensembles in the Senior School include the Senior School choir, chamber choir and traditional choir. No Eucharist, Patronal Festival or Old Girls’ Day would be celebrated quite as successfully without the strong and confident sounds of the choirs. Our choristers form strong friendships which last long after the last song is sung at school.
St Mary’s has an active, exciting digital photography club where girls are taught the techniques and best practice of both creating and editing photographs. Camera techniques range from smartphones to SLR’s. Forms I-V.
Beginners (Term l-II): Girls must have any digital camera with the relevant software installed on a computer at home, 8GB memory card in the camera, a 8GB card reader and the camera manual.
Advanced (Term III): Girls must have completed the beginners’ course. Girls must have a digital SLR camera with interchangeable lenses, camera manual, 8GB memory card in the camera, 8GB card reader, tripod and the relevant camera software installed on a computer at home.
After you have completed the training term for beginners, you will be given a pamphlet of tasks for Photography half-colours. This is a guided experience in your own time. Photography counts towards the Cultural honours blazer.
Pottery classes are offered as a co-curricular activity from Grade 1 upwards. Working with clay is a wonderful activity for the girls, as it develops their creativity and stimulates their imaginations.
A child learns at an early age that anything that can be imagined, can be created. Working with clay improves dexterity and promotes both fine and gross motor co-ordination. They derive a sense of great personal satisfaction from finishing a project. In the pottery classes, we concentrate on the techniques of pinching, modelling, slab making and decorating. The girls make a variety of items that can be taken home to enjoy.
Throughout the decades, outstanding communication skills have set apart great thinkers and leaders. The advancement of these skills is a critical investment in developing young women of today.
St Mary’s participates across all sections of the annual College of Speech and Drama Public Speaking Festival. These include the Open section for prepared and impromptu public speaking, the Trophy Team event and the Individual Speaker event. Throughout the years, St Mary’s has produced outstanding and confident speakers with a flair for the art of public speaking.
Presently St Mary’s is ranked in the top three in the external Public Speaking competition and for a number of years St Mary’s impromptu teams have been the overall winners of their discipline. There are over 100 schools in and around Johannesburg which participate in the High Schools’ Public Speaking Festival, held by the College of Speech and Drama (SA).
The school holds an annual internal public speaking competition where each competitor is encouraged to hone her skills and the standard of speaking is exceptional.
The Writers’ Circle was initiated in 2007 and aims to provide girls with the opportunity to experiment with writing styles, develop their skills and have fun. The Circle is facilitated by a University of the Witwatersrand Master’s student, and the girls enjoy much laughter while working on their writing. Writing for different purposes and audiences and correction of structures and techniques are covered in these sessions. Those who attend the Writers’ Circle demonstrate a marked improvement in their writing and an addiction to the group.